Building a new construction home can be an exciting and life-enhancing experience. It can also be stressful and fraught with tension, worry and anxiety. At Pamela Hope Designs, we always say: “Designing your home should be a pleasure and we want you to enjoy the experience as well as the results!” With that end goal in mind, there are some things to consider when planning a new build.
First, build a good team. You might start with the designer or perhaps the architect or maybe you just fell in love with a photo or a lot you drove past. Whatever is the catalyst, you will need a good design and build team. It’s never too early to bring in the experts. In fact, the sooner the better. We often are first on the job and can recommend architects and builders whom we think would be a great fit for a project. Likewise, we get some of our best jobs from architects and builders who like working with us. No matter whom you choose first, work to build a cohesive team of creative and capable individuals who will honor your preferences and your budget.
Key indicators are professionals who listen to you and respond in kind. They offer advice and tell you the truth, not just what you want to hear. Great construction team players answer emails, don’t rely on text messages to build your $4M home and won’t call you at 7 a.m. to tell you the painter is at Sherwin-Williams and needs to know all the paint colors for the house. A good design team will have these selections decided well in advance so you and your designer can take the time to make the best choices. Rushing into a big project never pays off. Slow and steady wins the race and ends up usually taking less time because of careful planning and fewer mistakes.
Track how quickly and professionally your design and construction team responds to your calls and emails. We are very conscientious about responding in a timely manner but we are extremely busy right now and not all calls and emails get returned as quickly as in the past. However, hearing back within a day or two for normal questions is a good sign. See if deadlines are met with regard to receiving requested information on bids and quotes. Bid requests are definitely taking longer across the board these days. However, I’d rather a builder tell me it will take two weeks rather than four days and it end up taking four weeks! We can plan if we are apprised of realistic timelines. There are plenty of design tasks we can knock out while waiting on bids.
It’s very important to have a group meeting early on, once the team has been chosen. Putting names and faces together makes for a more cohesive collaboration. It’s good to review the rules and the processes with the builder in that first meeting. Who is responsible for what and by when? I recommend looking at a construction schedule with the dates when items are needed and the format in which the selections need to be received by the builder.
It’s also good to decide on allowances. We have experience in selecting items for a variety of price points and getting an estimate for the cost of the lighting, for example. This really helps set expectations about the level of the design and the cost of the home. If your allowances are too low, your initial bid might look great but you’ll find that you aren’t satisfied with the selections in that price range. That leads to disappointment and stress. I prefer realistic allowances and I like to educate the client when they are selecting above or below what is a good level for the project. As the designer, we are not in charge of your finances; however, we want to be responsible stewards of the money you have set aside for your new construction home. Having realistic allowances gets everything off to a better start. You will certainly make some purchases that exceed your allowances and may buy a few things that come in under budget. If we keep up with these expenses, we can still deliver quality home design at the right price for you.
So, now we can get to probably one of the most important aspects of a new construction project = THE BUDGET! As I mentioned above, we are very interested in helping you establish and stick to a budget. Sharing your financial details and expectations will get your project off to a sound fiscal start. Hiding details, misrepresenting what is comfortable for you to spend or what a project could cost and receiving inadequate quotes and bids serves nothing other than to waste time and money. I tell our clients that if you are not comfortable enough to discuss the financial side of the project with us at PHD, then we may not be right to work together. We need trust on all sides.
Luckily, we work with some of best builders, contractors, trades and providers in the area and so we have experience in working with them and know who we can trust. We also know many of their strengths and weaknesses (as well as our own 😉) and can share that information with you as well. One caveat to remember is that things usually will take longer than planned (especially now, although some timelines are decreasing) and they will also cost more. Always expect to go over budget and plan for that from the beginning. If you come in under budget – hurray! Many of our projects do. However, if your costs increase, you can use the cushion that you already built into the project.
I know I have really hammered on the team and the budget aspects. They are both crucial. Other favorite hints to a great new build home include:
- Consider weekly construction meetings. Schedule and keep them. If you are ahead of schedule and don’t need to meet, you can always work on another upcoming project or start on the decorating. Having a few hours a week dedicated to meeting means you always have time for construction needs.
- Iron out the purchasing policies of the builder and the designer. Find out how they will handle a 19th-century chandelier you stumbled upon while in Italy and had shipped back. You will probably find some treasures you want to incorporate into your home and it’s good to know how these items will be handled.
- Stay in touch with the design team and make an effort to respond to emails and phone calls in a timely manner. Many jobs take much longer than necessary because the clients don’t respond.
- Respect the fact that everyone is busy – you, the builder, the subcontractors, the designers, etc. With advance notice we can schedule nearly anything for you. With three hours notice, we probably can not.
Wow! Just thinking about new construction projects really inspires me. Until next time, find your inspiration or call us and we’ll help you discover it!