What can go wrong – Episode One – Over Budget from the Get Go
I think we can all agree that the biggest problems that arise in custom home construction are budget overruns. This occurs during two distinct phases in the process: during the planning phase and during construction. Surprisingly, budget overruns happen most frequently as plans are developed before the construction has even begun.
Why is this? It is because there is no CEO of the project. There is no one person given the authority and task of determining that the design as it progresses is aligned with the owners budget comfort zone. Even if there is no mal intent on the part of the design team, often the owner is repeatedly given choices for fancier rooms, better amenities, and additional spaces without being given the context of how this will affect the overall budget. Owners can have a very difficult time making educated decisions regarding the options they are offered.
Architects want to design the absolute best product for the client and for their own glorification, so even with good intentions their creativity and the owner’s excitement about the design can begin to lead down a path that overruns the stated budget. There is no one there saying, wait a minute, how will this option fit within the budget? No one wants to be the bearer of bad news, so it is much easier to just continue drawing and specifying. Often the problem does not become apparent until everyone, both owner and designer, are way too invested into a vision that requires going over budget. At this point in the process, the vision is very hard to give up or even scale-back.
Helping keep the design aligned with the budget is an excellent service that a knowledgeable Owner’s Representative or Project Manager can provide to both the owner and the design team. The Project Manager can give trustworthy opinions in real time as to whether envisioned ideas are within the budget or not. The Project Manager plays the unique role on the team of being completely objective, able to step in and point out discrepancies between design and budget without hesitation or apology.
With this invaluable input from the Project Manager, decisions regarding design are made right from the start, before anyone is invested emotionally or financially into a concept that is outside the budget. The design and development then can proceed unencumbered. Both architect and owner can make decisions confidently, without stress towards the completion of a drawing set. Thus, there is a higher likelihood of the home being built as envisioned without causing undue financial strain on the owner.