Good Quality Architecture Adds Value to Your Home

Written February 20, 2009 by John Hendricks, AIA Architect

Building a new home or remodeling an existing one should be an exciting and rewarding process. In most cases, hiring an Architect to help you realize your vision will add value that far exceeds their costs, in addition to simplifying the design, approval and construction process.

It is well recognized in the Real Estate community that homes designed by Architects have a value up to 50% higher than similarly sized and located homes that come from builder/ designers, draftsmen, or catalog plans. This number is much higher when compared to production homes. Since Architect fees are typically anywhere from 5% -15% of construction costs (depending on the level of service provided), any value added to a project that exceeds this fee is a direct benefit to the homeowner. An important point to remember is that value is not necessarily measured only in dollars. Value is also realized though long term enjoyment of a home with improved functionality that is designed to meet your specific needs.

If you look closely in any city or town, usually the oldest (and often the nicest) homes are almost exclusively Architect designs. The perceived value of a well designed home makes it worthy of continued maintenance and preservation, and the careful thought Architects put into their home designs tends to greatly increase their longevity. While many Builders are conscientious and build homes to last, they often choose materials & methods that make building easier and less costly, especially when they are building homes speculatively. Architects typically design homes to maximize owner value through better aesthetics, quality, livability, and longevity while trying to minimizing long term life cycle cost.

Most people can pick out a home that was designed by a good Architect, and a quick comparative study would confirm that well designed homes command significantly higher resale values. It is important to note that an Architect designed home doesn't necessarily cost more to build. Careful site consideration, efficient space planning, thoughtful construction details, and creative, well informed material selections can add value that will far exceed that of a comparable builder grade home.

Aesthetic value is difficult to quantify, but most home buyers would agree that if they could afford it, they would pay more for the visual and spatial qualities an Architect can add. Homes designed by Architects also tend to be less susceptible to market fluctuations, which makes them a reliable real estate investment. Similar to other designer products, homes by well known and especially talented Architects have an "association value" that increases the price people are willing to pay for them.

Depending on where you live, there may be city, county, and state regulatory agencies that govern any building project. The process of securing approval and permitting for construction projects can be daunting, and having an Architect who is familiar with the requirements can save you valuable time, money, and help streamline the process. It is not uncommon in areas with lax building regulation for homes to be built that don't meet code requirements, that exceed setback limits, or that are occasionally even over property lines. Architects are required by law to design buildings that comply with all applicable building, zoning, and accessibility codes, giving you the assurance that your home meets the requirements of accepted life safety and land use standards.

An Architect can help you get the best value for your construction dollar. One of the most important decisions in the home building process is locating and orienting the building on the site to optimize views, solar exposure, excavation costs, and aesthetic appeal. The long term energy savings realized by a well sited home with windows properly sized and located can be substantial. Architects stay current on the latest construction materials and technologies, and can select materials and systems that enhance your home without breaking the budget.

Quality custom home builders agree that an Architect's careful planning, accurate drawings/ specifications and availability to answer questions while the home is being built speeds up construction time and helps avoid costly delays. This ultimately saves the homeowner money and assures they end up with a better final product. A well thought out home design can save the homeowner a lot of money by avoiding change orders, mistakes, and time wasted on the jobsite solving unforeseen conflicts. Value added during construction can also include less stress for the homeowners, more free time to devote to your family or career, and the assurance that crucial safety measures are being addressed.

Most Architects have a carefully selected group of builders they recommend, builders who have a proven record of quality work delivered on time at a fair price. An Architect can help you select a reputable builder who understands your goals and expectations. As an advocate for you, an Architect will assist you in negotiating with the builder during the contracting process, and ensure that you have a fair contract that protects your interests. While your home is being built the Architect can help you determine if proposed changes are fairly priced, review and approve contractor pay requests, make regular visits to the site to monitor progress, and make sure it is built according to the plans & specifications.

Though some clients choose to not involve the Architect during the construction phase to save money, they fail to realize the value of having an important advocate and advisor working for them to insure that the final product meets their expectations and is delivered at a fair price. Construction projects can be challenging, and while an Architect may not be able to eliminate all of the issues involved, they can streamline the process to minimize headaches and additional costs for the homeowner.

The design aesthetic is perhaps the most obvious area where an Architect adds value to your home. A good design always creates enduring value in excess of cost, and a bad design is often painfully obvious and will be regretted far longer than the savings are enjoyed. An Architect will help you create a visually appealing home with character and style that is designed specifically for you, not an imaginary generic buyer.

It is not difficult to understand how your appreciation of a well designed home will be equally valued by a discriminating buyer in the future. Ultimately, the resale value of your home is going to be increased when an Architect is utilized to add tasteful design, improved functionality, thoughtful detailing, and quality construction that will last for generations.

Mass produced goods have overtaken the world, leaving little precious hand-made goods to be found. Mass production has also hit the housing market. Track homes litter the highways, filled with one-size-fits-all houses.

Unique handcrafted homes are becoming rare and often retain value better than their vanilla counterparts. Well-constructed custom home designs also tend to sell more quickly even in sluggish markets.

Many people shy away from custom home design due to the time and cost factor; however, many architects can be surprisingly affordable and can help you work within a strict budget, helping you choose the most cost-effective materials.

Custom home design doesn't just pertain to sprawling estates and mansions alone, small cabins, single-level homes, or even futuristic space savers can be created on a reasonable budget. Most architects are happy to work with you to plan whatever size or scope of project you need.

The benefits of choosing customized residences over existing houses are numerous. Besides retaining value better, you have the freedom to create a dwelling that works for you and your family's specific needs. This is especially useful if someone in your household has special needs, such as a difficulty walking.

So not only are you able to create a residence that is aesthetically pleasing, but it can be highly functional for the individual as well. Wheelchair ramps and wider doors can be added for the physically challenged. Cupboards and doors can even be made to suit people shorter than average in stature.

Custom home design also means that you will have ample opportunity to discuss your plans and vision one-on-one with the architects. You'll be closely involved in all aspects and be able to make last-minute decisions and alterations if necessary. You'll have ultimate control over the final outcome to make sure it fits your individual needs.

But with this comes great responsibility. It is important to communicate effectively with the architects and know when compromise is necessary. You want a style you'll love, but remember, you hired a professional architect for a reason. Careful budgeting is also necessary, because even the smallest changes can come with a high price.

If the tailored design is still out of reach price-wise, there are some reasonable alternatives available. Many architects can meet you halfway and offer semi-customized plans. In this instance, an architect will present you with a few different pre-planned designs that can then be further customized or slightly altered.

For example, like the very popular modular kitchens, you can choose cabinetry, flooring, tiles, and appliances as well as other options depending on the arrangement and budget constraints. This is also helpful in narrowing down options if you're feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities of a blank slate.

If you're thinking about a custom home design, many architects and building companies can offer consultations and guidance to help you get started. Setting a budget early on can help you narrow down your choices and have a clear idea of what is possible.

Your dream house may become a reality sooner than you think. Through customized designs, your home can be an original, standing out from the mass-produced crowd.