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Design Process | QWSoftDraw LLC Home House Plan Design
The following are a few tips to help with the Design / Build process:

BUDGET
  • "Sticker-shock" should be expected. Construction costs continue to rise, so a home will usually be more than first expected. Currently in the Knoxville, TN region, the average minimum cost to build a new home is $140 per square foot plus $20,000-$60,000 for outdoor costs such as landscaping, utilities, driveways, grading, etc. So, for example, a 3,000 square foot home will cost a minimum of $420,000 plus outdoor costs. The $140 is an average. Costs can increase depending on what is added to the home. Each builder will have a different rate for building.
  • Several Licensed Residential Contractors should be contacted to obtain a price-per-square-foot to build the home.
  • An affordable tract of land should be purchased before the dream home is designed for reasons listed later on this page.
  • Several surveyors should be contacted to obtain the cost for doing a "boundary survey" of the property for the home.
  • A Perk Test and Soil Samples should be completed on the home property.
  • If the home is to be built in a subdivision with an Architectural Review Committee, fees may be required to submit plans of the home.
  • In the rare event that a subdivision requires a stamp from a licensed architect, the Home Owner will need to pay for the services of a licensed architect.
LAND

IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to FIRST purchase the property for the dream home to be built on BEFORE decisions are made for the home design for some of the following reasons:
  • The Minimal Building Lines on the property will determine how big the home can be.
  • Certain municipalities will only allow so much surface area of the property to be covered by buildings, driveways, etc. - anything permanent. This may limit the size of the home in a horizontal direction.
  • Some high-end subdivisions have very particular Restrictions to follow for the home design. Buying a set of pre-finished home plans may not work within their Restrictions. It's better to have QWSoftDraw design a home that will work well with the land and the Home Owner's personal lifestyle.
  • Key features on the property (or that can be seen from the property) will determine the layout of spaces the home owner dwells in a lot. For example, if there a beautiful view of a lake and the home owner spends a lot of time in the Kitchen, the home would be best designed with the Kitchen facing the lake. There could also be an ugly, permanent structure that can be seen from the property so keeping windows to a minimum on that side of the home will enhance the home design.
  • It is a lot cheaper to design the home around the land then it is to shape the land around a pre-selected set of home plans.
  • Slope of the land will determine whether the home can be built on a slab, crawl space or basement and how high the basement ceilings will need to be. Land slope will also determine how many sides of the home can have windows and doors on the Basement Floor level.
  • Most municipalities and some subdivision Home Owner's Associations (HOA) will require the home to be shown on a land survey.
The property for the dream home should be surveyed by a professional, licensed surveyor. The survey needs to show:
  • Boundary Lines
  • Bearings and Distances
  • Utility and Drainage easements
  • Any other easements that go across the property
  • Topography
  • Existing buildings and/or other permanent features
  • Large trees that need to be saved
  • Any rivers/creeks
  • 820 Contour if the property is a lake front property
  • Licensed surveyor's stamp
  • Information about the property: address, city, state, tax map number, etc.
Spending a little money to have a Perk Test and Soil Samples done could save a lot of money during the building process. Some subdivisons in the West Knoxville, TN area, for example, have yellow clay on the property, which does not perk. The subdivisions also have under ground springs which cause the construction cost to elevate from adding extra features to the home for water drainage. Contractors usually don't know what's going to be under the surface of the ground until they start digging. A correctly performed Perk Test and Soil Samples could expose some potentially hidden obstacles that could increase the home building cost.

HOME PLAN DESIGN

AFTER the property has been surveyed and the Perk Test completed, it's time to have the dream home designed.

A lot of time can be saved by bringing home ideas to QWSoftDraw without spending time looking over existing home plans from other sources. QWSoftDraw listens to ideas about the dream home, gets information about the home owner's personal lifestyle that affects the home design, visits the property where the home will be built, then designs the dream home from the beginning.

Before meeting with QWSoftDraw, it's important to have the following information ready:
  • Subdivision Restrictions (if any) for the property the home will be built on. These can be obtained from the local Register of Deeds, the Home Owners Association (if any) or sometimes can be found on the internet via a search engine.
  • A list of requirements from an Architectural Review Board (if applicable).
  • Paper or electronic copy of the survey of the home property with a licensed surveyor's stamp on it.
  • Types and number of rooms needed in the home: Bedrooms, Baths, Great Room, Dining Rm, etc.
  • Ceiling heights for each floor: 9'-0", 10'-0", etc.
  • Flooring material: carpet, hardwood, tile, etc.
  • Exterior materials: brick, stone, shake, siding, etc.
  • Architectural home style (English Country, Arts & Crafts, Traditional American, etc). Photos of the desired home style will help QWSoftDraw identify the architectural style.
  • Window types and styles: Double Hung, Single Hung, Casement, etc. In a few cases, the Home Designer will have to select the window style to meet Egress Code or subdivision Restrictions may require certain window types and specific locations for certain window types.
The following are general steps QWSoftDraw takes to having the dream home designed:
  • Meet at the property where the home will be built and discuss home design wishes.
  • Schematics. This is a single line drawing of the First Floor which shows the connection of rooms to each other. All other floors (Basement Floor, Second Floor, etc.) are directly affected by the First Floor. Single line drawings at the beginning of design make the whole project go more efficiently.
  • Contract gets signed, and QWSoftDraw receives a design down payment.
  • Design Phase. Plans and elevations are drawn in 3D. This allows the home to be viewed inside and out but does not include some detail that will be shown later in the design process.
  • Construction Documents. The rest of the home detail is added (fascia, crown moulding, soffit ends, etc.) along with all the rest of the notes, dimensions, details, etc. needed to submit the drawings for building permits.
Additional design information:
  • How long it takes for a set of plans to be completed is usually determined by the time it takes for QWSoftDraw to receive information from the client.
  • Many details are not needed to have a set of house plans drawn. Decisions like paint colors and cabinet types will be decided between the Home Owner and the Contractor.
  • Roof slopes will be determined by several factors: subdivision Restrictions, cost, architectural style, etc. The Home Owner usually does not need to make a decision on this.
CONTRACTOR

