why a custom residence is better

I follow a lot of blogs, facebook pages and twitter peeps, so in a given day I come across a VAST variety of architecture in different forms: pics of the day, photo montages, candid shots of some guys’ living room and even the occasional rendering or glossy photo spread from Architectural Record.  And in this vast array of images that I’m sometimes bombarded with, there is a common theme in residential architecture that needs addressing (it’s been addressed before but I’ll labor the point anyway), and that is custom design, custom residences, are in the minority, not the majority.  This, to me, is troubling for a lot of reasons, but the biggest is that homeowners (me included) are left looking for homes that are already built, were not built for them and will need to be altered in some way immediately upon purchase.  This is NOT how things were meant to be.

Falling Water - FLW

The biggest road block to clients seeking out custom residential design is cost.  The accepted notion is that an architect designed home is going to cost you much more than you’re willing to pay and more time than you’re willing to suffer.  Well, have I got news for you!

Lets look at this analytically.  What are the costs of a custom residence?  There is the cost of the dirt (land) to build on, architect and consultant fees, utility fees (if there aren’t already utilities on site), permitting fees, zoning fees, taxes, insurance and of course, construction cost.

Now, lets look at the costs of that big box retailer, cookie cutter piece of crap you’re going to buy.  What are the costs associated with that house?  There is the cost of the dirt (land) to build on, architect and consultant fees, utility fees (if there aren’t already utilities on site), permitting fees, zoning fees, taxes, insurance and of course, construction cost.

I know what you’re thinking – “but you just copied what you typed above for a custom residence” – and you’d be right!

sketch courtesy of google

Because the exact same costs of a custom residence apply to any residence.  You just don’t know it because the builder wrapped all those costs, including his profit margin, into the mortgage that you’re getting ready to pay.  So, in effect, you’re paying a higher initial purchase price for a house that was not designed for you, your family or the way you live and will require an additional investment in order to get it to where you are comfortable enough to live in it after making minor adjustments to the way you live…..and this sounds like a GOOD idea to you?

wood engraving circa 1893 - "Architect at his drawing board"

I didn’t think so.  But what’s the reality of hiring an architect to design and construct a custom residence for you?  Obviously there are hoops to jump through depending on where you live and it will take TIME.  It will not happen over night and at some point in the middle of the process you will find yourself contemplating an appropriate place to dispose of your architects’ body.  But in the end, if you’re honest enough with yourself and with your architect, you will have a home that not only suites you and the way you live now, but will be easily modified, with little effort, to the way you’ll be living in years to come.

So, put aside the floor plan catalog, stop sifting through magazine articles, stop clipping pictures of bathrooms and kitchens from Architectural Digest, and call up a few architects and ask them if they’d like to help you design your home (you could even call me!).


About Jeremiah

Birth: April 6 - Upstate New York Education: Savannah College of Art and Design Bachelor of Fine Art - 2003 Masters of Architecture - 2003 Member AIA National since 2004 Member AIA Florida since 2004 Member AIA Jacksonville since 2004 Member Emerging Design Professionals Jacksonville since 2006 Emerging Design Professional President 2009-2010 View all posts by Jeremiah

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