Finding an architect

Once we owned our lot, one of the first choices towards building that we needed to make was where to get our building plans. Naturally the first step was looking online. I read quite a bit about choosing plans online, that were pre designed vs. Designing our own floor plan.

Online plans would be much easier, or so it seemed anyways, so we researched that option first. What I found was that in California, the building regulations are so stringent, that a lot of pre designed plans may not comply with our codes and requirements. Most plan sets online run @$2500, we would need the most expensive PDF version so we had the electronic files to make changes to.

I began looking at plans online. We knew what our “must haves” were an open floor plan, 4 bedrooms, 2-3 baths, great storage, a 3 car garage, simple lines to keep construction costs down, as simple of a roof line as possible, and the one thing our kids wanted more than anything…stairs. I wanted a one story home and the best way to add stairs was an upstairs bonus room. This room would end up being a thorn in our side through this process.

My Pinterest account went into over drive saving floor plans that could work. A lot were close, but none were perfect, all needed some changes, tweaks we would make to make it work better for us

This was an early favorite, had the bonus room, gave us a study and formal living area, but I wanted changes to the utility room and master bedroom. I messaged the plan company and the changes added $1800 to the plan cost, fairly small changes. Plus we found that because there was no way to know if these would meet CA building requirements, and local codes, we would have to have them reviewed by a structural engineer. The cost of a structural engineer to review plans from scratch, when they don’t know the architect was significantly more that having them sent by an associated architect.

At this point we decided to get estimates on the cost of having an architect draw plans up from scratch. The first architect we met with came back at $6600 based on the sq footage we were after. We met with 3 more and the bids ranged from $7500-15,000. In hindsight I understand the range, but it seemed crazy at the time. Some were including review by an in house engineer, others were going to send it out and it would be a separate cost.

We ended up choosing the $7500 bid. We liked him because he also had a side of the business that did construction and we thought that would be of value in considering costs when designing. He also did hand drawings, which were beautiful, but would prove to be very impractical. We met at the site and he drew our first plan. He wasn’t seeing our vision at all and got upset when we wanted changes to the plan because it was hand drawn and would be time consuming to revise. He also was very critical of our plan, criticized the floor plan we wanted, it began to create doubt in us, just was becoming a negative experience. He agreed that he could not provide what we wanted, would offer a refund and go our seperate ways and we appreciated that very much.

We went back to the first guy we met, he had been referred to us, his costs were the best, and most importantly, he got our vision right away. In fact it was similar to his own house! We did a walk through with him and he was able to tell us what he’d change and what worked. Seeing it in walls around us was extremely helpful. I’d literally reviewed hundreds of floor plans, if not thousands, and we knew what we wanted. This was the inspiration plan we sent him

I loved everything about it. Loved that it had a walk-through available online so we could envision it better. The sq footage was too big, we’d need to shrink it down, and a few other changes, but was a perfect starting point.

Actually drafting the plans took @six months. Our architect was doing them as a bit of a side job, outside of his firm, so we often had to wait. We only ended up going through 3 revisions, which is minimal in this process. It helped immensely to have done our homework and know what we wanted!

This was right up my alley, I loved designing a home for our family. Every detail was based on how we live, our habits. It was a process to find the right architect, but we absolutely made the right choice, not one complaint about him through our time working together.

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