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by malley@solagroup.com

As an architect, I took great offence to Jay Grant’s recent article “Marketing a Spec Home without Buying the Lot.” His advice is very good for the home builder, a decent deal for the land owner, and all built on the expense of the architect who is “paid for his plan only if the effort results in a sale.”

Architects are notoriously bad business people and giving away free work with no reward (other than being paid the usual fee) is among the top of the list. Architects who participate in any such arrangement should either pull out a house plan they already have in the drawer (and been previously paid for design) or agree to a higher than usual fee to compensate for the risk.

Otherwise, your magazine is promoting for builders to capitalize on the same bad business practices architects face from realtors, banks, and others who have created the current housing economy.
-David M. Hammer, AIA

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Re: Why do production builders get a pass? http://bit.ly/elWmoe

I’ve been a builder most of my life, I’m 72 so that’s a long experience, all in custom building. I’ve built two marinas, boats, live-aboard-floating-homes, land homes, and even computers. In my view, production homes are not built “incorrectly” but they are built with expedience…shortcuts are in cosmetics and detailing.

Doors will be functional but not beautiful, rooms will not have crown moldings, floors will be carpeted or even tiled but not finer hardwood with embellishments, windows will not have multiple lights or panes. These, then are an example of the expedient manner of building a production home. It doesn’t diminish anything but the lifestyle enhancement. For most people that’s OK. Some, even most, people never develop their tastes beyond that and can accept production because it is in their means. When their tastes do develop, it sometimes manifests in improvements to their production home. You may be seeing that result in your new first home and find it a comfort and maybe even attractive. I hope you do.
– Gene Maiorano,
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

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Now you know I’m a custom home builder and design-build remodeler. But I’m also very connected to the rest of our market in the Madison Area Builders Association. The “big dog” builder in our market has seen their ups and downs (before the companies merged and became who they are no) but I can say that they are genuinely concerned about their quality control, and they have the National Housing Quality award to prove it.

I even overlap with them on numerous subcontractors, and when it comes to those subs, they are among the best of the best. In fact, knowing what I know I would sooner refer someone to the biggest production builder in our market than to some of the mid-size, “semi-custom” builders in our market.

As a remodeler, I get to see the worst of the worst … and sometimes some pretty good work too.
-Abe Degnan
Degnan Design Builders
DeForest, Wis.

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Production builders most often are operating on a tight budget set by the developer (provider of funds) and minimal plans (enough to pull the permit). The “team” is well experienced in doing as the superintendent directs without question (the “cookie cutter” syndrome).

Inspectors and Plans Examiners are familiar with the type of work each builder is providing and inspections and reviews move along routinely. It is not their responsibility to check quality – only code compliance per approved plans.

The public must always be aware that if a house has been built to “meet the code” it is the “worst house they could get away with.” Building codes are a minimum standard aimed at protecting the general welfare and, at least to some degree, to not over burden the home owner with undue cost. Therefore, RD+B’s advocacy for custom homes is the way to go for quality results. These standards can be adopted by developers and they will enjoy a far better and longer relationship with the buying public when they do.

I have lots of war stories to back up my accusations from experience as an inspector, plans examiner and architect. One recommendation I like to pass on to architects and designers is to gain some experience in the code enforcement arena – it helps smooth out the process in many ways – a win/win for everyone.
– W. David Arnold

Re: Learn outside the comfort zone http://bit.ly/hXg88o

It’s definitely a challenge to push yourself outside that comfort zone from time to time but when you do and you embrace it, the feeling is amazing. I look at it as a way to not only be a better person but to also be that much better at what I do in the building industry. I pushed outside of my comfort zone this past summer and decided to start writing a blog (craft1945.blogspot.com). I had no idea what I was doing at first but found my way and made a commitment to keep pushing on.
– Tim Capaldi
Capaldi Building Co.
Birmingham, Mich.

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