Managing Expectations

Managing Expectations and keeping things in perspective from the beginning will pave the way for a successful project.

In architecture, as in most of life, managing expectations is a very important skill. I’m not talking about squashing dreams or expecting the worst. Similar to dreaming of the perfect wedding, perfect job, or perfect kids, there is no such thing as the perfect home construction project. In fact, the common industry term "dream home" is a pet peeve of mine. With the right team you can get an experience and finished product that is great. Just not perfect.

A favorite quote of mine:

Strive for Progress not Perfection

A good architect will help you sort out your dreams from reality; bringing together your vision for your home with the realities of budget, site and engineering considerations.

An architect is the right professional to guide you through this process. We are not only educated to understand and manage these complexities, but we are an impartial advocate to you compared to the contractor that is trying to first get your project and later is trying to get your project completed as quickly as possible.

I am not demonizing contractors here, I work with some amazing builders, but they are human and the system works best as a triangle: Architect – Owner – Builder.

Yes, I know I’ve preached this before. It is a principle I truly believe in. It is something that I have a hard time understanding: We hire birthing coaches, we pay realtors, and we understand the need for services of mentors, guides, agents and advocates.

For some reason when it comes to the residential building process, with all of the horror stories out there, the architect’s role as an advocate is still grossly misunderstood and under valued. And as Forest Gump would say, "That’s all I have to say about that."

Three main stumbling blocks in managing expectations

Bids. You, the homeowner, should never be shocked by a bid. One of the ways I serve my client is to be honest. I have let drawings go out to bid that I believed were over budget. However, this is because the clients wanted to see where the actual bid would come in with the house the way they want it. I assure you, the client knew EXACTLY where I thought they were budget wise.

My philosophy is that you do not pay me to be a "yes man." Builders competing to land your project will give you enough of the "yeah, we can do that." What you need from me, your advocate, is all of my experience, expertise and the truth.

Budget. You need to have a realistic budget number to start with. A part of my proposal process is to have an initial meeting with potential clients and LISTEN to the image in their head. From my experience, I determine a beginning square footage number based on their desires and our local building prices. This gives us a starting point to have an informed discussion about my services, size and complexity of project, and possible contractors that would be a good fit for your project.

Timeline. The design timeline needs to be realistic, but in reality, the construction timeline is where things can get wildly off track. I discussed this in depth in a previous post (How Long Does It Take To Design and Build a Custom Home?). Your architect helping you manage expectations in this phase is indispensable. Set a realistic schedule to start with. It will serve no one to force your contractor to shorten up the schedule. Let them tell you how long it will take. Let them manage who does what, when. Then, kindly but firmly, hold them to it. Do your part in making decisions on time.

When you have an architect involved as a third party, one benefit is to have an advocate on your side to help you manage expectations. Many homeowners don’t realize the value of this service. Managing expectations in life and the building process makes everything a little easier. Who couldn’t use that?

- Sheri

As Founder and Principal Architect of Springhouse Architects, Sheri’s mission is to lead Clients through the building process with the Clients in control and Springhouse as their guide, advocate and ally.  With over twenty years experience in Residential Architecture, Sheri brings knowledge and confidence to your custom home project.

Lisa Saldivar