Bay Head project designed by Aquatecture Associates, Inc
Over my now 33 year career building custom homes at the New Jersey Shore, it still amazes me how naive some people can be as they begin the process of creating what in most cases will be one of the largest investments of their lives – the construction of a custom home. The phone rings and I get the typical question which still makes me smirk – “How much do you charge per square foot?” I love the restaurant analogy that my father and grandfather before him always answered with – “Sir or ma’am, would you ever call up a restaurant and ask them how much dinner is? Are we having soup? Are we having the lobster or a salad? Are we having desert? Would you like a water view? Would you like white glove service and perhaps valet parking?”
Spring Lake project designed by Mark Pavliv, AIA
At that point they usually come to understand that their question needs much more criteria to be answered accurately. It is then that I explain the need for a detailed set of plans from a qualified architect before I can provide even a sense of cost. That is usually followed by the next question – ”How much does an architect cost?” I explain then that the word cost should be eliminated from the building vocabulary and that the word value should be used instead.
Seaside Park project designed by Bol Architecture
While I frequently act as ringleader, designer, hand holder, color swatch carrier, structural consultant, organizer, and even marriage counselor during the building process, the reality is that all I truly am is a person hired to execute and be responsible for the true genius behind the creation of a custom home – the architect. Think seriously about restoring or rebuilding with the right architect. There are many questions that you should get answers to before choosing the right architect. How long has this professional been registered with NJ as a licensed architect? How many years has this professional worked in Monmouth/Ocean Counties? How many projects has this professional constructed in a flood zone? My good friend, Connecticut custom builder Eric Rose sums it up nicely: “If you think you can’t afford an architect, take it from a builder – you can spend a significant amount of money changing, adapting or fixing a poorly designed home. You could even spend as much as you could have spent on an architect to get it right after the fact. Even if you have a fixed budget and the architect consumes part of that, you will realize quickly that the value of the building you will get with the money left will be more livable, more beautiful and more valuable than a bigger box with nothing but volume going for it.” Again, I emphasize that the word cost should be eliminated from the building vocabulary and that the word value should be used instead.
In conclusion, I stress the importance of hiring an established and reputable architect. If you are building a new home or performing a custom home restoration this year, please remember that there are several exceptional local architects here with the best reputations dating back dozens of years who care about you and our community.