Most potential custom home clients hear the words “Design Review” and start to shudder. You imagine your well-thought out dream home plans being slashed with red lines, hours spent with the architect…wasted. It might seem like an arduous task, but with an experienced team in place the process can go rather smoothly.
According to Desert Mountain, a prestigious golf community in North Scottsdale, “Design guidelines are critical to any community whose integrity is dependent on maintaining a predetermined level of quality. The standards set forth in our design guidelines are intended to encourage a caliber of design and construction that minimizes less desirable homes and establishes a community that will retain its marketability and appeal over time.”
Most guidelines are written by architects and community planners and are intended to:
- ensure that homes are built with high quality materials and craftsmanship
- preserve mature and native landscapes
- respect the scale, bulk and character of homes in the community
- respect the privacy of their immediate neighbors
- minimize the visual impacts of parking and other items deemed unsightly
How does the process work?
All communities have slight differences, but generally here is what you can expect from most Scottsdale golf communities:
1. Pre-Design Meeting: Your architect will sit down with the committee to verify the building envelope and learn about other restrictions that may be associated with your home site.
2. Design Begins: Your architect can begin designing your home within the parameters agreed upon at the Pre-Design meeting.
3. Preliminary Submittal: Your architect will submit your home plans to the committee. Most design review committees meet only once or twice a month, so your submittal needs to be timed accurately. Some communities require the plans to be submitted more than two weeks prior to the scheduled meeting.
4. Preliminary Review: The committee will meet to discuss your project. At this time, the commitee will want to see your choices for exterior materials (stucco color, roof tile, windows, and more). You might also be required to submit an architectural model.
If it is approved, you move on. If not, your architect will need to make corrections and resubmit.
5. Construction Documents: With a set of drawings approved by the committee, your architect can begin producing Construction Documents. These are the actual plans that will be used to by the builder to bid and build your home. The Construction Documents must also be approved by the Design Review committee. If approved, construction can begin. If not, your architect will need to make changes and resubmit.
Before final approval, the committee might want to see a “Wall Sample,” a mock-up of your exterior materials including wall stone, architectural mouldings and copings, paint color, stucco finish, facia material, wood stain color, roof material, window frame material, driveway material and possibly more.
6. Pre-Construction Meeting: Before construction can begin, the community will want to be sure that you have hired a reputable builder who will abide by the community rules. At this time you will have to provide a refundable construction deposit and your builder may have to pay for a bond, refundable when construction is complete and all work has been approved.
7. Framing Inspection: When framing is complete, your builder will most likely have to call a Framing Inspection. A member of the design review committee will come to the job site and ensure that the framing and building height matches that of the plans that were approved during the review process.
8. Final Inspection: Once the home is complete, a final inspection is scheduled to review the material choices and make sure the home was built as approved. If you do not pass this final approval, your builder will have to make the suggested corrections and have another inspection.
The fee for design review submittal is different for every community. You can expect to be accessed an additional fee if your home is not approved after the second submittal. As mentioned in item six above, a construction deposit is also required.
How long does this whole process take?
From your pre-construction meeting to the time your builder can break ground on your home varies. The average time frame for design review is 6 to 9 months, based on how stringent the guidelines are for your community.
Here are some tips to make the process go more smoothly:
1. Hire an architect who has previously designed homes for your community or other communities with similiar design review guidelines. The architect should act as your liaison with the committee throughout the process.
2. When you encounter an obstacle, remember that the members of the committee are trying to preserve the value of their neighborhood, too.
3. It is just as important to hire a home builder who has experience with design review committees. The latter part of the process relies heavily on the builder and his ability to follow the guidelines of the community.
4. Be an active participant in the process. Communicate often with your architect and home builder. Not making timely decisions will only add up to a longer review process.
“No client should have to compromise on features they think are important in their dream home. It is the job of the architect and the builder to design the home to suit the client and, at the same time, work within the framework provided by the community, ” adds John Gurley, Project Manager for R.J. Gurley Custom Homes.
Now, go draft your team and get in the game.