Building in the Mountains?

How Do I Proceed with Plans?

To help you know how I work with my clients here are answers to the following questions:

What is the Purpose of Having Plans?

My goal is to produce plans that communicate our ideas to your builder in a way that is clear and understandable. I try to include everything you want, but of course your budget might not allow everything. It is also important that your home be easy to maintain, efficient to heat and cool, comfortable, that it satisfy your needs. I try to combine all of these ideas together into a home that fits your property, has good value, and is a beautiful place to live. Often I can save my clients more money than my fee. For your protection, the plans can also serve as part of your agreement with your builder.

First Meeting is Free and Without Obligation.

The best way to begin the design of your home is for us to meet in my office between Blairsville, Georgia and Murphy, North Carolina. You are welcome to phone or email me for an appointment. In this meeting I would be glad to answer all of your questions. Our goal will be to determine if your budget is large enough to afford what you want. We will also talk about your wants and needs. At the end of this meeting we will discuss how I charge for my services. I will provide you a wrtten agreement stating what I will include and how I will charge. If you would like to proceed, you can do this by signing the agreement and paying the deposit. This deposit prevents someone from backing out on the plans after I have begun working on their project. For this reason, it is not refundable. I never pressure my clients, and you are welcome to take your time to think about this decision. You could even take home my agreement and mail it to me with the deposit after you have made your decision.

How can you prepare for our first meeting?

Before our meeting it would be good to read the articles on this web site about designing and building a home. If you scroll down you will find a link to our web page with these articles. Bring with you to our first meeting all the information you have about your property and your ideas about your home. We will also need to know how much you can spend on your construction project. But most important, You need to think about yourselves, what you want and need in a home. The best way to do this is to have each person who will be living in the home to write about themselves. Tell me about your past, your childhood hopes and dreams, the places you loved and what you loved about them. Tell me about your present life, what is great about it, and what you would like to improve. I need to know why you want to build, and how you hope this project will make your life better. I would like to know about your future, your plans and dreams. I also want to know what makes you and your family happy and what irritates you. Tell me what you do when you are home, what the entire family likes to do together, and what you hope to do in this home. Even knowing about your health problems is helpful. If you would rather not write this down, we can discuss this when we meet. You will find that I listen well, and what you tell me in confidence can help me design a much better home for you.

What if You Cannot Meet Me in My Office?

Many of my clients live far away from the mountains. For some it is not possible to meet in person. We can work together using the telephone, email, and mail. In place of the first meeting in person, you can send me all of your ideas, information about yourselves, and your property. I can email you my agreement. Everything we would normally do in person we can handle by telephone, email, and mail. If you would like to proceed, you can send me your signed agreement with your deposit.

How Do I Design Your Home?

After receiving your deposit, I will visit your property. It is a good idea to visit the property with me, because I would like to know what features of the property are most important to you. (If your property is too far away for my visit, I will need a topographical survey and photographs. A surveyor can send me the survey by email.) I will take photos, determine which direction the sun faces in the winter and the summer, which direction the cold winter winds blow, where are your best views, and which trees you want to save. I will also measure the slope angle of the ground at the building site. Some properties are very complicated for building. If this is true of yours, we might need to order a topographical survey. While this usually costs several hundred dollars it can save far more in excavation costs. All of this information will help me design a home that fits your property. This will allow you to have a much better, more energy efficient home for less cost.

Preliminary Design

After pouring over all of your ideas, the property information, and your questionaire, I will put this together into a preliminary plan. This is my first attempt to combine as much of what you want as your budget will allow into a plan that fits your property. Sometimes I use this opportunity to suggest some ideas you might not have considered. Usually my clients want more than they can afford. My goal is to pick out what I think is most important to you, and put this into a home you can afford. Sometimes the budget is so tight that I have to make a lot of changes in the plan. If this surprises you, don't worry. It is only our first attempt. Whatever you do not like can be changed. After discussing each area of the plan, I can change the design to better fit what they want. While I have very definite opinions about home design, I never force these on my clients. I believe that the home belongs to you and you should be pleased with the plan. I often make suggestions on what would look nice, but the final decision is yours. If there are any changes to be made, I can make these on the drawings, print them, and send you the updated drawings. While it is most productive to have these meetings in my office, we can discuss these changes by phone, email, or mail. I never rush a client. I am glad to keep working on the plan until you are happy with it.

