Frequently Asked Questions
HOW SHOULD I GO ABOUT SELECTING MY RESIDENTIAL DESIGNER?
You should choose your designer much as you would choose a physician or a lawyer. Check their reputation and references certainly, but be sure to interview them personally as well.
Custom home design is a very personal experience and you must be sure that the person you select will really listen to your needs and desires, and will help you design the home of your dreams, not theirs. You will be spending quite a bit of time with your designer and will be sharing important parts of your life with them. Be sure that you like, and trust them. Professional qualifications are very important but "bedside manner" may be equally critical.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO DESIGN A CUSTOM HOME?
Many factors must be considered in setting the fees for a custom home, including, the difficulty of and size of the site, the size of the home, the complexity of the program etc. Please contact us so that we may ask all of the questions needed to quote you a precise fee.
HOW ARE YOU COMPENSATED FOR YOUR SERVICES?
Designers are normally paid in one of three ways: 1. A "lump sum" fee 2. An hourly fee plus expenses 3. A percentage of the total construction costs; this percentage will vary in proportion to the size and complexity of a project. 4. $/per sq ft. This fee is based on S.F. of finished areas. An additional fee may be applied for unfinished areas such as basements and storage areas. Attached garages are typically not included. S.F. fee will vary based on complexity, size, detail and client interaction (revisions).
Based on a clear understanding of the nature, complexity, and scope of a project, we can use a combination of these methods. Most homes can be designed using either of the first two methods. A larger more detailed home may require a fee based on the third method. After payment of a small retainer when services begin, services are then invoiced on a monthly basis.
The fee also includes compensation for structural, mechanical, electrical, site engineering, and other consultants required for a specific project. The chosen fee method is documented with a written agreement before services and or work begins.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO BUILD A CUSTOM HOME?
Construction costs vary due to dozens of factors in a custom home design. Exterior materials, number of floors, the site, interior finishes, region of the country, proximity to qualified trades and suppliers, complexity of the design and structural and mechanical systems used are only a few of the factors that influence the cost of constructing a custom home.
Beware of anyone who will quote you construction costs for a home before they know a great deal about you and your home's design.
HOW CAN WE BE SURE OUR CUSTOM HOME DESIGN CAN BE BUILT FOR OUR BUDGET?
We suggest investing in a set of plans as near as possible to your desired design and getting bids from local contractors. You can tell them of the changes you are wishing to make and they can estimate the cost of your completed home. This estimate will at least give you some idea as to weather the home will be in your budget or not.
Once you are comfortable that the price is in your range, we can modify the drawings as needed. We are happy to work with the builder of your choice, to help you select a qualified builder, or to refer you to someone we have worked well with the past.
WILL I NEED THE SERVICES OF OTHER PROFESSIONALS BESIDES MY DESIGNER?
A structural engineer is required for homes in most parts of the country. We have a good working relationship with many structural engineers and they may be hired through us to complete structural design of your home. Site information from a local (to construction site)
Geotechnical Engineer must be provided.
An interior designer may, or may not, be desired to finish your dream home. However, most people find the services of an interior designer to be invaluable during the design process. On larger luxury custom homes the need for careful integration of everything from fabrics to floors usually requires the services of an experienced and sensitive interior designer. We can recommend an interior designer, or will be happy to coordinate with the designer of your choice.
Landscape designers, lighting designers, mechanical engineers, surveyors, soils engineers, pool consultants, audio/visual consultants, and kitchen designers are some of the other consultants often brought into the team on a luxury custom home.
Your designer acts as the team leader, orchestrating the consultants and the builder to achieve the maximum in creativity and enthusiasm from everyone involved in your home design.
SHOULD I HAVE MY SITE SELECTED BEFORE I BEGIN SELECTING A HOUSE PLAN?
In general, yes. However, we can assist with site selection for those people who have a strong vision for their home design, and are not sure which site might best fits their needs. The best homes are always designed within the context of a specific site. Orientation, access, views, grade, surrounding buildings, vegetation etc. are all considered in the custom home design process.
HOW LONG DOES THE DESIGN PROCESS TAKE?
This varies based on the size and complexity of your home design, and factors such as Design Review Boards and your ability to make timely decisions. Usually, from the time we begin design to the time we are ready to submit the finished construction drawings for a building permit is about 5-10 weeks.
WILL MY HOME PLANS BE STAMPED?
Our stock home plans are not sold with a stamp (architectural or engineering seal), but we can refer you to an Engineer or Architect if you require a stamp, for legal or safety reasons.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FULL REVERSE AND A MIRROR SET OF PLANS?
A full reverse or right reading reverse will help you read and understand the plans better, as opposed to a mirror reverse where all the writing will be backwards. This option may be available on pre-designed plans.
CAN I USE YOUR CUSTOMIZATION SERVICE TO MODIFY MY PLANS TO MEET LOCAL BUILDING CODE REQUIREMENTS?
In this case, we recommend that you use our services to upgrade your plans and have them meet your local regulations. Ask your building inspector for a list of items that must be completed, added or modified. You may also employ the services of a local architect. Often times, drawings that are brought to us in paper format will need to be input to electronic format. We will verify all construction methods and designs when this is done. This sometimes takes as much effort as a new design and may be reflected in the fee.
IS A WRITTEN CONTRACT NECESSARY?
It is strongly recommend that you begin your relationship with an architect with a written letter of agreement or contract that details your expectations, the architect's services, fees, schedules and everything else you and your architect consider important. A good, clear, written agreement no doubt will help prevent later misunderstandings or disappointments.
A brochure you may find helpful in this regard is "Residential and Small Commercial Project Handbook", available from the Boston Society of Architects.