3 Ways to Build Your Home
We’ve all thought about building our own home. I even considered building it with my own hands. The reality is that each of us are far too busy - between getting the kids off to school, work, a whining puppy - we simply don’t have the time!
Apart from the odd MacGyver among us, most of us don’t have the necessary know-how. An exception to this might be building a tiny house, but that is undoubtedly a whole separate article and only applicable to those willing to make an extreme size tradeoff!
Despite all that- it’s not impossible to build your own home, let me share the most effective ways of making building your home a reality. The three most important variables to be mindful of in building are time, cost, and quality. I.e. Build your home in accordance with your time restrictions. Build your home within your budget. And build your home for a quality end product worthy of the sizeable investment.
Making your life easier at a small premium
The most traditional way of building a dream home starts with hiring an architect. More often than not, hiring an architect for a residential home build is considered a luxury rather than a necessity - which couldn’t be further from the truth!
Architects can make your home build an awful lot easier. During the initial consultation period, they put their hard-earned qualifications to good use by teasing out your exact needs - a process called briefing. The task is often not given enough credit, especially as a good architect makes the process seem easy. But trust me, it is far from easy. As a construction project manager who has witnessed many briefings between architects and clients, I can certainly attest to the amount of behind the scenes work involved to make sure your vision as a client is not only fully understood- but correctly interpreted. The process takes time but is well worth it.
An architect also sees the big picture and considers matters methodically. They take into account the totality of your situation and intended lifestyle, to really make sure the end result is a perfect fit for your needs. This is especially true when it comes to budgets. I’ve witnessed clients withhold all budget information which in turn has meant the full value of an architect is left untapped.
By being transparent with your architect on matters related to your construction budget, your architect can design a home which ultimately gets you more bang for your buck. It’s well worth devoting a good amount of time early to these kind of conversations. The more an architect knows and understands you, the more accurately she’ll accurately capture your aspirations. The old adage really stands true here - garbage in, garbage out. When it comes to quality, it is really a matter of making sure your needs are fully understood.
Hiring an architect tip: If you’re going to hire an architect to start you home build, be sure the style of home you are seeking is not only achievable by the architect, but is actually their preferred style based on their portfolio of past projects. Architects will often declare they can design any style but more often than not, they excel in one.
As someone who has spent my career to-date working on buildings with a variety of architects, I’ve been blown away by the designs received from architects when a good amount of time was invested early. I’ve also witnessed both architects and designers really miss the mark when an inadequate amount of time was spent at the start. My advice? Get your architect involved as early as possible.
At this stage, you’re probably thinking, “Yes, that’s all very nice, but architects are expensive!” - and that’s true for good architects - If you were hiring an architect for a commercial project, their fees would be a single digit % of the overall project cost. On residential projects, however, fees often go above 10%. So unfortunately for us, architect fees are cheaper the larger a project gets - not helpful for the majority of us working to a tight budget.
One area where the architect can provide savings, in addition to value engineering, is by completing a design to get bids from contractors. By inviting bids (something we’ll talk about more in a later article), ideally from 3-5 contractors, you can obtain competitive market pricing often leading to a 5-10% saving when compared to immediately contracting with one builder. At this stage, the architect is also invaluable to help with the contractor bids in an unbiased way - no architect wants to work with a lousy builder!
Now that we’ve had a short overview of the architect, you can begin to appreciate the value an architect brings. If you’re not convinced that hiring an architect is the right start for you, here’s an alternative route - go directly to a design-build contractor. Design-build can mean finding a custom home builder that sells you on their portfolio or finding a large builder who offers several home types for you to choose from.
Many people advocate an alternative approach for being more affordable
It’s easy to be attracted to the homes showcased by design-build firms who can offer an estimate and a variety of basic floor plans. For one, you have a clear idea of what you get from the outset and are only required to deal with a single party. This can offer a significant time saving compared to using two separate entities for the design and build stages. And the single firm responsibility ensures there’s no risk of one party blaming another.
However, here’s the tradeoff and also the reason I would personally never exclusively use a design-build firm for my own home - you are reliant on the goodwill of the builder to highlight problems as they arise and provide you some level of impartiality. An architect will often keep a builder in check and vice-versa. Many times I’ve had builders inform me that something the architect selected was completely over the top for the intended purpose and they could source me an equal or better quality substitute for less. I’ve subsequently had the architect sign off the change. Equally many a builder have attempted to offer cheap substitutes which the architect has refused. This is a healthy tension between the two parties leading to a great end product that delicately balances good design with robust buildability.
I’ve also found design-build firms to have limited design capabilities. Often for good reason (tried and tested methods), these firms like to work with a limited number of suppliers as they are not incentivized to look elsewhere due to discounts which in turn limits your choices. From the in-house architect’s perspective or often an in-house home designer (definitely not the same as an architect), they are encouraged to work with these set suppliers.
Design-build tip: If you’re hiring a design-builder for a custom home build, make sure you understand the trade-off - design quality and personalization in exchange for faster construction and less competitive pricing. If you have an estimate from a builder, push them to convert it to a gross maximum price contract with a detailed break-down so you understand what’s included.
“There is a new home building approach, combining the best of both - ease and affordability”
Despite the benefits, you now know neither of the above approaches are perfect. Hiring an architect provides a more personalized, creative home design and impartial advice from the get-go but can be costly. Directly appointing a design-build contractor offers an early start but does not allow you to get competitive market bids beyond an initial estimate and your vision is often shaped by the design build firm, rather than you.
There is a better alternative for you - BUILD WITH OTHERS.
By building with others, you unlock savings with collective buying power. Imagine a world-class architect being approached by an individual to produce the perfect home design. The architect is willing but her fees are high. This works at the uber-luxury, top-end of the market but not affordably outside of it.
Now imagine the same architect is approached to design 50 homes with common design preferences, materials, and location. The project is now large enough to gain her interest. For you the resident, you access a great architect to affordably design your dream home.
Here at Cobuild, we kickstart communities based on your common preferences with other aspiring residents. We use these common preferences to propose communities for others to view and subscribe to, enabling the most popular schemes to move forward into planning.
And the savings achieved in hiring the architect are also achieved in many other areas of your home build - on the site purchase, materials, labor, and even long-term maintenance! But the best part is Cobuild is here to offer step-by-step guidance from start to finish for a better building experience.
- The traditional approach wherein you pay a small premium to hire an architect from the get-go for a personalized design and impartial guidance during your build.
- The quickest route whereby you appoint a design-build contractor from the start for a shorter construction time but with fewer choices and potentially slightly lower quality.
- The new approach of building with others, offering savings and step-by-step guidance on the entirety of your home build - a hybrid of 1 and 2.
My hope is that now you know these three approaches to building a house, you can evaluate what works best for you and your household. You’ll soon be well on your way to achieving your dream home.
Why not enjoy a better building experience with step-by-step guidance and collective buying power.
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