IF YOU GO THROUGH A BUILDER FOR DESIGN, YOU CAN BE HELD HOSTAGE
Believe it or not, this is a true representation of a situation that is occurring, right now, in various locations in the USA, brought to ArCH’s attention by some of their members who have to deal with this on a daily basis.
ArCH: Architects Creating Homes, is a national association of American licensed Architects whose main mission is: Improving Residential Architecture.
These ArCHmember Architects reporting on this article’s circumstances, are in regions where, unfortunately, many consumers (homeowners) go to a residential builder (rather than an Architect) to obtain both their design and construction. BIG MISTAKE, as you’ll see soon…
What can and does happen: consumers at first are delighted when the builder tells them that they will provide their design at little to no cost. However, the reality is that there is a charge; it is just concealed into other areas of the project, usually during construction and often within the first big payment to the Builder. Never mind, let’s continue with what else is happening…
The Builder’s efforts at design are usually not as a effective as an Architect’s efforts will be. The Builder may not investigate the Lifestyle or the Land; they can simply grab an old roll of prints off a dusty shelf and throw that on their desk and say: “Here: how about this?” Then the hapless homeowners (let’s call them Doug & Wendy) stare at what the Builder has previously done for someone else and is the same house that he/she builds for most of their customers. And he mentions a lowball price to build it.
Strike 1. LACK OF DESIGN CREATIVITY TO SUIT YOUR LIFESTYLE & LAND.
Okay, so Doug & Wendy manage to jam their dreams into the container offered by the Builder and now the Builder says he will price it out. Time goes by.
One day, the Builder calls Doug & Wendy back to his office. They appear, wondering what this meeting is about. The Builder, grim-faced, says: “Looks like prices have gone up. That price I estimated has got to be increased. “
Doug & Wendy look surprised, thinking they were buying their house like they would a loaf of bread in a store, where there is the price on the label and they buy it and enjoy it. Not so with a house..”How much more?” they ask.
The Builder turns down the corners of his mouth and breathes deeply, then says: “Looks like due to lumber escalation, taxes, HVAC equipment, cost of fuel, my labor, and in general, upward prices, we’re going to have to charge you another $250,000.” The Builder leans back and looks straight into the eyes of his customers.
Doug & Wendy lurch to their feet. Doug’s face gets red. He points at the Builder and says: “This is highway robbery! We’re going to take our design somewhere else and get a competitive bid!”
The Builder rolls up the dusty print set on his paper-strewn desk, snaps a rubber-band around it, then tosses it onto his credenza, behind him, out of reach of Doug & Wendy. The Builder hisses: “I don’t think so…”
Doug makes a move to go around the Builder, to be able to grab what he thinks are “his plans.” The Builder stands up, between Doug and the rolled-up set of drawings.
Doug stops and Wendy looks frightened by the tension in the air.
Doug says: “What is this? Give us our drawings!”
The Builder says: “Those aren’t your drawings. They’re mine. And if you don’t have my company build your house, you don’t get to use them.”
Strike 2. BUILDER PROVIDED DESIGNS AREN’T YOURS: YOU CAN’T TAKE THEM SOMEWHERE ELSE FOR COMPETITIVE PRICING
Red-faced and nearly apoplectic, Doug backs away from the Builder and retreats to his wife. Now, they’re starting to understand the disadvantages of having design provided through a Builder: no price-shopping possible. And you can be held hostage to whatever price increases that Builder may wish to charge…if you want to use his company’s old prints.
Doug & Wendy storm out of the Builder’s office, stiffly walk to their car and burn rubber leaving the parking lot.
Doug & Wendy scour the Internet, vainly searching for what they really wanted, not what that Builder was promoting. After 6 months, Wendy gives up. “There’s nothing for free from the Internet that suits our Lifestyle, functional needs or our Land. What are we going to do? And bank loan rates are starting to go up.”
Doug thinks about their situation. “Well, we could buy a cheap set of plans online from some plans library…”
Wendy says: “Yes, but those designs aren’t very attractive, and none of them suits how we want to live, the arrangement of rooms, and they don’t have the large kitchen I want, the extra office for you, the 4 car garage we want and the tall and wide glass areas we want off the back, facing the great view we have toward the mountains.”
Strike 3. CHEAP INTERNET PLANS DON’T INCORPORATE YOUR CUSTOM NEEDS, OR YOUR LAND, ARE LACKING IMPORTANT DETAIL, LACK SPECIFICATION DATA AND MAY NOT BE APPROVED BY LOCAL BUILDING DEPARTMENTS.
Doug & Wendy join hands and look into each others’ eyes. “What are we going to do?” Wendy asks no one in particular, more a plea to the Universe.
Doug suddenly stands up. “What?” asks Wendy.
“I remember seeing a sign on a new house construction site on my way home…”
“Yeah, so? Was it for the Plumber or something?” asks Wendy.
“No,” says Doug, “It was for the Architect.”
“Architect?” asks Wendy, “We can’t afford an Architect!”
“Well, we certainly can’t afford to have a Builder horse us around, jacking up prices with impunity,” says Doug, grabbing his car keys. Wendy and Doug dash to their car and drive to the new house construction site.
There, at the new house project site, Doug & Wendy exit their car. They approach the Architect’s site sign. Doug pulls a pen and scrap of paper from his pocket and writes down the Architect’s email address, website URL and phone number.
“Can I help you?” comes a voice behind them.
Doug & Wendy whirl around to see a middle-aged man in bluejeans, wearing a tan sport coat over a light blue workshirt, no tie. “I’m Zeke Fortnow, the Architect. I saw you standing here in front of my site sign, taking note of my information,” he says with a smile, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
Wendy speaks up first: “Well, we don’t think we can afford an Architect but we just had this horrible experience with a Builder who we were getting our design through, and so…”
Zeke smiles broadly. “I hear that all the time. Did you know that, depending on the state, regional location and other circumstances, that many people in the United States can afford to have an Architect design their custom homes for about what they might pay for sales tax?”
Doug looks eager. “Really? I had no idea! What a bargain!”
Zeke says: “Well, that does vary, because in some states there is no sales tax.”
Doug says: “Gotcha. Hey: can we talk with you about what we’d like to do for a new house?”
Zeke says: “Sure, tell me all about what you want. That’s usually where an Architect starts, by listening …”
Doug asks: “But what about a good Builder?”
Zeke says: “I know several great licensed Contractors who build only and who would be happy to competitively bid any house I design for my Clients. I respect what they do and I don’t try to build. They respect what I do and they don’t try to design. That’s the best arrangement for the customer, because they get the best professionals doing their best work for them.”
Doug & Wendy smile, greatly relieved that they are now in the hands of a licensed professional Architect who has their best interests at heart. And: they’re going to get a custom design that suits their Lifestyle & Land perfectly, then they’ll be able to competitively bid it, in order to obtain the best construction price possible. They have realized that the cost of an Architect is a true value, and only pennies, compared to the big dollars involved with the construction costs. Being able to take their design and price shop the construction bids is a huge advantage.