Let the builder beware!

Okay, as I attempt to rebound from a case of the crud, it’s time for a pet peeve:

(For the past week, I’ve had that “borders on bronchitis” crud that seems to be infecting every valley from here to the sea…)

As we regroup and get ready for “The Spring Rush”, a time when projects near and far start picking up speed, we’re thinking about HOW these projects are developed. We don’t work with spec builders, we work with families building what will most likely be the homes that they spend the rest of their lives residing within.

That said, we are ALL influenced by the images of the properties we see around us. It’s those images that help us form the images in our minds of those special spaces we want to create for our families.

In my recent “architectural travels”, I’ve been reminded that there are those who firmly believe that “flash” is better than substance.

Don’t get me wrong, a good looking project is the point of modern architecture. Nobody wants to spend hard earned money to create a structure that isn’t cosmetically appealing. However (and I can’t stress this strongly enough) you have to balance that against the materials that you select to achieve this goal.

As a case in point, I’ve recently looked at a large estate property perched high on a local mountain. In this particular case, the developer and his builders went Gung Ho with “flash” at what is in my opinion, a cost to the integrity of the property based on it’s “declared value”. You EXPECT top of the line finishes and materials in a multi-million dollar property. After all, that’s what they’re touting and trying to charge you for.And that’s not what they delivered. The materials “look” good, but they won’t last or stand the test of time.

While the use of top notch materials would have added to the construction price of the project, it wouldn’t have simply been reflected in the sales price of the project itself. Those “top notch” materials would have added value to the project over time as the new inhabitants lived in that project. They would have FELT the value added by the use of these materials.It might even have influenced their desires to pay more, knowing that the project was a “quality driven” build.

IMHO: We’ve lived past the “I have money to burn” phase of the economy. Few of us can casually jump into projects without thinking in the long-term. That process goes beyond;

“What does it cost?”

We need to embrace;

“What value does it BRING?”

When you’re building you own home, when you start the process of material selection, you begin the process knowing that you are going to live with these materials for a very long time. You want to use materials that are pleasing to the eye as well as being pleasing to the project over the course of their lifetime. You want them to contribute to your standard of living and become “reliable”. You want to be able to count on them.

I’m not saying that you should look at your materials list and then buy the most expensive, high tech materials in every category. What I am suggesting is that you carefully consider the materials that you will experience most (like countertops and cabinets, for example) and lean toward higher quality line items, to insure that over time, you’re just as pleased with them as in the first days you embraced them in your new home.

Many of us have experienced regret over making compromises on key materials simply to save a few bucks. Over time, we’ve realized that we should have spent “just a little bit more” to get what we wanted in the first place, now that we are faced with living with “the cheaper alternative” for years.

It’s far more expensive to have to pull out and replace a material later, than it is to “re-budget” and buy the right materials in the first place.

There are certainly places within your build where compromise is not only possible, but profitable. Those “found profits” can be absorbed into other parts of your building project to offset the costs of “higher grade” materials.

I urge you to consider this and have long discussions with your design and development teams about material selection. It’s far less expensive to “talk and re-spec” than it is to be faced with having to issue a change order during construction, once you’ve determined that the path taken isn’t appropriate or acceptable.

Resist the urge to build to suit your friends and neighbors. It’s fun to be the one who lives in “that really cool house down the street”, but if it’s all flash and no substance, that house isn’t really a “house of a lifetime” it’s more like a “house of the moment”. It’s a headache waiting to happen as the inhabitants are forced to deal with the increased maintenance and materials failures that those “lower grade” materials brought with them through the front door over time.

So, my friends, I ask you to go back over that materials list and talk to each other as you define the spaces you want to spend the rest of your lives living in.

Otherwise, you may be faced with standing in your driveway, facing your project realizing that “the princess property” that you’ve built is actually just a “pig in a prom dress”.

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