People who choose to custom build typically know what they want. They may not have a plan in mind, or even a style of architecture. But they know they want to create something that suits them perfectly, something they have dreamed about and wished to watch come to life. At Smith & Robertson, our job is to make that happen. The process may be a little different for other builders. To give you a better idea of how we work, we’ve designed this list of Frequently Asked Questions based on the questions our clients most often raise. But we can’t think of everything. So, if you have a question we haven’t answered here, we encourage you to get in touch.
How do we go about selecting a builder?
To select the right builder for your project, you may want to talk with several of them, look at some of the houses they’ve built, and talk with their clients to get a feel for their working style as well as their capabilities. Many clients know immediately when they find the right builder because they seem to just “click.” We welcome your call, or you can stop by our office in Charlottesville to start the process!
At what point should we select a builder?
Ideally, you would contact us after you’ve found the land you would like to buy, but before you put a contract on it. That way, we can discuss your building ideas and perhaps visit the site to determine whether it suits your “program”. That is the typical design/build situation. Clients also come to us after they’ve purchased land. And some clients come to us once an architect has visited their site and completed a design.
What is a “program”?
A program is a wish list of “gotta have it,” “really want it,” and “why not ask” features that will distinguish your custom residence from a production or “off the shelf” home. Your program might include cathedral ceilings, a kitchen-family room, a cottage feel, a gabled roof, morning light, a luxury master suite, a walkout basement, whatever features are most important to you.
How long does it take to build a house?
The entire building process, from that first meeting until you finally set out your welcome mat, takes a year to a year and a half. We usually plan on 10 months for actual construction of our custom homes. During that time, you and your builder will brainstorm, problem-solve, modify, and make decisions as you complete various stages of the project. Communication is key, which is why choosing a builder you can talk to is so important.
We have a definite budget. Is it possible to define a price range before we get started?
Yes. Budget usually comes up early in the dialogue, since it often limits how much of your program you can afford. It’s a good idea to determine how much you will have to spend before you meet with prospective builders. That way, your program can be honed to match that budget. But don’t leave out those “why not ask” details-some novel extras may not cost any more than standard fare! Again, dialogue is key. If we know you want something, we can try to work it in. The client must make the final decision about budget.
How much do you charge per square foot?
We find it nearly impossible to describe a home by the square foot as there are so many factors to take into consideration, such as unfinished space, vaulted space, covered porches, etc. that are not typically included in “square footages”. Hence, we have come up with a measurement we call “Factored Square Foot”. Please read our the article “How Much Does it Cost to Build?” to help explain this measurement and how it relates to cost.
What happens after we decide to work together?
We generate a “Design Agreement” which allows us to begin site planning, design development, schematic plans and ultimately working drawings for your proposed new residence. This Agreement outlines proposed house size, features and a preliminary construction budget with factored square footage price range. It is accompanied by a Design Deposit, generally of $1,000. As you review the plans, you have the chance to ask questions and request changes that can affect budget or style. We might suggest that you visit one of the houses we have built to get a feel for what’s possible. Once we have addressed all decisions and selections, we’ll make a final set of construction drawings and submit a final contract price for your approval.
Are you willing to work with clients who will live out of state until their house in the Charlottesville area is built?
Yes. We have built a number of homes for out of town clients. We keep in touch via next-day air, email, fax, phone calls, and weekend visits with many out-of-state and overseas clients. We routinely send photos and material samples to keep our homeowners up to date.
What styles of houses does Smith & Robertson build?
Smith & Robertson is adept at bringing style and quality to any type of architecture. Our past projects have included both intimate cottages and grand estates, principal residences and summer homes, in wood frame, stucco, brick, and stone. We usually have an emphasis on energy efficiency.
In what areas does Smith & Robertson build?
Our building projects are distributed throughout the greater Charlottesville area, including Albemarle and all surrounding counties within an hour of our downtown Charlottesville office. We have built on larger parcels as well as in a number of subdivisions, including Beaver Creek, Bentivar, Blandemar, Burruss Branch, Cedar Creek, Dunlora, Far Hills, Farmington, Foxwood Forest, Glenmore, Hackingwood, Hardwick Mountain, Ingleside, Key West, Luxor Terrace, Lake Monticello, Mallard Lake, Owensfield, Peacock Hill, Rosemont, Solaris, South Keswick, Springhill, Squirrel Ridge, Stony Creek, Terrell, The Rocks, Waverly, Woodcreek, and Whippoorwill. We also design Timberpeg and other residences for properties outside our building area.
The two of you came to my mind yesterday. I just wanted to mention to you that over the years I have come to really respect and appreciate how well you and Ron managed and executed the building of our house.
Mark | Ivy, VA