Budget Estimate

When you are happy with the plan, it is time to get the input of a builder. I do not want to design a home that is too expensive for you to afford. To help prevent this, I encourage you to discuss your plan with a builder. We need to have a rough idea of the budget you would need to build this home. Most builders will provide this budget if you make it clear it is just a preliminary budget estimate. You want to be sure that you can afford to build this home before the plans are completed. Occassionally my clients skip this step, and pay for this mistake when the plans are completed and they find out they cannot afford to build the home they want.

Final Plans

When you are happy with the design of your home and the budget, it is time to complete your plans. My computer generated plans are a very good set of information to help your builder build a better home. It would be good to make these plans part of the agreement between you and the builder. The details are designed to prevent many typical mistakes made in construction. Included in the plans are elevations, floor plans of each level, a foundation plan, structural cross sections, floor framing plans, roof framing plans, and electrical plans of each level. I can also include a topographical survey of the property with the home, if a surveyor sends me this information. I do not include a materials list, because the materials suppliers provide this for no charge. But, the plans specify the structural materials to be used.

Final Plans Review

When the plans are done, I will print and send you a half size set of plans for your final review. If you want to make changes to this, you can write them on the plan and send them back to me. I will then make these changes. At this time the final balance will be due. When I have received payment, I will print out the large sheet drawings. Up to seven sets are included. With these plans you can ask for a proposal from three good builders, and because these proposals will be based on the same plans, you will have enough information to make a much better decision on which builder to use.

A Word About Copyright

Occassionally I receive a request to copy ideas from a plan that someone else designed. This would be very dangerous for you and me. Intillectual Property laws allow a designer to sue for theft of intellectual property. They may sue for all of the profit on the project(s) and damages. Changing a certain percentage of the plan is no longer a protection. They can sue for copying one single idea from their plan. This also includes unauthorized use of plans. The law states that the purchase of a set of plans is for a one time use. Both the right to use them again and the design ideas in the plans remain the intellectual property of the designer. This would also apply to someone trying to build using preliminary plans, without paying for the complete plans, and without having the permission of the designer. On very rare occasions a dishonest client has attempted to avoid final payment and use the preliminary plans for construction. This is a very dangerous idea, as a law suit would cost far more than the plans. I encourage good, honest design practices. By far the majority of my clients want this. To get the best home for the least cost, I design for your property, and your budget, and you. A good designer does not need to copy ideas from another designer to achieve this. A wise client would not want to cut the cost of plans by copying ideas from a plan that would risk a law suit, cost more to build, and be less satisfactory.

Pricing of Plans

With much fine tuning I have arrived at a method of pricing that is as accurate and fair as possible. During our first meeting I determine approximately how much your project would cost per square foot. This is based on the level of quality you want, what a typical builder would charge, your property, etc. Using these square foot figures, I can estimate your total construction budget. I charge a fixed percentage of this budget. If during the design of your home you increase or decrease the budget of the home, my fee would change proportionally. Each time I send you a preliminary plan, I provide a budget estimate. This lets you know how much I will charge and gives you the opportunity to decide if you want the budget to be that high. This system also helps you avoid overspending your budget.

I am a professional home designer/ planner. I am not an architect and there is usually no need to pay far more for an architect to design your home. Architects typically charge between 7-20% of the total construction cost. Designers usually charge far less. I only discuss my fee in person, but it is far less than 7-20%. If a dishonest architect or designer charges a fee based on final construction costs, he/she might be motivated to design hidden construction costs into the home to get a higher fee. That is why I base my fee on the budget instead of the actual cost. You know how I calculate the budget, because it is written in our agreement. Whether you hire a designer or an architect, make sure it is someone with whom you are comfortable, someone that will listen to you. Be sure he/ she is willing to design your home to fit your needs, your property, and your budget. A good set of plans can save you a lot more than they cost.

How to Contact Richard C. MacCrea
My Facebook Page
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800.738.8781 P.O. Box 446, Murphy, North Carolina 28906

Other Pages on this Web Site
The Mountain Home Show, Home Page and Site Map
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The Next Mountain Home Show Program
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How to Get in The Mountain Home Show
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(About designing, building and remodeling a mountain home)
The Mountain Model Home
(A home that experiments with extreme energy efficiency)
The Mountain Model Cabin
(A cabin that experiments with small size and energy efficiency)
Construction Diary
(The joys and frustrations of building these two model homes)
Home Designing and Planning
(How to get plans for building or remodeling your home)

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