Surprise! How A New Jersey Architect Can Protect You From Hidden Construction Expenses When You're Building A Home

photography by Lisa Russman

Building a new home can elicit a wide range of emotions from excitement to overwhelm, but you can find comfort in knowing that a great architect can help protect your budget. When you are ready to hire, doing some upfront research on reputable New Jersey architecture firms will save you from unexpected construction costs.

A good architect will act as an administrator looking out for your best interests. In addition to designing a home reflective of your needs, vision, and lifestyle, you should expect an architect to help in other ways throughout the building process.

Know the local codes
Knowing common fees up front will save you from surprise costs later on in the process. Common costs include plan review, permits, utility connection, and HOA fees. A knowledgeable architect will be familiar with the fees to expect in your area and build them into the cost estimate.

Keep the contractor honest
We have all heard of general contractor nightmare stories such as a contractor running out of money causing construction to come to a screeching halt when workers stop getting paid or building materials cannot be delivered due to lack of funds. These stories typically end with the owner incurring enormous unplanned costs.

Once the design is complete, your architect can help you select an excellent general contractor, oversee the construction process, and avoid hidden costs throughout the project by:

  • Reviewing bids and ensuring those bids are accurate
  • Answering questions a contractor may have during the bid process
  • Double-checking proposals and deterring any cost inflations
  • Helping to make sure the contractor builds your project correctly and provides quality craftsmanship
  • Keeping the general contractor honest when seeking prepayment
  • Ensuring adherence to your design

Provide guidance and options
An experienced architect can guide you through the construction process and ensure your project is completed to your satisfaction while helping to protect your building funds.

Knowing your budget and being familiar with building costs, a licensed NJ architect can provide alternative options, before the project begins, that will keep you within budget but not affect the integrity or quality of the build. Perhaps reducing square footage in a bedroom will allow you to build your dream recreation room without increasing your budget.

During the design phase, an architect can help you decide where to splurge or reconsider the budget because it saves money in the long run—for example, installing a breaker box slightly larger than needed in case you decide to add rooms onto your home in the future.

As your architect gets to know you, they can also steer you toward options that will make you the happiest and avoid the need for costly re-dos. Suggestions such as installing kitchen cabinets that go to the ceiling because they will fit your style better than a standard wall cabinet or using shower tiles instead of an insert that may look cheap or unfinished will help you make sound financial decisions and obtain a design you love.

Before working with a designer, check that they carry a valid New Jersey architecture license. This license is issued by the state and ensures the architect has proper education and permission to do business. Interview a few NJ architects. Discuss your goals and budget. Then see what they say. Make sure you feel they have listened to your needs and read through the standard AIA contract between owner and architect before hiring. You can expect an architect to ask for a fee to cover their specialized knowledge; however, the fee should be fair and will ultimately pay for itself by saving you from hidden construction costs.