Why You Should Consider a Design / Build Company for Your New Home or Remodel in Georgia

As I reflect on my years as a practicing architect, I recall a conversation I had with my first employer after I returned from a new home job site. I was outraged that the builder was making changes to “my” design without consulting with me. I told my employer that “They are destroying my design”. His response has stayed with me for my entire career. He said “We are the theys. We are letting them do whatever they want.”
Throughout my architectural career, I have seen too many builders make changes to the design and construction without consulting with the architect or Owner. In most instances, the builder has no idea about the conversations that transpired between the architect and Owner, and why a particular detail or product was specified on the construction drawings. The builders just take it upon themselves to make changes. Many of these changes lead to mistakes in the construction, costly modifications, construction delays and much aggravation to the Owner. All of this can be avoided.
I have found that homeowner satisfaction is greatly increased when they decide to hire a Design / Build company to work with them for their new home or remodel project. The Design / Build process avoids much of the unnecessary confusion, delays and cost over-runs that are typical of the traditional “architect – bid – contractor” relationships. That is why I started the Design / Build company, Stoneybrooke Homes, Inc. At Stoneybrooke, we have fully integrated the design, construction and budgeting into a single seamless process. Owners work directly with the architect / builder to design and build their home to a specific budget and ultimately enter into a fixed price contract to build their project. Stoneybrooke has single source responsibility for every aspect of the work From the design, budgeting, construction and warranty implementation of new home or remodel project, the Owner communicates directly with the architect / builder.
In the Design / Build process, the architect listens carefully to the Owner’s desires and dreams including their target budget. Utilizing decades of experience in residential design and construction, we analyze and organize their comments and ideas into a distinctive, cohesive and exciting design that will meet their lifestyle requirements and budget. The architect will advise the Owner throughout the design process when the project begins to exceed their budget and offer suggestions to maintain the budget.
Single source responsibility means no “finger-pointing” between an independent architect and builder during construction. Design / Build eliminates the possibility of misunderstandings or discrepancies that may occur when communicating information between the architect, builder and Owner which could lead to construction delays, cost over-runs, and disagreements during construction. It also keeps the Owners from becoming the unofficial arbiter of differences between the architect and builder. As the architect and builder, working “hand –in hand” with the Owner, Stoneybrooke specifies exactly the products are to be included in the home. There will not be any misunderstandings about what door knobs, paint, mechanical systems, exterior siding, etc. are to be used. The construction drawings are complete with all of the structure and specific details clearly indicated. The construction is executed by experienced, trusted and insured tradesman and supervised by the architect / builder.
The Owner never incurs additional costs for professional job site coordination and construction inspections by the architect. The Design / Build process is seamless because the architect and builder are one in the same!

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Dahlonega a Mountain Gem

One of my favorite towns in Georgia is nestled in the mountains an hour and a half north of Atlanta.  The anticipation of something special begins on the journey to this “mountain gem.”   The majestic silhouette of the north Georgia mountains comes into view on your way to Dahlonega.   It is a marvelous landscape  that reflects an important part of Georgia  and its history.   I always look forward to the first sign of spring, as a green hue overtakes the mountains.   The array of colors in the fall makes way for the first dusting of snow in the winter.  This transformation is a sight to behold, as mother nature works her magic on Georgia’s Appalachian wonder.

Step back in time as you walk around  the Dahlonega Town Square.   All of the buildings are on the National Historic Registry.  Close your eyes and let yourself drift back in time to a more simple era, when the street in front of you was dirt and transportation was by horseback or buggy.  The commerce of the day centered around gold.   It was an exciting time then, as it is now.  Dahlonega ( ) has never forgotten its heritage, while transforming itself into a marvelous place to spend a day, week, or a lifetime.

Dahlonega is a special place with an incredible history.  It is a treasure-trove of art, theater, wineries ( ), restaurants, gold mines and wonderful  shops on the town square.  The focal point of the square is the old Courthouse, circa 1836.  The Courthouse is now converted into the Dahlonega Gold Museum ( ).  Many folks don’t realize that in 1828, gold was first discovered in the Dahlonega,  Lumpkin County area.  This occurred some twenty years before the California gold rush began.

Adding to Dahlonega’s charm is a robust art community.  There are art galleries, live theater, bluegrass jams on the square, and concerts in Hancock Park.  If your lucky, you can catch a live performance of Doc Johnson’s Medicine Show ( ).  Doc and his troop of fun makers perform several times a year in Dahlonega.  On your trip, be sure to visit the historic Holly Theater ( ).  The theater operates year-round.  It offers movies, concerts, theatrical performances and special gala events.  The Holly Children’s Theater gives kids an opportunity to take part in acting classes and audition for one of  the Children’s Theater productions.  Also on the square is a great music venue, The Crimson Moon Cafe  ( ).

