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Architect design for attic remodel incomplete, over homeowner budget

Posted by Mark Paskell on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 @ 06:14 PM

Why do some architects take homeowner's money to design projects without confirming the set aside target budget range? They often produce plans that are incomplete and leave it to the contractor to come up with the rest of the details by making assumptions and using allowances. Then when bid prices come in over the homeowner's budget the contractor is blamed. 

In a recent coaching session my client asked to review a project to determine if time should be spent pricing a third floor remodel with plans. No budget was established when the architect took on the design, no contractor was consulted to confirm the budget range and the homeowner wants a price. The homeowner was unaware of the Design/Scope Development/Build process I am teaching my client.

  Example of a 2 story colonial with dormer

The job is a traditional shed dormer on the third floor of a colonial to include a master bedroom suite. The square footage is 768 square feet and includes a four piece master bathroom with tub, 6 foot tiled shower, double vanity and commode. The second floor stairwell needs to be reworked and then a new set of stairs would be built to reach the third floor. The entire roof must be re framed and re roofed with two cheek walls on the rake walls of the dormer. The floor will be serviced by a new HVAC unit.

Plan Incomplete

As my client and I went through the plans we saw only elevations and floor plans. There were no framing details for the sistering of the attic floor joists nor were there any roofing framing details. In addition there were no window specifications, no electrical plan, no finish schedule, no energy calculations and more. In essence the plans were incomplete, the architect was paid and the homeowner was looking for a fixed price.

Way over homeowner budget range

Next we discussed the set aside target budget range which the homeowner said needed to be in the $60,000.00 range. A brief run through of the numbers for this project and we quickly concluded that the project would be much more.

Homeowner to receive the news

My remodeler client really wants to price the project because it is a referral but we concluded time would be better served working on other more fruitful opportunities. A call will be made to break the news to the homeowner that the design is incomplete and the project will be much higher than the stated budget range.

The remodeler said to proceed further he will ask them to confirm an increased budget in writing and then ask them to sign a professional service/design agreement with fee to complete the work the architect did not do. He will then bring in another designer/architect/engineer to complete the framing details. Next he will assist the client to select all products and finishes, bring in the trades and develop a written scope of work to memorialize all the details. Then he will provide a fixed price.

Money spent for a incomplete design for a that is over budget

The architect engaged the homeowner, took their money for a design without determining the budget available for the project. Often times when this happens the homeowner blames the contractor. (Can't blame the architect because he has a degree).

A better alternative.......Design/Scope Development/Build.

In my career I have been in over 6000 homes and conclude it is not possible to give a fixed price for a remodeling project unless the list below is satisfied. I have found that homeowner's are better served when designs are encumbered by a budget and their is collaboration on scope and budget between the designer and contractor early in the process. 

  • Code, site and utility review is complete
  • Design is complete
  • Products have been selected and approved by homeowner and are included in the design.
  • Sub-trades have seen the job, the products selected and the design.
  • The scope of work has been memorialized.
To price a job without the above requires a ton of unpaid time and assumptions by the contractor. Assumptions lead to low allowances and change orders which homeowner's despise. 
Architects and designers have been drawing plans without established budget restraints for years. Homeowner's who choose this route are often left holding the bag of incomplete designs and wasted time and money. Remodelers who bid these jobs become unpaid consultants and are often blamed for the over budget price.
Become the trusted adviser using a consultative approach
Help your homeowner prospects understand the difference between Design/ Bid/Build and Design/Scope Development/Build early on in the process. 
A true design/scope development/build remodeler usually does not bid plans done by others. Instead they take on both the design and construction under one umbrella and provide single source accountability. The project is designed to meet the needs of the client within an established homeowner set aside target budget range.
If you must bid, discuss the budget early and avoid wasting time bidding a project that may be overdrawn and over the homeowner's budget. They may not like you when they get a number they were not expecting based on the architect's plans.  
If you need help on explaining this to your prospects contact Mark.


Tags: design build