Again, more architect prep questions

autumn.4December 11, 2012

There have been some excellent threads recently regarding architects, how to prepare and good questions to ask.

Coming at it from a slightly different angle, I am wondering if it's helpful to prepare by making a list of must haves/would likes instead of presenting a rough drawing of where you'd like spaces to be.

In other words, is it hepful to an architect if you present a floorplan in words vs. showing a drawing of a layout that is similar to what you like along with a list of what you don't like about it? I am thinking that a drawing could be helpful but it also could lend itself to preconceived notions/vision that might block new and creative ideas that we couldn't think of ourselves (which is indeed one of the reasons we need an architect in the first place).

Dh is thinking giving a rough drawing of where we'd like spaces to be (what rooms face which direction, etc) is the way to go so they aren't starting completely from scratch and might make things easier to start. I on the other hand am kind of intrigued by giving them a detailed list and seeing what they come up with on their own that could very well be way better than anything we've seen on line and I feel like I have looked at 1,000,000's of plans. Really I do.

I am hoping that Renovator and Virgil will comment on what they find most helpful when clients start out.

I am trying to prepare for a meeting so I made a list of the things we want so I don't forget them as the process moves along. Is this helpful to share with architects in this format or do you have other recommendations? Is a sit down conversation best and they make their own notes from that alone?

Again, the list was first and foremost created for me to look at so as to not inadvertently miss something that I feel is important as we go along. There are so many things to think about, I'd hate to overlook anything.

Anyone else that has been to an architect have any ideas on what is helpful to prepare? Thanks for any advice that is shared.

This is my list of 'desires' I have started (copied and pasted from word so the squares were bullets):

Main floor (9 foot ceilings):
Somewhat "open" plan with visual separation by short walls (not knee walls) with columns, 8-10 foot openings between kitchen and family room and dining room, as much southern exposure as possible. Kitchen on the perimeter.

Family living area facing east with exposure to southern windows
� Shallow Coffered ceiling � is a 10� ceiling necessary for that?
� Fireplace in family room flanked with built ins for games/tv
� Single story great room

Kitchen: Fridge, DW, Stove-vented outside, MW (on a shelf near fridge), coffee/snack center
� Pantry-would like 12" shelving and enough space to also house a small chest freezer (24x36)
� Entry into kitchen along the perimeter and not through the middle of the space
� Island or peninsula that allows seating for 3 or 4
� Kitchen window(s)

Dining Room:
� Informal � 1 eating space (at least 14� wide) that allows table expansion to comfortably seat 8-10
� Open to kitchen
� Exit door to rear covered porch � no slider

� Room with windows on 2 sides (north/east side of house) comfortably hold king sized bed, 2 nightstands, possibly a chair for reading
� Master bath: window(s), roomy shower (maybe a 60x60 neo angle), 2 separate vanities, toilet � no tub
� Master closet: would like dresser space in closet, walk through access to laundry room, separate closets nice but not required
� Laundry room by master bedroom: washer, dryer, small sink, folding counter and basket space

Other areas:
Office nook � small � 5 x 8 or so, prefer to have a window but not a must, located near garage entry/mudroom
� House: laptop/phone charging spot, printer, shredder, mail, church/school papers
Small powerder room � does not have to have a window (pedestal sink, toilet)
Covered porch off of the dining room
Mudroom large enough to hold 5 roomy cubbies, out of the way space for dog dishes
Small foyer with place/closet for guests coats, shoes

� 2 bedrooms 12x12ish, windows on 2 sides
� 1 shared bath with a window: linen closet IN bathroom, privacy between sink and toilet, shower/tub combo
� "Bonus" area, reading nook � not too large and can be open or in other words no door necessary

� Large 2 stall
� Not prominent (not the monster garage with a house attached look)
� Closet for sports equipment
� Space for foot bath for kids and dog

This post was edited by Autumn.4 on Tue, Dec 11, 12 at 13:09

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Lori (loribug26_gw) Wagerman_Walker

I really hope you get good responses on this!
This is exactly where we are right now. I have a list also, but might steal some from yours.
I have a plan I've drawn on Plan 3D, but I keep changing things...I've had my dad start on the actual plans. But we can't decide if it's still what we really want or can afford.
Right now it's still too big...

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 1:53PM
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Autumn, have you selected your building site? You don't mention it, and that's very important to the design on every house.

