This article is the newest entry in our '5 Questions to Ask...' series in which we arm prospective home buyers with key questions to ask about a master-planned community. Other articles in the series include:
5 Questions to Ask of an Interior Designer or Community Design Center Specialist
by Elaine Williamson
Ease of Choosing Materials?
Q1. Are there different classes of materials to choose from in the design center, or are standard and upgrade options intermingled/scattered through out?
A. A good showroom of options should have either design boards or areas designated from Standard Grade to, depending on the builder and design center, a Level 3 or 4 that displays the higher-end material.
Standard tile, carpeting, backsplash and builder options will tend to be limited in terms of choice, typically simple in structure and basic in material. You should be able to notice that a Level 3 carpet will be denser and a better weight grade that a standard selection. Tile may vary from a simple white tile to a travertine depending on the home.
Visit your local home centers to see what materials are available, feel the difference between a standard grade carpet and a higher-end carpet. Ask yourself, will this one make a difference in the way I live, do I need to upgrade? Know your needs before you sit down at a design center to make your final choices.
Added Fees for Materials?
Q2. Are there additional fees associated with using favored materials not available from the community design center?
A. In my experience good builders will have a materials allowance available to their clients for every detail throughout the home. A custom home builder may be more flexible in terms of making your own material purchase from outside of his design center then say a tract home builder who does not have as much flexibility as far time.
If you decide to go outside the builder and purchase materials from an outside source, be aware that the builder’s in-house contractors may not have the experience to properly install that particular material, and you will be responsible for any additional installation costs to have it done right. Another thing to consider is that builders will, in most cases, not honor warranties purchased from outside sources.
Materials Budgeting for High-Use Areas?
Q3. What types of materials are included in your builder package for flooring, cabinetry, countertops, fixtures and hardware? Can they differ from room to room or be combined in a single room to create a unique look--as can be done with tile and wood flooring?
A. Traditionally a builder, like a consumer, will go into a home building situation with a budget, usually per area, with different materials to be used within that space already in mind. A builder will usually put more of the budgeted funds in high-profile areas, such as the kitchen, living room, family areas that are used and visited more often than a guest bedroom and bath area that may be frequented just a few times a year.
You should be given the freedom to move your monies into areas that suit you best. That being said, your designer and design center should be there to guide you in the areas of importance. Don’t neglect the master bedroom in favor of an entire home covered in travertine floors.
Who Selects Natural Materials?
Q4. Since any such natural geological material, such as flagstone and the like, can vary, can I visit the stone yard and pick out the exact slabs or materials I want?
A. Whenever possible, you the homebuyer should make this selection. Although the selection process can be tedious and time consuming, it is important to be involved since natural stone, or any natural material, is never consistent in color, quality or texture.
One slab of Black Forest granite may be more heavily layered than another, and granite with veining may have a stronger pattern in one slab than another, thus changing the entire look of the room. Also, buy all of your natural materials for one space all at one time. You'll be more likely to avoid variations in materials that will become obvious upon install.
Complimentary Consultation Time?
Q5. Will I receive complimentary consultation time with a professional interior designer who will help with planning and material selection?
Your builder and the type of home you are purchasing will be the determining factors as to whether you receive complimentary interior design time with a professional.
A standard tract home traditionally will offer a standard package of 2 hours of consultation time with their in-house designer, while a custom builder may have their designer work directly with you throughout the entire building process.
Elaine Williamson is Principal of Dallas-based Elaine Williamson Designs--a full service, award-winning firm that specializes in high-end custom interior design and style making. The firm’s project portfolio includes residential and high-rise properties as well as commercial and retail projects nationwide.
With over 20 years experience and clients across the United States, Williamson’s reputation for creating distinctive, highly personalized designs that are elegant with maximum visual appeal, yet entirely functional, comfortable and livable, have made her among Dallas’ most sought after interior designers.