Savvy travelers know that the only way to plan a vacation is by choosing the destination before planning what the family will do on the trip. How can the family plan their days when they don’t even know where they are heading? The method smart vacationers use is similar to the one homeowners will use when designing their dream home.
Before one can design the home (decide what to do on a trip), one needs to know where it is going to be built and how the location will influence it (where the destination is). They need to be familiar with their property inside and out no matter if they decide to go it alone, hire an architect, or something in between. Most homeowners will need the following items when they plan on constructing a new home. It might not seem like it at the time, but these items will form a solid foundation for the homeowners’ design in the future.
Site plan or survey: A site plan or survey is a document prepared by a surveyor that locates existing features on the property. It indicates lot lines, utility connections, flood plain status, zoning classification, and servitudes. It is often included with closing documents. A detailed site plan and survey is full of information that is necessary during the construction of both the dwelling and any exterior amenities. Having access to the information included in the survey or site plan can prevent costly and time-consuming errors as the project is executed.
Subdivision restrictions (if applicable): Many subdivisions limit what can be built, the appearance of any dwelling, and include covenants that are more restrictive than the county or city building requirements. These covenants can limit the materials, establish mandatory building setbacks, and require approval of building and landscape features. Failing to follow the requirements of a subdivision could lead to extensive replacement costs, longer project completion times, and even legal entanglements.
*Look in the closing documents. If you aren’t sure if the subdivision enforces restrictions, check with your real estate agent, closing attorney, or neighborhood association. Homeowners want these detailed documents in-hand before they begin planning the home so they know exactly what they can and cannot build.
Floor plans (for renovations): A copy of the existing home’s plans is the best record, although the drawings from many older homes have long since been discarded or lost. If original plans are unavailable, check the closing documents for a simple plan that may have been included in the appraisal or in the description of the property.
*If you do not have access to formal documents for your home’s floor plans, you should have one made to use throughout the process. Noting measurements, the location of electrical and plumbing fixtures, as well as windows and doorways at a minimum.
Photographs of the home (for renovations): It is always good to have a photographic record of both inside and outside of the home. Take photos of the front, sides, and rear of the land or home. Also, take photos of the interior spaces that are involved in the renovation project. These photos will not only illustrate the significant changes that the home will undergo, but be helpful during the design and construction phases.
It is important to note that one should gather this information early to avoid headaches down the road. Nothing is worse than having the initial momentum of the project slowed down by paperwork that could have been done prior to even meeting with a professional.
Just remember, the potential property is a family’s destination for the future. That being said, it is best to invest the time into it now to get the most out it later.
© 2017 Kevin Harris, Architect, LLC
Kevin Harris, Architect, LLC designs custom homes to satisfy, support and sustain our client’s best life, to be an authentic expression of their site, lifestyle and culture, while remaining rooted in history and expressive of the times. For more information on Kevin or the firm go to www.kevinharrisarchitect.com.