Owner Agent or Representative for your new custom home.
You have an idea, you know your wants and needs, then hit a brick wall. An agent can tackle the project on your behalf allowing you to focus on the fun aspects of building or remodeling while your agent navigates the trails for you. Known as a CMa (Construction Manager as Agent), think of an agent as an extension of you, a guardian angel a person that is the most experienced and objective about the project with your priorities, happiness and safety as the guiding principles. There are certain situations and conditions where a CMa is appropriate such as building a second home in an area away from your primary home, large projects, busy people that can not allocate ample time to focus on the project, in-experience and the increasingly complicated world of design and construction. At first glance this approach may appear as a luxury but agencies are designed to protect. Envision combining your experience and strengths with instant knowledge of design and construction at your fingertips, another pair of eyes, ears on your side. This can be powerful to manage those expectations properly. With somebody at your side, that has your back I would argue that this approach can build a higher quality project, with less surprises, better cost control and timely completion.
Planning, Design and Construction are the three areas that need to be addressed by someone and an agent can be your one “go-to” person to guide you. Think of an agent helping to accomplish the tasks of this book, prioritizing, keeping you on task, poking and prodding to manage expectations. It’s possible you are already down the path some distance, earlier the better an agent is involved, but regardless an agent can step in anytime to drive the project.
Let’s take a look at an overview of how an agent can help then we will look at the profile of an agent.
There is a streaming of thoughts, ideas, goals and objectives that originate from you the homeowner that must withstand the design and construction processes. Knowledge and persistence is the glue that holds these together and this is where your agent can provide value. When you reflect back on this book Stage 1 and Stage 2 establish the guiding principles of a project and the more focus and thoroughness by you as the homeowner the more ammunition your agent and subsequent team members have. You may recall at the intro that my hidden definition of Expectation is Accountability. Objectivity must be part of the equation in order to hold others accountable and to expect the best solutions for your goals. Stage 1 Information extracted out of you and into a document can be liberating for you and powerful for your agent and subsequent design professionals to achieve your goals.
Property Acquisition and Evaluation
Whether purchasing a home to renovate, a lot to build or remodeling your current home a variety of things can influence a project much like I talk about in the Design Chapter. Emotions can cloud the decision making process leading to unknown consequences, suppose you fall in love with a lot, the view, the size, the solitude but have you thought about the utilities, where are they, how much will it cost to get power a mile down the story book tree lined driveway, where is the water, plowing snow down a steep driveway sucks. How about purchasing an existing home. You have visions to expand the home can you? How do you know?, How much? are there easements, limitations and on. Does your realtor know? Do they care? Really care? Who TRULY has your best interest in mind? Real Estate Agents?, Developers?, who do you turn to? Way to often it’s no one or someone that does not have have your best interests FIRST. This is where an agent can step in. Your architect can provide tremendous value when considering a purchase of land or an existing home. Their skills in siting a home and knowledge of rules and regulations if you are to expand a home are invaluable. So regardless of whether you have hired an agent to help you the architect or designer should be the person that provides the most information for an educated decision making process. An agent can supplement this factors with construction related experience to balance out the information. It will be a judgement call from you and your agent whether you need an architect to make these early decisions.
Design Parameters, Rules and Regulations
Knowing your neighborhood or the community you plan to build in can and will likely play a big part in whether you want to purchase a home or lot in the area you have selected. I touched on Design Review Guidelines in Stage 2 Design Process where within planned communities there are documented and recorded Design Parameters under the HOA jurisdiction that you must comply with. This can be a very sticky part of the trail to your new home and if not thoroughly reviewed before your purchase or design could be a disappointment of a lifetime. Architects seasoned in custom home design and renovations within planned communities will be, or shall I say, could be your best go to person to decipher often complex rules. I say “could be” because if an architect has not worked in your community before or worse not dealt with HOA design review committees before there’s a higher chance of getting eaten alive by the board. An qualified agent can help in a few ways by objectively disseminating the information for you to make educated decisions whether to buy or remodel in your area. An agent can also source and vet out architects that have had experience in these matters..
Timelines and Scheduling
Building or remodeling home is an exciting endeavor to take on and once the decision is made to take the plunge human instinct is you want it now. This is where the fog rolls in clouding expectations when you can roast that first Turkey in your new oven. In my experience homeowners expectations are frequently way off the mark on how long the process takes. Developing a plan, fortified with knowledge, resources and realistic timelines for each step to get construction started at the very least brings clarity and realistic expectations. Laying out a timeline plan with actionable items can carve off the stress and anxiety during the planning phase that so easily develops because unknown and assumptions have overwhelmed the process. This can really only be done by a qualified person that has experience in design, construction, scheduling and navigating through the approval processes that so many cities, counties and HOA’s have.
Naturally this process is very project specific. Building a new home in a upscale planned community is on another planet as compared to adding on a bedroom in a typical urban community. The smaller the project the less likely you may hire an agent. For the purpose of this segment I have a larger project on my mind. There are probably two people that can help you develop a plan and timeline for designing and preparing your project for construction. Your architect and your agent. You may be able to bite it off on your own but just be prepared for a full time job beyond your normal responsibilities. Qualified Architects have abundant experience in the area of design and navigating the rules and regulations but may not have the drive and desire to spend time planning, prioritizing and driving the schedule. Remember these are creative and technical people that we need and depend on but often that package does not include all the characteristics of project management skills. Ultimately it will be your call to decide. Remember an agent is an extension of you, represents you and looks out for your best interests. They often come from the construction side of the business and have seen hundreds of projects run down the trail. Think of your agent as your guide, as the main outfitter for your journey where as the architect has taken responsibility of mapping out the trip for the outfitter. Now that the agent has become to know you, your family and priorities building in an inclination to see the bigger picture. Letting your architect focus on design and compliance while your agent focuses on schedule, feasibility and that your objectives are met as a whole makes sense.
Scheduling, actually developing a documented schedule using scheduling software for the planning portion of a project is where it begins and without it you are doomed for at least missed expectations and false hopes. Remember, a this point you have not hired a contractor and you may not have even hired a designer. You are riding the high of a building site you love or even purchased and maybe you just secured some financing so its burning a hole in your pocket. This is where the haste begins eroding the process. I bet that you have heard the horror stories from friends, family and colleagues about their experience. Delays, over budget, bad design, on and on. At this juncture a good deep breath, pause and one step at a time will protect the experience. An agent can help by reeling you in and laying out a plan that he can drive and you can all stare at as you
move down the path.
Here is a sneak peek at a web based platform I use in project management for the design process to obtain approvals and to manage construction activities. The software allows me to identify the steps that must taken and in what order and the duration of each step. Below I zoom in and each step.
This example above represents the design, design review process and building permit application timeline within an HOA with Design Review Guidelines and a committee to submit for approval. As you can see this process took about 10 months from September 6th to June 16th of the following year. It seems so long but in reality this was a tight schedule and did not include the more intense aspects of interior design.
Next up “assembling your design team”