Today’s Lull, Tomorrow’s Deal: Time to Engage Architects, Designers, and Realtors

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We’re all a little bored.

We’ve run out of aloe for screen-burned eyeballs and we’re not feeling the burn bench-pressing soup cans – not to mention the angst at losing all those Flowbees on eBay. Yes, we’re at the point where a Flowbee must be backordered to a “wish list” or wedding registry on Amazon. Sad times indeed.

If your income is uninterrupted and likely to stay that way, why not be productive?  You’re spending more time in your home that ever before. Like the cracks in your relationships, you’re noticing what doesn’t work about your house.

An Opportunity to Improve

Why not spend this time working out how to make your home work better?  Do you need more space? Do you envision more permanent office requirements? Is the space fine but poorly laid out? For example, would a permanent work space be better located away from the kids? Would adding a second story to the garage be a solution?

All of these questions require answers you’re probably unskilled to give. However, many of them can be undertaken remotely by professionals. And now is the perfect time. Many in the design and construction fields are idle. You may find you can up your talent pool and get more personalized service – quicker. That’s because due to job losses or plain fear, people are pulling back and making do with their living arrangements.

Time Is Of The Essence

Like many professions these days, architects, designers, and Realtors have time. Many well-heeled firms have furloughed highly talented workers who you’d normally have had to wait in line to get an appointment with.

If you have the wherewithal to proceed, talent is yours for the asking.

Anyone can be this boring

In addition to helping a corona-refugee, a project can distract from today’s news – trust me, I know.  But it also focuses you because many distractions are gone. It can be collaborative and something the whole family can provide input to. So not only will professionals be more focused on your project, so will you. This will absolutely show in the results.

Think about it. You want to put a second floor onto your home. Most would use a level of architect who essentially mimics the ground floor while slapping in the needed space – less architect, more draftsman. But now, maybe there’s someone available who turns that bland delivery on its head – and you have the time and focus to maybe not take the easy (boring) way out.  What’s that worth?  You’re spending wisely on a joyous result you might not have considered while using the skills of someone who’s been idled.

I’m a modernist. Were I looking to expand or reconfigure my home, being able to tap the experience and talent of a glass and steel architectural engineer who usually designs high-rises might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In this case, in addition to talent, I get knowledge. Single-family architects and builders use a set of materials – high-rise architects use a completely different palate of materials that would result in unique single-family structures.

Think about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (OK, look at the picture above). One of the many reasons it’s so compelling of a retreat is because it’s essentially a slice of one of van der Rohe’s International Style high-rises as a single-family home. It was also designed (amazingly) in the 1940s using commercial building materials which enabled all of its support skeleton to be so thin.

Imagine something so simple and elegant as your back yard office or the top floor of a garage.

Designer help for your new home office

Interior Designers

The same is true of interior designers. Is your kitchen kaput? Bathrooms banal? Maybe you just want to toss out your old furniture for a new look. Find talented, sidelined designers who can focus on your project.

Ditto furniture and cabinetmakers. Need built-ins?  Now’s the time. How about a window seat or a custom desk. Desks should be particularly hot. If more of your work will be done from home in the future, retire the card table and think about what you need. What configuration works?  I prefer a long slab of worktop to hold multiple screens and computers. Maybe an L-shape works best for you and your space. Do you need drawers or is everything on computer. What depth of worktop is best?  I find many off-the-shelf options to be too narrow – the larger the screen, the further away it can be.

How The Work Works

For both architects and designers, much of their work is done on computers. To get things rolling, you can run a tape measure, make videos, and take pictures. You can work together sharing screens, using FaceTime or Zoom. If you’re adding on to your house, they can walk around the exterior of your home and get a feel for the parcel. Depending on your level of comfort, you can let them in.

Note on billing. Use those who charge by the hour. Some architects and designers want to bill their services as a percentage of your overall project. Don’t. No designer spends more time recommending a $2,000 Samsung fridge from Home Depot versus a $15,000 Sub Zero. Tying fees to spending sounds more like you’re tipping a waiter.  By all means, pay for experience and competence, just without it being tied to a percentage of every sheet of drywall or doorknob.

Realtors: The Ultimate Fix

Sometimes the sow’s ear is just that. The only way to get a silk purse is to buy an actual silk purse. If housebound you can’t find a way out of what’s not working, Realtors represent he nuclear option.

Maybe there’s no way in hell you’re tackling a renovation. Maybe no amount of rejiggering can make it work. Maybe your birth control ran dry. You need a new home.

Now’s the time to begin your research. Do you want to stay in the same neighborhood? If not, where?  With empty roads, lookie-loos can dawdle without annoying their tailgaters. Heck, all we can do is walk, so pick some neighborhood options, park and walk around. You can even wear a mask and no one will report you.

If you decide to stay local, maybe the same Realtor you used before is the right choice. If you want to change neighborhoods, housing type, or price band, maybe it’s time to build a relationship with a Realtor who has expertise in those areas. Sometimes a few miles away can turn an excellent agent into one who’s as lost as you are. The same is true moving from single-family to high-rise or apartment to owner.

And even if you’re Ziplok-ed into your bunker for now, engaging a Realtor now makes sense. First, you can learn and ask all the dumb questions we all do. Second, a Realtor can tell you more about the market. Many fearful sellers have removed their properties from the market, Realtors know which houses were for sale, which sold and which were pulled from the market – meaning they’re likely still for sale but the owners don’t want you breathing in their home. This is gold – good listings with little competition.

Finding Resources

Aren’t we all tired of reading and listening to the pandemic already?  We need something productive to do. Thinking about our future living arrangements and how to make them better is worthwhile. It’s especially true now, when we’re uncovering what’s not working in real-time and have the time to dedicate to the solutions in a way we may never have been able to before.

So you’re convinced, now what? If you need an architect, that’s pretty easy. Search for Dallas architects online and start with any whose name is a three-letter acronym – those tend to be large firms with tons of talent that you may not have thought about before. Talk to a few.   Ditto designers, except those are likely to be single-person names. Before you call, visit their websites and click-through their portfolios.

Another option is Thumbtack.com. It’s where I found the architect who drew up the Penthouse Plunge plans. It might be where you find a furloughed architect or two, who without corporate overhead, are likely to be more budget-friendly than ever.


While no comments section can be considered an endorsement, any architect, designer, or associated tradesperson is free to add their contact details in the comments.

For Realtors, investigate neighborhoods on foot and look at websites like Ebby.com and see what’s out there and what it costs. Make note of Realtors with a lot of listings in the area or building (if a high-rise). Call them. Have a chat.

Again, don’t put yourself in financial peril, but if you’re financially stable and want to change-up your housing, it’s a great time to nab some top talent to help.

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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