Speaking for myself, I have always thought it best for clients to prepare a list of "priority needs" vs. another list of "desirable wants", and not spend much time doing their own detailed designs and floor plans (as fun as it may be), which more often than not, begin to freeze client thinking and make it more difficult for design-oriented architects to work creatively with all of the necessary inputs and influences that go to shape the design of any house.

Your list is a good place to start, but it may be more of a "specification" for design than it is a list of important criteria (needs vs. wants, if I read your list correctly), if that makes sense. But it is a thoughtful and useful list, that clearly expresses your thinking and desires.

If your husband wants to prepare a sketch for the architect, that's fine, but don't invest a lot to do so, and certainly don't become fixated on your sketch. For maximum benefit, it's best to keep the sketch in the realm of a "flow diagram" showing the important relationship of functions, one to another, and to the site. Some architects call these "bubble diagrams" because the functions are often depicted as large and small "bubbles". Don't look at the flow diagram as a literal floor plan. For example, your list, above, lists some important functional relationships between family-kitchen-dining. So I would expect a flow diagram to have these spaces adjacent and linked closely to one another.

Well designed houses are shaped by many, many things, ranging from the site (it's orientation, sun path, access directions, etc.), regulatory requirements (buildable footprint, site coverage, allowable impermeable areas, set backs, etc.), architectural style and character, interior functions and spatial sequences, use of natural light, budget--the list goes on.

An owner fixation on achieving the "perfect plan", at the outset of the process often does not reflect consideration of many of the issues above, and, as a result, may cause a lot of wasted time, effort and money (not to mention potential frustration for everyone), as the architect has to demonstrate why the owner's "perfect plan" may not be either achievable or desirable, under real-life circumstances when all of the design inputs are considered.

Conversely, there's the important collaborative issue of the creative spirit of designing a house, using the owner's functional priorities and all of the required other inputs, above, to create a series of alternative conceptual designs to evaluate and to select one for final design development and construction documents. This is the value-added that an architect brings to a project and the maximum value is achieved when both owner and architect are working together in common purpose from the very outset. Does this make sense?

The least useful approach an owner can take is to hand an architect a detailed floor plan--the "perfect plan for our lifetime house" with a request to "draw this up for us to see and approve" (which owners almost never do without further changes and added design expenses!). From what I read, you are not headed in this direction.

Hope this helps. I'm sure many others will add their experiences and comments.

Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 2:38PM
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Yes - I need to add sq. footage to mine also - which is about 1700 on the main floor NOT including the covered porch. I think it's doable I really do!

How nice that it's your dad that is doing the plans! That will be helpful as you change and bounce around on things I'd think since he knows you well. :)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 2:38PM
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Epiarch Designs

good question. You are on the right track, IMO. It is our job to take your 'problems' (program) and make them work for you, or solve them. We also assist in developing a program. I typically do this by sitting down with the owners, clients, teachers, whomever it is we need to listen to. Go through a series of design phases (Schedmatic Design) until we can arrive at a scheme to further develope. At that point we take it into design developement stage, or DD. This is where we hash out the finer details. What you want in each space, windows, features, finishes, etc. Meanwhile, all of these things need to fit within your budget and estimates are made. It is also our job to guide you when we feel certain design ideas are driving the budget up and make you awhere of these decisions and costs associated with them.

I MUCH perfer to work with you and your list on come up with a floor plan instead of looking at what you have. Have done it both ways in the past, and the fastest, and best solution is typically arrived when the owner lets the architect do their job. Its like figuring out what is wrong with you when ill and going to your dr and telling him you need this medication. Its out job to get it taken care of for you.
On the flip side, highly detailed items can cause more tension and make arriving and a cost effective good solution harder. Some of the pin point items on your list will need to be thought about and ranks with importance when schemes start to be designed.

My advice-
bring your list
bring your inspiration images both of exteriors and interiors
make sure you know WHAT you like about the images. dont just say this image. Look at the details. Figure out what it is about it you like we can draw inspiration from.

Be very transparent about your budget. Let them know your total available funds. These need to include all costs associated with a project. My budgets typically list out every thing you will spend money on from arch fees, land fees, permits, site stuff, construction costs, contingencies, etc.

Go in with an open mind. Listen to suggestions. Listen to reasons WHY they may recommend something. Be open to new ideas or rearrangements to what you had in your head as a perfect design. If, after a try or 2, your ideal plan isnt being achieved, then possibly present your ideal plan sketches and work from there.

