Architect versus Project Home
Phyllis, January 2016
You’ve got the block of land, you’re ready to build and now it’s crunch time – do you go with a project home company or have an architect design your new house, then look for someone to build it? There are benefits and drawbacks when it comes to both and, in the end, it’s probably a matter of horses for courses.
The benefitsThis is probably the path of least resistance in terms of the amount of work you’ll have to do. It can be as “simple” as visiting a display village or two, checking out designs, sitting down with a salesperson, choosing your extras packages and signing on the dotted line. After this, the most involvement you have is choosing your colours, fittings, tiles, bricks and finishes with the help of one of the company’s in-house designers. If all goes well, you won’t have to do anything else until the final inspection, after which you pick up your keys and decide where to put the sofa. The other benefit is that you should be able to get an idea of the quality of the builder’s work by looking at their project homes. (Although, admittedly, you know it’s always going to be their best effort.)
The drawbacksIt can be a bit of a cookie cutter situation, where you choose from the builder’s range of plans, then make alterations that add to the cost. Some builders now have their plans designed by architects, but many are drawn up by drafts-people and are therefore not designed to suit your block’s orientation, maximise solar passive design or energy efficiency. Hence the rise of the much derided and appallingly designed McMansions that abound in so many housing estates around the country.
The benefitsNo McMansions here. You get a design that is unique and created to maximise energy efficiency. Architects can present options you might not have considered, give your building style and design it to work efficiently and solve problems of space and function. Using an architect also means you get something that is tailored to your specific needs, so that you can plan for the long term.
The drawbacksObviously these professionals cost more to engage.
Top tips when looking for a home builder
- Don’t let builders dazzle you with the cheapest estimate they can put in front of you. When shopping around, ensure you are making as direct a comparison as possible.
- Beware contracts with a long list of ‘estimates’ and ‘TBA’s’. To avoid a blow-out in costs, ask for a fixed price.
- Don’t be distracted by extravagant display homes. Some builders won’t even construct many of the impressive features they have on show within their displays.
- A new home should comfortably meet or exceed the six-star minimum energy efficiency ratings.
Top tips when looking for an architect
- Look for the qualities of integrity and creative skill.
- Tell them what makes your life special, what your personal goals are and what ideas are important to you. Make sure they are really listening to what you are saying.
- Ask for the address of other projects they've done and have a look at them.
- Ask for the phone numbers of previous clients and speak to hem about their experience.