How We Balance Design And Budget In A Custom Home Project

Every project, no matter how big or small, has a budget and it is our job as architects and designers to meet a client’s needs within their stated budget. This can be a challenge and is often the part of a project that is the most stressful - especially for our custom home clients.

One of the main reasons people hire architects to design a custom home, is that they want a space that is tailored to their specific needs, values, and responds to their family’s lifestyle. This often means that when we first meet with our clients, they already have a good idea of what they want and need in their new home. The challenge occurs when their list of wants doesn’t align with the budget for a project they can afford to build.

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We start each project with a programming meeting with our clients. This includes a conversation where we discuss everything that will be going into the new house before we even put pencil to paper to start the design. Together we identify all of the spaces, unique features, specific wants, and the overall needs of the client. We discuss general style consideration, and document any specific things the client would like us to include in the project. Once that list is defined we can then go through it together to prioritize what is most important vs what would be nice to have, but if budget becomes a concern we could do without.

We use this programming document as a basis for the design work for the custom home. With the wants and needs in mind we start sketching ideas, and coming up with concepts for how the house could fit on the site, accommodate the programming list, and be within the budget range.

Once we have some design ideas documented, we recommend selecting a General Contractor to perform pre-construction services in order to get real cost feedback throughout the design process. Contractors are knowledgeable about cost fluctuation in material and labor costs, and have the ability to give some feedback on constructibility and offer ideas on how to make things more cost effective. With a contractor on board, we get a rough estimate when we are close to complete with the Schematic Design Phase. This allows us to get cost feedback and still have the opportunity to make changes or edits to the design to bring the project in line with the budget.

Often this is the moment where clients can get stressed - when the estimated cost of a project comes back above the stated budget. This is where our value as designers can really come to play. With the cost estimate in one hand, and the understanding of the project goals we discuss with our clients what the highest priorities are, what can be sacrificed, and where we can make edits to bring the cost down. We discuss overall design goals, and then offer suggestions on what changes can be made.

This process is common in almost every project and not something to worry about. It is a time where the client takes stock of what they want in their home and what they can afford to build. Sometimes this is a point where clients decide they want to raise their budget in order to get some of the things they really value. Other times, it involves working together to make some tough decisions on what the carve out of the project in order to keep the budget where it is.

Either way, we work closely with out clients to analyze the various options and make recommendations on how they can get as close to their vision as possible while still being a project they can afford. This isn’t always an easy process, but often can lead to a better design that is more efficient and cost effective.

At the end of the day, our priorities are to provide great service and make sure our clients can get as close to their vision as possible within their budget. We strive to make this happen in a seamless, stress-free way, and guide our clients through each hurdle to the best of our abilities. Cost can be a stressful part of each project and it is our goal to collaborate with our clients to make decisions that work for them.

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If you have any questions about this post, the cost of building a custom home, or have other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.