Good luck

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 2:42PM
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Epiarch Designs

Wow Virgil
You and me posted at nearly the exact same time, with nearly the exact same advice. Nice to see others feel the same way I do.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 2:46PM
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Autumn -- I have an IPAd and what I have been doing is keeping a wish list of things I add to my wish list as I think of them on Notes. Pretty general, and lofty but hopefully will give my future architect some ideas of what I would like and not like.

I'll leave it to him/her to tell me where these spaces should go.

Here is a screen shot.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 5:14PM
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We are wrapping things up with our architect. We went in with the following:

~few pictures of how we wanted our exterior to look
~Parcel map of the lot from the county website
~Covenants and restrictions (which included ARC guidelines)

We then talked to him for about 45 minutes. He got us the first set of drawings and he had most of the areas in the right place. We tweaked it a few more times and put a few more details in. He did things with our floor plan that I would of never came up with.

I can tell you when we got the first set of drawings back we tried to come up with the placement of things to better suit us. After banging our heads against the wall and not getting anywhere (and wasting time), we just told him what we didn't like about it. The next set of drawings were awesome. They do this for a living and know what works and what doesn't. If you think you have seen thousands of plans, they have seen millions! Just keep reminding your self that they are the experts and you are paying them to design it for you.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 5:28PM
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What I have found from long experience designing all kinds of buildings is that it is essential to have a clear space use program but when a client has given that to me in the form of a layout, it has tended to side track the design process and in every case that layout was eventually discarded.

IMO if an architect can't arrive at a better layout or at least improve on their client's layout, then he/she is the wrong architect for the project.

I live in an area where really good architects are pretty easy to find and not too expensive but I understand from many comments here on this forum that there are a lot of mediocre architects in other areas of the country. I can't give any advice about that other than to say search long and hard for a good one. Then work with him/her but let them take the lead.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 7:02PM
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Red_lover, you have an impressive (and presumably growing) list, which is important to create.

That said, the list will not serve you well unless you create two seperate columns, grouping items appropriately:
--Critical needs
--Desirable wants

No one can figure that out except you. Once you do the homework, everything gets easier and the excitement begins to build! Without your homework and discipline, the level of frustration may become rather great.

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 7:18PM
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First off I am really sorry about those annoying symbols -it did not look like that when I previewed it!

Thank you all for the responses so far. Priceless to hear from the architect AND client experiences.

Property-we did purchase a 2 acre wooded parcel. There are neighbors to the north and south. The house will face west and to the east is about 2,000 acres of state property so no neighbors to the rear ever. It has an existing driveway that we find to be placed fine and would like to use. I would say the 'odd' thing about it is orienting the garage. Side load you don't see the front of the house. Front load then the bedroom is right by the garage if we leave the living areas with southern exposure. So we are thinking angled garage is the solution instead of a hard L shape. It sounds crazy to opt for an L type with 2 acres but we really want to preserve the woods and clear as little as possible and preserve what privacy there is. I know they aren't popular but that might be where it lands. Deep down I feel like an architect will be able to solve the garage problem likely in a way that we've not considered.

Virgil-if I am completely honest, that was the way we were heading. We thought it would be quite simple to find a plan that seemed close enough on line and then have someone draw one up. A gagillion plans later and no, not simple and I think pretty frustrating by now. I don't want to add up how many hours I spent searching for the *perfect* plan. Sure at first it was fun but that ship has long sailed! It was just recently that I had the idea to start making a list of house desires and wondered what that would look like put together by someone without my preconceived notions. Thank you for the very detailed response, it was very helpful. There is no doubt that we will benefit from fresh "trained and skilled" eyes. I think I'll be retiring from searching and continue to gather priorities instead. I think we'd be better served by going that route and I'm curious and excited to see what we end up with when it's all said and done.

I have read that book Designing Your Perfect House by Hirsch. I forgot about the bubbles, I will have to get that out and review that part!

lzerarc-Thank you also! We have been taking pictures of houses that we see in terms of style and even exterior siding colors/stone. I was wondering where in the process discussing the elevation came in. For us the floorplan is most important and will trump elevation but we do have definite likes and dislikes in that area also. I want to have an open mind. Going to an architect will be a treat. How often do you get to design a house? This is truly our one and only. I want to make sure we give them what they need to design without directing or stiffling their creativity or solutions to our ideas of how we think we want things. As far as interior pictures. I have a few of those collected from houzz and gardenweb. I will be sure to note what it is that we like about them. Thankfully dh and I agree about most things.

