Designing the house – what not to do

We made several costly  mistakes here.  First, we thought that it would be better to hire a designer in Florida and design long-distance.  We assumed that she would have better knowledge of local codes, etc.  Second, we thought it would save money to hire a house designer, not an architect.  Third, we chose a designer who we knew in advance was unresponsive, but we let the fact that a builder had recommended her sway us in her favor.

Perhaps she was an exception among house designers, or perhaps she is the rule, but this woman was a complete moron.  Had I shelled out the money for a home design software, I could have done the same job that she did, in a much shorter time and with much, much less hassle.  She seemed to have no particular knowledge of the mechanics of building a home.  For example, she put a pair of pillars, to divide our kitchen from our great room.  We asked whether the pillars were load bearing, or whether they could be removed.  Her reply, “I have no idea.  The engineer will be able to tell you that.  I’ll just take them out, and if he needs to put them back in, he will.”  Perhaps our expectations of a designer were too high; we assumed we would be getting someone who had at least minimal knowledge of the home building process.

Suffice to say that we paid our deposit in November 2005, and were told that the plans would probably be done in January, February at the latest.  In late June 2006 we  finally got the final draft of house plans from her.  She had the nerve to charge us for an additional 6 hours of work.  In the amount of time it took her, over her promised delivery date, I would think that an additional 600 hours of work had taken place, had I not known that she did virtually NO work on our plans.  She waited until the last minute to do everything, and then the changes we were requesting took her around 10 minutes to actually effect.  She missed deadline after deadline, not only for us, but for our builder also.  She single-handedly delayed construction by 3 months.  This lovely woman took MATERNITY LEAVE without ever even mentioning to us that she was expecting a baby.

So here is what we would do differently: hire an architect to begin with.  We had to pay for an engineer to stamp the plans anyway, which an architect could also have done.  Had we combined the engineer’s fee with the house designer’s fee, thrown in the 6 extra hours and the spontaneous maternity leave, we would probably have saved money and definitely time by just employing one single architect to design the plans.

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