Help us see our new house
August 18, 2008 7:57 AM   Subscribe

We're looking to purchase a house with a not so great exterior shape. Where do we start to help visualize exterior renovation possibilities and building costs? Some pics inside for those who want to give their thoughts...

My wife and I have been looking at houses with lots of land in the NYC Metro area. Primary focus has been lot size and location, with the house being a sturdy box that we will grow into and change over the years. Problem is, some of those boxes, while comfy inside, aren't that wonderful looking on the outside. This and this are the front and back of one of the units - a non-standard cape-cod, with a rather large and goofy non-symmetrical roof. Another house was an old stone cube, essentially, with the septic field blocking and additions outward, and an awkward roof blocking upward expansion.

Do we send the photos to an architect for renderings? If so how do we find an architect and how much should we expect to pay for just this visualization service? Would a good architect help us estimate building costs if we chose their designs?

Any other resources, perhaps a website showing pages and pages of housing exteriors so we can get inspiration? Any other thoughts?

Do any architecture schools do this on the cheap?
posted by remlapm to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
You'll save money by doing very precise measurements of all the rooms & the exterior. Not locations of water, electrical panel, windows, doors. Also try to have some goals, and maybe tearsheets of pics of houses you like. They don't have to be at all like the house you're renovating, but they give an idea of your taste. Goals should be things like: extra bath on 1st floor, larger bedroom, more light in living room, or whatever, but specific is good. You may get good results working with a contractor, esp. if you find one whose work you like.

I'm a sucker for stone houses.
posted by theora55 at 8:19 AM on August 18, 2008

should be Note locations of water...
posted by theora55 at 8:20 AM on August 18, 2008

You're on the right track, looking for an architect. You'll want to stay away from students though - they won't have enough real-world experience to give you proper advice. What you'll want to do is find a small, local, architect in the area, or one that is willing to travel to the site and look at the property.

Looks like your looking for just preliminary design services. This is usually a very rough draft of the design with floor plans, and some of the visuals your thinking about. A good architect will be able to provide you with design services up to that point, maybe even give you a guess at how much that may cost. Or you can take your conceptual design drawings and start talking to builders/contractors to get more accurate, real-world estimates.

If you like the visuals, and the price is in your range, then you can hire the architect to go forward or change the design and have her draw up construction documents.
posted by spoons at 8:48 AM on August 18, 2008

Yeah, an architect is your best bet. It shouldn't be horrendously expensive to just get some conceptual sketches done.

That being said, it took two complete designs and about 3 years for our architect (also a friend and neighbour) to produce a design that made us happy and was also an affordable reno. It was worth the wait.

(where are you kids getting this kind of money, anyways? We had to live in a hole in the middle of the road our beat-up house for several years before we were able finance a serious reno)
posted by Artful Codger at 10:54 AM on August 18, 2008

Before I'd engage an architect to change the house, I'd live in it for about a year. It takes a long time to know what you'll really want to change.

Also, you said the houses are comfortable now. I think what you really need is landscaping. The first house could use some plants to break up the hard lines of the house. This is why people have shrubs to hide the foundation. That house need a lot of plant and patio work - especially in the back.

The stone house could be quite lovely with some landscaping and hardscaping. Extend the porch to cover white doors and you'll have a lovely front entry patio. Change the outdoor lights from the spot lights by the roof line to ground level lighting to reflect up on the house. Rip out the black top walkway and add some flowering trees on the side of the house. Those are relatively small changes and they'd make a huge impact on the exterior of the house.
posted by 26.2 at 12:01 AM on August 19, 2008

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