Amtrucker - that is good to know! Thank you for sharing your experience. I have already beat my head against the wall from time to time just talking floor plans with dh, I don't need anymore brain damage, lol! Thanks again for sharing that. I hope our experience is similar to yours in that a few tweaks and you were there! I am sure we will have to spend some time chewing over what is created and taking it for what it is and not what we are used to seeing.

Red_lover-thank you for sharing your list. Ours have some similarities. I think I need to keep my mind open to sticking with spaces and having them put them where they fit best within our lot parameters. Darn that floor plan searching! It did help me see a lot of what I DON'T want but I've got a few things stuck in my head now. I have learned a lot from your threads and will continue to watch things develop for you.

Renovater-thank you also. I was fearing that getting to set on anything in my mind would be a hinderance. It's hard to tell too much on an overhead view anyhow and I am a very visual person. I am looking forward to seeing what they come up with. We have 3 in our area that we are looking to interview after the first of the year. It seems like many around here are more into industrial design. I am thinking we should stick with residential. Is it common for an architect to actively do both?

I greatly appreciate all of your advice. It is so helpful. This is uncharted territory for us and likely the one and only time.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 8:45PM
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Our list also included pictures and sizes of our antique furniture that would be going in the house. Those were on our need to have space for list.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 8:51PM
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Autumn ... if you have you lot already, you need to let the architect know which rooms and functions need to face which directions. Where is the sun, where is the view, where is the street.

After that, a functional relationship between the rooms (which room needs to be close to what other one) is useful.

Expected use ... do you want to use your bedroom as a sitting room also, or is it just for sleeping? Will the "office" need a private entrance for clients? Does a large play area and tiny sleeping rooms make sense for your children? That kind of lifestyle information is needed.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 9:39PM
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Thanks for this post! It is very helpful.

I have made my way through all the steps right up until the meet with the architect portion of the process. While I am ready to get going, my husband wants to spend more time on the "save money before we get started" part of the process.

Maybe we should go ahead and have him meet with the architects and take the design part slowly, but at least get started. Maybe I can persuade him if it means I will stop making him look at my graph paper sketches!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 9:48PM
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Super, before you meet with your architect, you and your husband need to be on the same page, at the same spot, with similar expectations. Reason should be obvious.

I can't tell you how many times I've met with spouses who were at completely different points, and how I was expected (hoped to be) a marriage counselor, soothsayer and clarivoyant. Unfortunately, I was only an architect.

Save your time and money, work out your respective positions and wish lists, and then go for it! It acutally can be a fun, exciting and rewarding process when everyone is together on the same page. Best wishes!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

I'm a homeowner who spent 7 years in the design phase...we are the longest clients our architect ever had and have spent so much time together, we now call him Uncle Joe. Through those years, we designed and ripped up many many floor plans, looked at countless model homes and homes for sale, perused more floor plan books than I care to recall, and it took forever for the pieces to finally come together to meet all the constraints we had. Fortunately, it was work we enjoyed doing and we are really pleased with the outcome.

Thought I'd share some of the things we learned along the way. One is that the interior and exterior of a home need to be designed at the same time...otherwise you get weird window placement, problems with massing, scale and balance and facades that don't make sense. Uncle Joe was also fussy that the house should look good from all sides, not just the front...we are so glad he was.

Another thing we learned was that the architect is expert at building design, aesthetics, materials, etc. but s/he can't know how you live from day to day...what works for your lifestyle, what functionality you expect from spaces, etc. Only you, who are going to live there know that. So that's where communication becomes critical. And that's where the real challenge lies as I was extremely fussy about floor layout, but it can't be designed without the exterior considered at the same time. So it was a long back and forth.

Perhaps the biggest constraint we faced was we wanted to build green which meant building small...but in this design process, there are always trade-offs, most of which can be fixed by adding sq ft....which meant our house plan would get too large. We'd rip it up and start over again.

And poor Uncle Joe, when we first met and he asked us what kind of house we wanted, instead of "colonial" or "cape" I told him I wanted a house that was adorable...a house that, when people saw it on the outside, wondered what it looked like on the inside. I also handed him a few swatches of fabric and told him what rooms they were going in...believe it or not, a decade later, that same fabric finally went up as drapes in our library, just as I had always envisioned...who'd a thunk it!

But above all, it was fun....we had a great time.