Dahlonega is also home to the 130-year old North Georgia College & State University ( ), which is part of the state university system.  The college is only one of  six senior level military colleges in the country.  It is also home to some 5,000 students and offers a host of continuing education classes.

I have had the pleasure of working with many couples that have decided to move to the Dahlonega area.  I consider designing and building homes in the North Georgia mountains a privilege.  Each custom residence is a reflection of its owner, and as unique as a North Georgia sunset.  For those who yearn for a simpler, more gentile way of life, consider Dahlonega.

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How to Choose a Homebuilder In Georgia?


Before selecting a home builder, it is of the utmost importance to understand the differences in builder contracts, and how these choices may affect the overall building process.  Blindly accepting any contract offered could make a difference between a positive or negative experience.


Fixed-Cost Contracts

This type of contract gives the buyer a firm contract cost for the home.  In order for the builder to offer this contract, the builder must establish his/her actual cost of construction. If construction costs increase, the builder is forced to absorb the increases out of his/her potential profit.  If construction costs decrease, the builder will benefit, and subsequently increase profits.  Of course, change orders are always possible, and will increase or decrease the construction cost.  Most builders will include allowances for finish items if they are not selected prior to entering into a contract.  Such items may include cabinetry, floor material, and landscaping,


In order for a builder to offer a fixed-cost contract, the builder must have a complete set of construction plans and specifications, and be familiar with the building site. The builder must bid the cost of the house with all of his/her sub-contractors and material suppliers to be certain of the construction cost.  A specific time frame for construction is also included in this contract.  Depending on the size and complexity of the project, it usually takes about two weeks for a reputable builder to bid the work and arrive at an accurate cost of construction to be included in a fixed-cost contract.


The fixed cost contract is the most traditional form of construction contract used.  With a complete set of construction drawings and specifications, it affords less uncertainty in the building process and outcome.  Nevertheless, it is still critical that one thoroughly checks out the builder and his/her references.


Cost-Plus Contract

The cost-plus contract has become more popular over the past few years because it allows the builder to spend less time bidding the work and guarantees the builder a specific profit.  In most cases, the builder will agree to build the house for a set dollar amount strictly based upon their experience using a generalized cost per square foot.  Typically, there is a clause that refers to the price as an estimate, and acknowledges that costs may increase due to a list of variables. Then the builder adds a percentage amount for profit.  This amount can range from 10 to 25% depending upon the builder, the size and complexity of the house, and site location.  So if the builder estimates the house cost at $350,000 and agrees to pay the builder a 15% profit, the owner will pay the builder $52,500 to build the home.  But, if the house ends up costing $415,000, the owner will pay the builder $62,250 in builder profit. Sometimes this type of contract is referred to as an “open-book” contract.


This option may not be the wisest choice for a buyer if they have little free time, a tight budget, or adversity to stress.  It usually requires the buyer to meet with the builder periodically to review all of the invoices, pay all of the bills, and make sure excess materials are promptly returned for proper credit.  Every time the bills are paid, an additional check is paid to the builder for the agreed upon builder profit percentage as agreed.


This type of contract diminishes the builder’s incentive to control costs.  After all, the more the house costs, the more the builder makes!  It allows the builder to spend less time negotiating their actual costs with sub-contractors and material suppliers, and it gives the builder less reason to expedite the construction process.  In my opinion, a cost-plus contract strictly favors the builder rather than the owner.  The actual cost of the home to the owner is not known until all of the bills are paid.  Often times, this type of contract results in builder/owner disagreements, bad feelings, and possible legal action by either party.  Imagine having a $350,000 budget, and having to pay $415,000 or more for the home when it is complete.


Cost-Plus Fixed Fee

This contract is similar to the cost-plus contract, except the owner and builder agree on a fixed fee the builder will receive to construct the home. For example, the owner agrees to pay a $50,000 builder fee regardless of what the home ends up costing.  The upside to this type of contract is the builder has the incentive to complete the project as quickly as possible to maximize profits.  The negative is that the builder has no incentive to control costs.  The builder gets paid the same.


In some instances, a “not to exceed” cost provision is added to the cost-plus or cost- plus fixed fee contract.  This may not be realistic or practical depending upon the project.  The only way to be reasonably assured that the home will cost what you expect is with a fixed-cost contract.


Regardless of the contract you select, you MUST have complete construction drawings, and detailed specifications for your project.  This will eliminate many of the variables in the construction process and reduce the unknown.  It is also imperative that the owner spend time interviewing the builder and obtain customer, supplier, subcontractor and banking references.  It is important that as the owner, you have the highest level of confidence and trust in your builder before entering into a contract.  If one spends the time upfront, it will pay off in the long run.

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