As custom home home builders in Tucson, AZ, we get a lot of calls from clients with the same question about building construction. It goes like this: “Hi, I am interested in building a 1,500 square foot house and I’m wondering how much a house like that will cost.” It would be a reasonable question if they had a set of building plans that have been approved by the local city or county, but that is not always the case. What the average homeowner doesn’t understand is that there is so many variables to building a house that giving someone a price before a set of plans have been drawn is impossible. Sure, we can give people a rough idea of the costs of building a custom home, but the best advice we can give to our clients that are just beginning the custom home process is to decide early whether they want to do a design build or a design bid build project.
At our company, we are believers in the design build process. What is design build? In the design build process, you hire a company like Sun Earth Builders to help facilitate the design, permitting, engineering and building of your home. We work closely with the architect to make sure all the construction methods and materials are designed in a way to save the client the most money possible and be as efficient as possible. The design build contractor charges a fee to consult with the Architect during the design phase to make sure all of the details that get implemented are the most cost effective solution. After all, the general contractor is the one that is the expert in the building process, whereas the Architect usually is much better at the creative side. Architects definitely have there place in the building process, but lets face it, they usually aren’t going to put hours and hours of there time into figuring out how to save you money by doing things a little different. They usually are much more concerned with how things are going to look aesthetically than how it effects your bottom line.
The other way people build new custom homes is the Design Bid Build method. This involves hiring an architect without consulting a builder, getting the plans stamped and approved, then handing those plans over to a handful of general contractors to get bids. Why is this a bad idea? It all depends really. If the person hiring the architect knows exactly what they want and are an expert in construction, it can make sense. But most people who want to build a custom home aren’t building experts. What we end up seeing happen is the plans that get drawn up and approved have issues. The biggest one we see is the client who tells the architect all the things they want: extra insulation, tile roof, huge wrap around porches, hybrid water heaters, high efficiency hvac systems and masonry walls. Then when they see the price to implement all these items its too late. They have an approved set of plans and would now need to almost start over. Re-design the house, re-submit to the municipality and push back there schedule to begin construction.
We understand peoples concern with the Design Build process. The concern is that the general contractor has a barrel to your head. You’ve made a commitment to them early on and they can charge you whatever they want because you have already committed and won’t be shopping there price around. After all, competition should lower your price, right? It might if you have a set of plans that aren’t way over budget and full of oversights which happens more often than not. Our suggestion to clients is always the same. Interview as many custom home builders as possible early on in the process and pick someone that you trust. That is the most important factor. Once you have a builder that you can trust, you now have an expert working along with you and the architect to keep you on budget, price out different construction options and most importantly, save you money!