I posted earlier on our design inspiration, and thought I'd link it here if you didn't see it before.

Here is a link that might be useful: Inspiration...

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 11:56PM
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A program/features list is helpful and I highly recommend making one but I don't consider it to be a substitute for walking though the owner's current house discussing the use of each space while I ask questions and make diagrams and notes. This is what I use to develop a design. The program/features list is a helpful guide but when design opportunities or conflicts arise the owner should be prepared to deviate from the list. The design process should be a collaboration between the architect and the owner and what develops from that collaboration should be allowed to supersede preconceived ideas.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 7:12AM
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Renovator-what if there isn't really much you like about your current space and certainly wouldn't repeat? I guess that would show what doesn't work and why for the way that we live. We are busting at the seams and I don't feel like we have a lot of 'stuff'. That does not include kids toys. There are way too many but soon they will be out of that stage and we'll be into a different life season.

dekeoboe and lazygardens - very good points to keep in mind also regarding what we already have (will not be purchasing new furniture so that will make things a bit easier). Also room functions - another beneficial point to ponder.

Annie-thank you for linking that and offering your experience. I had read it. You have a beautiful home and I've peeked at it more than once here and there in other posts as well. I hope we end up just as satisfied as you are with your home but dare I say with not as many iterations! You sound like you hung in there and enjoyed it but I think I'd be exhausted by then and doubtful we'd ever get there! We sound somewhat similar in that I know how I want my home to feel more than I know definitely what that means on paper. I am looking for character and coziness. What I find striking is that you wanted a home that was a ranch that looked like a 2 story and we want a 1.5 story that looks more like a ranch with dormers that may or may not appear to be a 2nd story which in my minds eye could look much like yours. I love that 'is it or is it not' kind of look where you really aren't sure from the road! I don't like crazy rooflines with too much going on either. Not striving for neo-eclectic.

Regarding space sizes:
I was thinking the best approach would be to think about what we want in the space and let that dictate size from there instead of stating 14'x15' for this and 12'x12' for that. Is that how it works as the spaces start to take shape and relationship to each other within your square footage constraints? We are not building a large home (actually it will be large for us compared to our current home) but I think if we can build without a lot of wasted space it should work nicely. That is the goal anyhow.

Thanks again, this forum is wonderful. It helps settle down the nerves and helps lessen the many unknowns.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 8:40AM
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Epiarch Designs

take your wants and needs list to the architect. Do not try to take on the design and cost savings areas. There are many ways to reduce costs, many most clients are clueless on. That is typically part of your architects role. Let them guide you through your budget, what costs what, and where to put you money to achieve the important things in your home.
For me it always starts with the shell and energy goals. This is the part that protects your family and belongings. It can be made to fit the function you require and then the form follows to tie the 2 together.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 8:47AM
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Great advice all the way around.

Virgil-my list is definitely lofty and many of my wants may not be realistic. example: I want an elevator, but if I can get a guest room on the first floor this may be deleted. I will definitely divide the list into two categories and refine it. Good advice.

R8 -- love the idea of the architect walking through your present home and making notes of what you would repeat and what you would not repeat. Great idea. That would clarify a lot of design issues that are difficult for me to explain.

Great thread Autumn. Hope the advice keeps coming.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 9:48AM
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Lzerarc-- you say to take images that you like and be prepared to point out specifics. Are you talking about interior images and exterior images?

Is it OK to use the online sites like Houzz to show the architect images or is this just too much and not want architects want to see....information overload?

When you say budget, is it wise to set an amount for the home that you do not want to go over and let the architect know that from the get go? Does it take a local architect that knows building cost in my own area to be savvy enough to be able to determine that?


    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 9:58AM
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Just curious. Are you building this out of pocket or will there be a loan involved from a bank?

