Aligning Home Design Wish Lists and Costs

Aligning Home Design Wish Lists and Costs

Hey, why do you have to align anything?  Can’t people just have in their residential designs what they want?  Sure!  If what their contractor charges them to build it doesn’t matter to them …

If, on the other hand, you do care what your proposed house design will cost to build, then you may find this article interesting.  Many designers just do what they are asked to do and give their documents to the owners, then run for cover.  Why?  Because anyone knowledgeable with construction has some idea of what is more expensive than something else.  When clients come to Rand Soellner Architect with their file folders full of cutouts from design magazines (featuring houses costing $500+ per square foot), Soellner normally considers what the client wants, then asks them: “And how much do you expect to pay your contractor to build your house?”

That’s when things start to get interesting.  Many clients may say things like: $200,000 or whatever, for a house of 3,000+ HSF (Heated Square Feet).  This = less than $100/HSF.  Costs like that are difficult to achieve, especially with high-end features torn from design magazines. 













Soellner is quick to point out that he will gladly design clients’ houses however they desire; he just wants them to have some appreciation for the economic implications of what they are asking for in their houses and what the builder will charge to build it.  Most people have unrealistically low expectations of what their high-end wishes will actually cost to build.


Many people have in mind complex plans with curves and angles and tall commercial glass window walls, high-end flooring, tall widow-walk towers above their roofs, and big-big-big square footages with 3 and 4 car garages.  All that for just a few bucks a square foot!  Wouldn’t that be great, if that was actually possible?  The reality is: you get what you pay for.  Maybe in these down economic times, you get a little more.  But builders cannot lose money.  They already did that in the Great Bust.  They lost money in the spec houses they had sitting on the market that they had to sell for 50 cents on the dollar, just to dump them.  And that was for a built house on which they hoped to earn a profit.


What some clients imagine is that pre-built houses that have sold at distressed prices is what they can now have their new, custom built house constructed for.  No, you cannot.  Why?  Because you are asking a builder to create something new for you.  He is under no pressure to do this.  You are asking and he is considering.  Sure he will give you a good deal; he wants the work.  But can he build your high-end featured house with all your wished-for goodies for half of what is will cost him?  No.  And he will not.


So, understanding all of this, Rand Soellner Architect strives to ALIGN HOME WISH LISTS WITH COSTS right at the beginning of his projects. 













The choice is the clients’, and Soellner’s objective is to create the design his clients want for as close to the construction cost they would like to pay their builder as possible.  Soellner is not responsible for what your builder decides to charge you.  That cost is largely based on the features you have asked him to include, along with the size you have requested.  Soellner lets you make the choice.  He is there to inform you when what you have requested clearly exceeds the cost desired.


So what’s to be done?  Well, for one, Soellner tries to simplify his clients’ desires for complicated geometry.  Contractors charge extra for each additional corner and more for curves and angles.  If you want them, fine, just realize that you will pay extra for them.  Soellner also advises his clients on how certain spaces can have multiple uses, avoiding over-building space that really isn’t necessary.  This savings in “footprint” can have huge paybacks when you have more than one level.


Often, Soellner will ask his clients if they would like to see some examples of how to accomplish their desired space program with some of his existing designs.  They invariably agree.  Then, Soellner overlays the existing design with tracing paper and sketches the client’s new desired organization, understanding that this is simplifying the client’s wish list into something that will likely be built for much less construction cost.


If you are concerned about how to align your home design wish list with your cost, you may want to schedule an appointment with Rand Soellner Architect: Contact Us . 1-828-269-9046.






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