Identify Your Needs

When I work with people on designing their dream home, it consists mostly of photos picked out from Houzz, Pintrest, or other social media outlets. There is usually conversation about some skewed reality of timelines and budgets based on shows seen on HGTV. While these are all great places to find inspiration, they lack the […]

Project photography credit: Franc D'Ambrosio Architecture

When I work with people on designing their dream home, it consists mostly of photos picked out from Houzz, Pintrest, or other social media outlets. There is usually conversation about some skewed reality of timelines and budgets based on shows seen on HGTV. While these are all great places to find inspiration, they lack the very important fact that is reality.

The reality of residential construction is that it’s expensive. You can spend an infinite amount of money on literally any piece, big or small, if you aren’t careful. This is where identifying your needs and priorities can alter the direction of your project for the better. Going into project with a set list of goals means efficient workflow, predictable budgets, and a more cohesive product at the end of the day.

Almost every project I have ever worked on has started with a design, and followed with a budget. I’m not sure when this became the norm, but it makes a lot more sense to me that we start with a budget and design accordingly. Figure out how much money you are comfortable spending, then add 15-20%. That is likely how much your project is going to cost.

Typically, it isn’t until after a design is complete that a builder gets involved in the process and starts to give a better idea of actual costs. Architects and designers work with a budget in mind, but they don’t know always know current market pricing or the full extent of what is required to execute their design. When you spend a number of hours working closely with someone, it is easy to become committed to a design before knowing the exact cost, we are often forced to make sacrifices to quality and design during construction in order to afford the project. If we involve all parties required to execute a project from the start, we are afforded the opportunity to get creative with the space and hone in on the most important elements. This style of management is called Integrated Project Delivery, and is the key getting the most for your money on any construction project.

The reality is, unless you have an unlimited budget, you aren’t going to get everything you want. Starting with that simple idea in mind will set you up for success from day one. Working with a building consultant will get you thinking differently about your needs as a whole. You will be guided through prioritizing items and being prepared to make sacrifices while still getting the features that matter to you the most. Start by thinking about all the functions your home needs to provide and how it is going to be used. Even though it’s cool, you might not actually need a tv that magically drops out of the ceiling.

Let’s be honest, shopping around on Houzz and Pintrest and dreaming up your future home is a ton of fun. I’m not saying you shouldn’t start there, in fact I encourage it. The difference I want to push here is that you should take all those ideas and pick out two or three that really mean a lot to you. The things you can’t live without. Start there and build up. It is a lot easier to add more to a design when you realize you have more money to spend, than it is to spend a bunch of money on architects and designers only to be told it is going to cost $100,000 more than you can afford. This isn’t always the case, but it does happen all too often.

The point I am trying to make is that building a house opens up a whole world of options, that unless you have built before, you probably can’t even imagine. You’re going to have to filter through limitless photos, magazines, videos, and websites just to understand what is possible; and it’s easy to get carried away. It’s incredibly important to take a step back every once in awhile and think about you want, what you can afford, and what you really need at the of the day. These are decisions you are going to have to live with, look at, and experience every day.

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