If so, the appraisal will dictate what you will actually be able to build from your wish list.......and in most cases, funds needed for an architect are not included and the cost will be expensive.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:10AM
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Epiarch Designs

red- inspriation images of both interior and exterior will help the architect determine what the final goal is, which also relates to the budget. If you are after a highly detailed and trimed look, he will know a greater deal of the budget or % will need to be devoted to that area.
For example, if you are ok with vinyl siding and basic window trim on the exterior, then it is fairly low cost. However if you are after stepped fascias, cedar shakes, stone columns, etc obviously this costs alot more and it needs to be planned for. There are regional numbers, but a local architect should have a good grasp on the market, material and contractor prices.
It is very important to disclose your financial situation with him/her. Let them know if your budget is total available (to include construction, site, professional fees, permits, soft costs, etc) or if fees are on top of it. There is nothing more frustating to work on a project and then find out the estimate is over budget since totals need to include total costs and fees. The more upfront and open minded you can be, the easier it is for us to zero in on the plan and design, keeping on budget and coming up with something everyone loves.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:44AM
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Cleanfreak-mostly out of pocket (current house is paid off) but there will be a small loan. I'm not sure what you mean on appraisal? Are you referring to what we present to the bank as our build plans? We are going to do a fair amount of work ourselves to save on costs but will have a GC.

I'm not clear on the last part either - the cost for an architect will be expensive? Around my area the architect fees seem to be around $2-2,500 in the research that I have done. As for other areas that posters have noted a percentage of build and much higher rates you are correct and we most certainly could not afford that. I am thankful we live where we do!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 11:48AM
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Epiarch Designs

Autumn- price will typically reflect scope. Also make sure you are looking at costs of drafting plans vs architectural services. Much different. If you are after fully custom design plans, construction documents, specs, exterior or interior 3d views or renderings I would assume the cost would be quite a bit higher than 2500. Most of our projects are % based, anywhere from 3-10% depending on scope, if consultants are needed, testing, etc. That is of construction estimated cost, which is not probably your actual costs if you intend to DIY.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Thank you lzerarc. I would assume we are looking at architectural services. I will be sure to find all of that out when we interview. That would be quite different compared to what we are seeing. We will need construction drawings and 3d views/renderings would be necessary to know if we have achieved what we are after. I will be sure to have it all clarified before we get started. Are you referring to land testing (perc, etc.)?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 12:37PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

red lover, re elevator, we wanted one but didn't want to pay for it. So instead we built accommodation for one in the house, but didn't actually put one in...we can always do that in the future should we need to. Right now the space is part of our dressing area, and we made sure there are not structural beams underneath the space.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 2:57PM
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I know a lot of folks may think the idea of an elevator is silly, but my sweet, vibrant SIL had a stroke at age 50 and is now disabled. They didn't think it would happen to them. None of us do.

They live in a colonial and couldn't sell it (no bedrooms on first floor). The house is difficult for them.

I want this home to be accessible no matter what the circumstances in the future.

Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2012 at 5:48PM
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"we just told him what we didn't like about it"
This is CRITICAL ... if you can't explain why you don't like something, it's really hard for it to change into something you like.

dekeoboe "Our list also included pictures and sizes of our antique furniture that would be going in the house. Those were on our need to have space for list." Excellent idea. That goes on my "to do" list.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 6:58AM
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The issue of identifying furniture that will be reused in the new house is essential, else how will one know if the furniture setting in front of the fireplace, TV, etc., will fit and allow circulation to, from and around the pieces? What about an expandable dining table? A grand piano?

Another useful calculation is the lineal footage of closet space in one's existing house, by major user and use, ie, parent's clothing, children's clothing, pantry, important books, etc.

Speaking of clothes storage, I am constantly amazed at the humongeous master bedroom closets often found in stock house plans (and standard builder's similar plans).

My wife and I lived in New York City for six years, with a very active business and social life, travelling the world monthly or more, while each of us had 8'-0 lineal feet each of closest space in our apartment! Only 8'-0 each!

Granted the cabinets were full-height fitted cabinet units, using 2'-0 modules with a door on each module, from Germany, with double hanging rods, drawers and shelving. Still, we could live for six years with just 8'-0 of storage per person, plus a hall closet for coats.

The closets weren't walk-in, they were simply on one wall in two different bedrooms. Just imagine the savings in square footage and dollars!

Bigger is not always better, IMO! I'm amazed at how many potential home builders post plans here, asking for comments, with absolutely huge homes, often for only 2-4 people! Just amazing! It is possible to live well, in a well-designed and enjoyable home, and not have it be 3,500-5,500 SF or more! Only a thought!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 10:18AM
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It is good that most of the funds will be out of pocket.

For most folks, a construction loan is required and in most cases, the bank will loan 80% of the appraised value for construction.

The appraisal I speak of, is the value of the current homes selling in your area. If they are selling for the $100/ sq ft range, your house will be worth about the same and the banks will loan $80/sq ft.

