Our firm, the HOME ARCHITECTS ®, just watched a TV program that provides nearly anyone contemplating a renovation or a new house a very good reason to first hire an architect. The show was called “American Greed,” narrated by Stacy Keach.
It featured an unscrupulous couple, the Olivers, a husband and wife, whom had posed as supposedly reputable “builders” and had defrauded dozens of hard-working people out of their savings, intended to build new improvements to their existing houses or for new work.
The method used by these modern day thieves was to have unsuspecting clients of theirs pay a tremendous amount of money up front to them, do very little work, then demand even more money, repeating this exercise, until they had all or 90% of the client’s money, but had done typically only 15% or so of the required construction. (continued below):
Then after weeks or months of unreturned phone calls and threats from clients, the Olivers would pull up stakes, move somewhere else and proceed to bilk yet more honest people out of their money in another state.
So how would having an architect involved prevent such a horror story from happening to you? Well, architects take a solemn vow, when they become licensed, “TO PROTECT THE HEALTH, SAFETY & WELFARE OF THE PUBLIC.”
As part of this HS&W pledge, each architect is to find out something about the licensed general contractors who are to build their work, if you engage them to perform Construction Administration for your project that you had the architect design. Construction Administration is the phase of work in which your architect will help you manage your construction to the extent that you and your architect agree. A portion of this work typically involves the architect checking your selected contractor’s license with the State Board of Contractors, to see if 1) they have a license to build your type of project, 2) if they have any complaints on file and if so, the nature of those, and 3) their license number.
This simple investigation, which the HOME ARCHITECTS ® provide during their Bidding/Negotiation phase of services for their clients, reveals if the “builder” whom you were so enamored of is really licensed to do anything at all. If your architect’s investigation cannot turn up a valid license for that builder in the state of the project’s location, then guess what? Those “builders” are not really legal, real General Contractors, because they are not licensed to provide those services. Also, some architects also request insurance forms from 3rd party insurance companies to insure that your contractor has the proper coverages for doing business in a manner that helps protect you.
And so, would you really want an unlicensed construction firm building your house? What if they do not pull a building permit, as the unscrupulous Olivers typically did not? What if they do not carry Workers Compensation insurance, then have one of their workers take a pratfall, who can then sue you, if their employer, the so-called “builder” does not have Workers Comp? If you do not have your architect involved, would you know and be prepared? Are you trained to understand these matters, or to recognize false paperwork? Your architect will usually be able to detect any such chicanery. You want and need oversight. What if the work performed by an unlicensed “builder” is not done properly and if they did not obtain a building permit, then no one from your City or County Building Department will be checking (was that who you thought would protect you?) on your construction and you are buying “a pig in a poke.” In other words, the chances of there being many things wrong with your construction would be highly likely.
And how would you feel, overpaying for your new house, to 90% of its price, when your builder only performed 15% of the work, then left town in the dead of night, never to be heard from again? IT HAPPENS! If you had a licensed, real architect designing and managing your project and had him or her performing Construction Administration, and they were reviewing the Contractor’s Pay Requests before they even came to you, your architect would notice very swiftly when your so-called “builder” was over-billing. Your architect would put a stop to this immediately and alert the authorities. Your architect would help protect you against such wanton disregard for your welfare. In a nutshell: your architect would help you save your nestegg, to use on meaningful improvements for your renovation or new residence.
Don’t get taken in by unscrupulous, unlicensed con men posing as licensed contractors. Hire an architect first, to not only design such improvements properly and better, but to defend your position on matters. There are many very good, licensed contractors who work very hard for a living and are decent honest people. That’s who your architect wants to help you find to build your project: the Good Guys.
Let’s talk about design for a minute here. Why would you want a builder, licensed or not, designing your renovation, addition or new house? They were not trained to do that. They were trained to BUILD it. Architects are the ones who are trained and licensed to design houses and buildings. It takes about a decade to get through most architectural requirements and another decade to become good at it. So: seriously consider hiring an architect to DESIGN for you and to help you manage your construction project. Your architect is the one who will help protect your interests.
And who is an architect? REAL architects have at least one license from at least one state in the USA. Some architects have licenses in more than one state, as does Rand Soellner, senior architect for the HOME ARCHITECTS ® . Real architects typically have professional degrees in architecture from leading universities (Mr. Soellner has a Master’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Florida Graduate School of Design).
Real architects typically have to prove that they have undergone a rigorous multi-year internship program under the watchful eye of other seasoned, licensed architects, making sure that they learn to design and manage projects properly. Real architects have to take and pass a battery of extremely difficult registration exams that not many people pass. Real architects typically spend at least a decade in the university/early experience phase to get to licensure, then another decade learning even more, then finally becoming NCARB certified (sort of like doctors becoming Board Certified). Only a few make it this far. The best. To obtain this distinction requires recommendations from former clients and other licensed architects vouching for your competency.
There are some so-called “designers” that are Not real architects and these “designers” may not clarify their actual status to you, should you talk to one of these people. Make sure that you are dealing with a real architect. How? Ask them what their architect’s license number is. You will find out very quickly who is real and who is not. Check if they are in fact licensed where they claim to be licensed. State boards of architecture do not lie. Their websites will tell you what you need to know.
Why would you want an architect designing your improvements? Well, not only will they help protect you against scoundrels like the Olivers who claim to be contractors but are not, they will also provide you with the best possible design for your improvements. They are trained to do so. They have decades of experience and degrees in architecture, testifying to their expertise. They are licensed by the State and are required to take CEUs (Continuing Education Requirements) to keep their knowledge fresh.
Unlicensed “designers” have no requirements whatsoever. No education. No experience. No State license. No CEUs. Nothing. Do you really want someone like that designing what you and your family are going to live in? What you will spend tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on? Will it even be safe? Could it rot and fall down? Yes; it could. Could it make you and your family sick? Yes; it could. Could it squander your money on wasted energy? Yes; most definitely.
Would you buy a car, truck or SUV from some guys down the block that throw together go-carts? And pay $30,000 for the privilege? Then trust what they have put together to drive your family around in, possibly at highway speeds, cross-country? Of course not. So why would you even consider trusting the design of your much more expensive house to anyone other than the one professional who is specially educated, trained, experienced and licensed to do just that: an ARCHITECT.
To find a REAL architect, contact: 1-828-269-9046. Rand@HomeArchitects.com