Counting the cost.

One of the first questions prospective clients generally ask me is some variant of, “How much do your design services cost?”

The short answer to that question is: Probably somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000 for the design and drafting of Construction Documents (CDs) for a custom home. That being said, please realize that your project may fall well outside of that range, higher or lower. Every project is unique, and the final cost will be determined by a wide variety of factors relating to the home’s design, the level of detail being required or desired in the actual construction documents, the home’s site complexity, and even the permitting entity requirements. So there is no final price that can be applied uniformly to every project. But even if we could, that would also not truly represent the actual cost to you. In fact, a quality set of CDs actually has the potential of saving you money in the end!

If you will, for just a moment please consider your project like you would if it were a business. Decisions will then be made not only with your desires and an eye for the design and aesthetic appeal, but also with the return on investment being considered. For example: That imported marble or terrazzo floor at Spend Big Bucks may be absolutely perfect for your space. But the nice ceramic tile down at Spend Thrift and Keep Your Money may also suffice.

You’d also consider lead times, current construction schedules and deadlines, and any other factors that might cause delays in completing your home. Time is money after all, especially if you are paying interest on a construction loan.

“But” you say, “I really want that terrazzo floor, and this is my home, not just a business investment.”

That’s true, and building a custom home is often just as much an emotional investment as a financial one. So you are entitled to choose whatever you want. But like it or not, you will likely have a budget to adhere to, and if you do, you will also need to give and take as you work through all the details. And that is precisely where excellent design and documentation can be your secret weapon. (Please note that I stated excellent design AND documentation.)

You may be wondering how that can possibly be when you’ll make a significant financial investment in the design process, and still have nothing to show for it but a PDF file containing a bunch of confusing lines on paper.  

Well… The answer to that question is that excellent design and documentation can eliminate errors, problems, and add-ons that might have otherwise occurred, causing delays, change orders, and conflicts.  All of those will definitely drive up the construction costs through additional interest, labor, and material costs. 

Additionally, the construction process will likely be an emotional roller coaster for you, and making decisions under pressure can often lead to product cost overages, especially when it comes to allowances designated for big dollar items like flooring, cabinets, appliances, lighting, windows, doors, and plumbing fixtures.

Change Orders and Allowances may be the lifeblood for some contractors and their profit margins, but they are absolute killers of the construction budget.

I recognize that I am very biased on this subject.  But if in doubt, ask around and see where and how budget overages occurred with other residential projects.  It likely won’t take long to find a common thread and prove my point.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Benjamin Franklin

So find an excellent architect or residential designer to work with, and trust that they have your best interests at heart and are saving you money in the long run. And I’m hopeful that you’ll be choosing me as the design professional to work with on your project!

For an actual quote or to commission my services, we need to discuss the scope of your project, your own expectations, and the locale and associated building code requirements to be considered.  Which means you’ll need to contact me, and you can do that right here: Contact David 


Hourly Rate: $52.00 per hour; Billed in 15 minute increments. 

Fixed Project Price (generally more expensive): Requires a defined scope of work to determine, so contact me for a quote.

Decisions, Decisions

Early on in my career I learned the value of spending time clarifying what the true design criteria is for any given project. I also learned that often the client isn’t able to clearly articulate that. Some clients have a very nebulous idea of what they are after, and often it is something as generic as, “We want more space.” Others may know in their own mind what they are after, but getting that mental image articulated clearly with verbiage that we are both interpreting in the same manner can be a challenge.

The art of decision making includes the art of questioning.

~ Pearl Zhu

In an attempt to assist me in clearly identifying the needs and wants of my clients, I developed a Design Questionnaire. This questionnaire is completed by every client I work with, and has proven to be of great assistance to us. In fact, it has proven valuable enough, that a number of General Contractors I have worked with over the years have also adopted it for use with clients.

So if you are considering having a custom home designed and built for you, please feel free to utilize this tool to assist you in organizing your thoughts, and the direction(s) you might want to take in designing your new home.

Of course, I hope you’ll utilize me in the designing of your custom home, but regardless, your design professional and builder will be very grateful for the insight and direction this questionnaire can provide.