If the houses in your area have vinyl siding, formica countertops, and carpet floors, it will be "overbuilding" in your area if you do granite tops, hardwood floors, etc. This, in turn, will blow the budget that the banks will loan you.

On the last part I referred to about the architect, has to do with the fact this appraisal does not take into consideration the need of an architect, or many of the start up cost (permits, water/sewer fees, surveys, etc.) for that matter. Therefore, the 80% loan the bank gives based on this appraisal will not include these needed items.

Just passing on many years of experience, and good luck with your new home.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:03PM
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Autumn, thanks for this post too, very informative. I'm working on my "critical needs' and my 'desirable wants' list now. Trying to keep it short....

Virgilcarter, I take your point. I'm going to be a little embarrassed posting about my little 1,200 - 1,400 sq foot home here! Seems like I'm not even trying. ;)

Having said that, many people no doubt need larger homes. Some have 6 kids, multi-generation homes, both parents may work from home or home school the kids, etc. We live in a large home for our neighbourhood (urban), but probably fairly small to most of the folks on this forum. I suspect we have about 2,200 sq feet, more than enough for a family of four IMO. And DH and I routinely work from home, so we have a good sized home office. I consider it a med/large home. I can't get my head around a 3,000 sq+ home, but accept that some people may need it. But of course many don't ...

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 12:13PM
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Sochi, of course, you are right: everyone is different and their family situations and housing needs differ.

That said, I am constantly amazed at the number of postings here asking for comment on floor plans which are often so similar to one another and often so very large.

The similarity among many plans posted here tends to indicate that builders go to home shows and conventions where this year's "house of the year" is featured and bring some or all of those features to incorporate into their line-up. Doesn't matter too much if the builder is in North Carolina or California; climate, site conditions, local and regional conditions don't matter too much. Many of the houses look closely related, both in floor plan layout and in exterior appearance.

When it comes to size, it takes builders about the same amount of time to build a 3,500-4,000 SF as it does a 2,500 SF house. The larger houses give such a greater return to the builder, so it's easy to see why there are so many large houses on the market and being built. When a prospective homeowner, particularly someone who may be building their first custom house, looks at plan after plan of this over inflated type and size it doesn't take long for a prospective homeowner to think they really need all those feature and all that size! If the family is only two people, perhaps with a small child, the large house is often justified as "my forever house", or "needed for resale in this neighborhood".

No one seems to accept that real estate statistics suggest the average home owner sells their home every 5-8 years, and that it's not mandatory to move into a neighborhood of 5,000 SF, 6-bedroom houses!

One has to be pretty creative (and persistant) to find and design a "smaller" house that really fits their needs and some of their critical wants!

But, everyone is different, and as long as the budget permits, why not?

Only some thoughts...

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 1:42PM
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cleanfreak-thank you for the clarification. I was not completely aware of how they formulated the appraisal. It looks like we will need a decent amount of cash to fund the things you mention. Our plan was to take care of many of those things before we proceed with getting a loan to build. We are in exactly that kind of market - vinyl siding is commonplace (ours will have that also, with some brick to accent) but the inside finishes are where we hope to afford more by way of DIYing (flooring, painting, fireplace brick). I am hoping that with doing it ourselves it will be fine if the bank appraisal is lower, we will recoup the smaller bank budget for those things in our labor. Thank you for taking the time to share and your well wishes. This will be quite an experience I am sure. I am trying to brace myself.

Sochi-don't be shy! Our home won't be much larger. I think within any range there are still many things we can glean and put to use within our scope. Good advice and feedback on a layout is priceless no matter what the size. At least that is the way I am looking at it. Food for thought in abundance.

Virgil-good call on the closets and measuring the stuff to be sure it is accommodated but not have a ton of wasted place. I am confident we can get what we need in a 1700 sq foot footprint. We would never use 2 eating spaces, 2 living rooms, etc.. My goal is to maximize the spaces we do use and not have any wasted space that we don't or wouldn't use. In our case the budget does not permit and there is always something else to be saving or striving for such as braces, college and life in general.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 10:40PM
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Autumn.4, the purpose of walking around your current house with your architect is not to show him anything in particular but to force both of you to focus on the use of each room and to allow those spaces and their furnishings to trigger your memory of how you live now and how you might want to live in the future. That combined with a "flexible" wish list is what the architect needs in order to begin a collaborative design process.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 7:52AM
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You are welcome.