When the final construction documents are finished then the Home Owner is ready to meet with the Contractor to have the dream home built. Based on the fact that QWSoftDraw personnel has been involved in both the Design & Build process over the years, the following are a few recommendations to keep in mind when choosing a Contractor and interacting with them during the Construction of the home:
  • The Contractor should be pro-active in Communication.
  • The cheapest price is not always the best. Some Contractors will give a small price on the front end, then pile on extra fees during the process. Some Contractors may give a higher price on the front end, but that's the actual price to build the home with no "gotcha" fees.
  • Generally, pricing to build a home usually falls into 1 of 2 categories: flat fee or "cost-plus". Flat Fee includes the cost of building the home and the Contractors fee all in one price. The Home Owner will pay no more or no less, theoretically, than this price. Cost Plus means the Home Owner is charged what it costs to build the home plus the Contractor's percentage. There is no "cap" to the price. It's costs what it costs to build the home. For instance, the home may cost $450,000 to build, and the Contractor's cost is 15% of the overall cost in addition to the actual building costs. If there are any changes during the process to the home, it will still cost what it takes to build the home plus the Contractor's percentage.
  • See if the Contractor has a "model" home on display or has a home in a Parade of Homes to see what the final quality of the Contractor's work is like.
  • Extra "eye-candy" on a home costs money. The Contractor is not responsible for what the home owner wants in a home but will need to charge for the extras.
  • It's important to get to know the Contractor, but getting to know the Superintendent responsible for building the dream home is just as important. The Home Owner will probably be interacting more with the Superintendent than the Home Owner interacts with the Contractor, so it's important to know if the Home Owner can get along with the Superintendant.
  • If the Contractor finds the Home Owner is easy to do deal with, the Contractor may possibly throw in some "freebies" into the home. In contrast, if the Home Owner makes the building process more difficult for the Contractor, the Contractor may require more payment due to the home building process going slower or the extra demands costing more than the contract price.
  • Let the Contractor do his job. That's what they are being paid to do. Trying to play builder will usually make the building cost more.
  • Visit homes that the Contractor is currently building to see the quality of the their buildings.
  • Ask for a list of client referrals from the Contractor. Keep in mind that they will usually only give out a list of good clients they've had. However, if there are complaints about a Contractor, it's good to remember there are 2 sides to a story. It may be a good Contractor, but they had a Home Owner who was hard to deal with, or they may be a Contractor that needs to be avoided. Look for the overall experiences of people that have used the Contractor. Remember, too, that the Home Owner has a reputation as well. Word spreads about Home Owners that are hard to get a long with. If a good Contractor knows a Home Owner has a reputation of being difficult to work with, they may not want to build for that Home Owner which results in limited Contractors to choose from.
  • Making changes after the home has been started can be costly. For instance, if the walls have already been built and the Home Owner wants a wall to be moved, it will cost a lot more than if the decision had been made during the Design phase of the home.
  • A Contractor usually has a large section in the Budget for digging foundations for the home. No Contractor can accurately predict what will be below the surface of the ground, so they have to anticipate surprises they may find when they start digging.
  • There are some very good Contractors in business. Not all of them are crooks and build poor quality homes. Some contractors care very deeply about their final product, will build a high quality dream home and give a fair, realistic price. It's important to do some research to find those Contractors.
  • Ask for a copy of at least 3 things from a potential Contractor: 1.) Business License 2.) Contractor's License 3.) Certificate of Insurance (to show they have insurance to cover the home should something go wrong in the building process).
  • Optionally, read through a copy of the local building codes to make sure the home gets built correctly. Not all building inspectors are honest and will let things slide that will later come back to bring a lot of pain to the Home Owner. Many municipalities are using the International Residential Building Codes now as their home building requirements. The Contractor should already be familiar with the local building codes, but ultimately, the responsibility still belongs to the Home Owner for having a home built correctly that is safe to live in.
QWSoftDraw looks forward to serving you in the very near future to make your dream home a reality.
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