F.A.Q. about working with Frederick + Frederick Architects and building in Beaufort County, SC

One of the things we’ve noticed as we listen to our clients and prospective clients is that people have questions, and rightly so, about the process of having a house built. After all, it’s a big deal and a lot of times they are living far away, getting ready to retire or vacation here. Because we want to put your mind at ease, we put together a few of the most frequently asked questions.

I live faraway and wonder, how do you work long distance?

We work with others in this situation as well, and handle it with a combination of in-person and long distance meetings. There are six milestones when we need you to be here. Keep in mind this is over the course of about two years, for building a house from the ground up.

The first in-person meeting happens at the beginning of the project. It’s really important for our visioning meeting to be face-to-face; that’s when we talk about how you imagine your house, how you want to feel in it, how you use your house, your likes and dislikes, how you entertain, etc.

About a month later when we present our initial design sketches, that needs to be face-to-face. We all get to see if we’re on the same page, literally. After that, we can use videoconferencing ––we make it easy.

Typically, we select the contractor we want to build the house after we have completed the design development. We bring in several contractors for you to interview and select for the build.

The fourth time it’s important to meet face-to-face is when we talk about interior finishes, about six months into the project.

Fifth, about a year into the process, we’ll have a walk-through of the framed house. Until then, we’re your eyes and ears on the job site. Once the framing is complete, we will want you to do the electrical walk-through, to see where all the outlets and switches will be. That’s also the ‘do or die’ point for any other changes.

Then we like you to come when we are finalizing the paint selections because the colors look a lot different in the space than when you are looking at a little swatch of paint. This step happens about a year and a half into your project.

The entire project takes about two years. If that sounds like a lot, remember that you’re moving to the Lowcountry … and it’s also the slow country! Savor it.

Should I have construction administration?

Now we are rolling up our sleeves and looking at how those drawings are going to become your house … We provide construction administration and would not want to do a project without it because it makes the project so much better. Some other architects don’t do this. If you wonder why we have a fee difference from other architects, look at our scope of services to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. When we do the construction administration, it reduces stress on the homeowner because then the contractor is not calling with questions that you may find it difficult to answer. We did the drawings and know the intent of them; we can respond to questions so much more fully and easily.

Without knowing how to read architectural drawings, how do I understand what I’m getting?

We use watercolor drawings, 3D drawings, and computer drawings that enable you to see all sides of the house. We also now have 3D goggles and, when you put them on, your house will look so real you that you want to reach out and touch something. This also allows you to see the relationship of indoors to outdoors. We make it easy for you to envision your home.

There is a perception that everything is cheaper in South Carolina, but we’ve seen that is not the case. This is especially true when it comes to building a quality home that can endure hurricanes and earthquakes, yet provide decades of enjoyment as well. True, our gas taxes are cheaper and our property taxes are cheaper, but construction costs are higher than newcomers expect them to be.

Many people relocating from other parts of the country do not consider the additional cost of building in both a hurricane zone and an earthquake zone and what this means in terms of design and construction materials.

The requirements to mitigate both of these hazards add additional strength and durability to the building … and additional costs. Some of the necessities: 

  • Building the first floor above FEMA’s base flood elevation, which adds to the foundation cost.
  • Structural Engineering fees in order to design code-compliant structural systems.
  • Connecting the roof through the walls to the foundation and footing with threaded rods, go-bolts, hurricane clips or other code approved methods. This adds to both the material and labor costs.
  • The shear walls required for lateral stability are more expensive than sheathing options available in other parts of the country.
  • Window and door openings must be protected from windblown debris. Impact rated windows and doors can cost up to twice as much as non-impact openings. Our designs usually have big window walls, which require steel frames to meet the wind loads (and the views are worth it!)

How much cheaper is it to build in beaufort county than in my home state in the northeast?

When you move into an existing house you make the house fit your lifestyle. With a custom home we design the house around your site and your lifestyle. We want to make sure we understand how you want to live in your new home.

We start with the Visioning meeting. Together we imagine you living on your beautiful lot in the lowcountry. How will your day unfold? How will you entertain? What are holidays like at your house? We listen to your ideas, ask questions and get to know you and your site. We have a comprehensive questionnaire to help us understand your needs and desires.
Images of spaces or details that inspire you are also helpful. We spend time on the site and create a site analysis to further understand the site’s assets.

Once we have nailed the shared vision, we understand what you value in your home. Having clarified the vision and values, we now can prioritize where to invest in your house. This is when we begin to draw.

how do you start the design process?

There is peace of mind with a fixed fee contract in knowing exactly what your project will cost at the beginning of construction, but you will probably pay more than if was built under a cost plus contract.  The decision is based on who shoulders the risk. In a fixed fee contract the contractor is taking the risk that prices will not rise between the time the contract is signed and the materials are bought. Understandably, the contractor includes a contingency fund to cover any potential price increases.

The owner bears the risk in the cost plus contract, but it is not a huge risk unless there is a outside cause such as a hurricane that makes building materials costs rise unnaturally. The contractor will prepare a detailed cost estimate as part of the cost plus contract. As the project proceeds the actual costs are compared to the estimate. Typically, the actual cost is very close to the estimate. A few items might be more expensive which is balanced out by a few that are less. 

Another method that some contractors will use is a hybrid where the contractor’s fee is fixed and the cost of materials and subcontractors are billed at the actual cost. This shared risk is appealing to some clients.
So your risk tolerance will determine the best method for you.

is it better to have a cost plus or a fixed fee contract with the contractor?

Congratulations on your exciting decision to build in Beaufort County! There are so many gorgeous communities and home-sites available, you may feel overwhelmed by the process of choosing the perfect site for your dream home. There are certain factors that you need to take into consideration before you make an offer. We have developed the Site Selection Review to help with this process. After discussing your objectives, we will prepare a site analysis and identify any challenges (environmental, regulatory or zoning) that may arise for your potential site.  

Your home site will have a huge influence on the design of your home, so it is important to carefully consider your options. Your best option is to get advice from a professional!