You can get a pretty good idea on what the upfront cost would be by contacting your local building dept and asking how they calculate permit fees. Most are done on a sq ft basis and hopefully there will not be any "impact fees".

You may also want to ask if the plans submitted are required to be "engineered". Also be sure to ask for ALL the permitting requirements ( man J's, product approval sheets, truss drawings, etc.) as these requirements if needed will drive the cost up as well.

You can also call the local utility company and get the cost for the water/sewer tap fees.

Be sure to find out the porta potty and dumpster rental cost as well.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 12:42PM
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I noticed that the architect fee you are anticipating is in the range of $2-2,500.

The first thing to find out from an architect (before the interview) is their registration number so you can look it up and when you interview them ask precisely what services they would provide for that fee.

Since these services are unlikely to include professional quality construction documents you might get more service from a designer/draftsman since their liability and overhead would be considerably lower.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 8:51AM
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Renovator-we are looking for design and completion of full construction documents for the builder to use. What would that be referred to as? I will check the website and see if his registration number is on there. I thought a draftsman just drew but didn't design? I have read several posts on here between the 2 but I guess I am not certain what we will need. I will have to go back and do more reading. It is quite possible that the 2-2,500 does not cover all that I think it does (which would be a bummer but we want quality documents of course). I have read several architect sites and it's not entirely clear to me.

As far as fee goes. I am thinking that a smaller, less complicated home would be less expensive than a larger more intricate design. I would think that it wouldn't take as many hours to complete. Is that not true?

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 9:32AM
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Yes, an architect's fee is based on the desired scope of services, which typically can include the following traditional five phases of service, briefly described as follows:

--Schematic Design: Creation and exploration of a designated number of conceptual floor plan, elevation and siting sketches designed for the owner to select a preferred design for subsequent development;

--Design Development: Development of the selected schematic design to proper scale and dimensions to fit owner and regulatory requirements, to include major materials and finishes; provision for major building systems, site, climatic and regulatory conditions;

--Construction Documents: Drawings and specifications sufficient for bidding, building, regulatory approvals and permits; lending package

--Bidding Assistance and Construction Administration: Owner assistance and representation during the bidding process, builder selection process and during the construction period to include substantial completion and project close-out.

Other special services may be possible, i.e., detailed site development, detailed cabinetry and special built-ins, interior design services, special construction administration, etc., if desired by the owners.

Architect's fees will be based on the scope of service(es) desired and selected by the owner. Architects structure their fees in a variety of ways: percentage of construction cost; hourly rates; lump sum, etc.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 10:06AM
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If you cannot afford more than $2,500 I suspect you will have to complete the preliminary design and design development phases yourself (even an online design package would blow your budget) and then hire a draftsman to draw construction documents and have the builder review it for code compliance. I don't see an architect being involved in any capacity unless one owes you a big favor or just got laid off.

A few years ago I designed a house in Maine for my BIL for $20,000 and it put a big dent in my income that year and he's never even told me he likes the house. The contractor has been using photos of it in full page magazine ads pretending he designed it.

Oh well, at least I'm not bitter.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Thanks Virgil for laying that all out clearly for me! We indeed will not need all of those services.

Renovator-as far as affording it, we can budget for it (that's how we do things so it may just be we save a bit longer and start a bit later, no biggie except I was ready to move yesterday) but I'd rather NOT afford it to excess if I don't need to. It will all add up and since we worked our butts off living very tight to pay off our current home in 15 years I don't really want to just go right back into debt. That would make me sick to my stomach and I have never been house poor and don't intend to start now.

That said, I know we will end up with a bit more house and therefore it will not be a 1 to 1 relationship building for what we will sell for. We are just trying to be very prudent and not overbuild in general as far as unused or overly large spaces and not overbuild with budget either.

I may be overly optimistic but I don't see why someone building in the 2000 sq foot range (~$250k range) shouldn't be able to build a custom home and be able to afford that luxury (and I realize it is a luxury). I am truly hoping scale and a simple layout will help with budget all around. What we save doing some things ourselves can also be applied to the cost of an architect to plan our home. Who knows, I may be a naive fool and you might be laughing at me right now too, lol!

I'll be sure to come back and report what we find. It may be with my tail between my legs or with great relief. I hope it will be helpful to someone else in our smaller home range. Still saving right now and hoping to start interviewing in February. Time will tell!

Don't know what to tell you on your relative. It takes all kinds to make the world go around family included. It's a good thing you aren't bitter. ;)

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 11:38AM
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