My nephew designed my house, now lets find an Architect to stamp the drawings


My advice: if you are in that bad of a shape, just keep renting

Luckily not too often, but sporadically I get that call from someone in Southern California who has just acquired a hillside piece of land and has a 500K budget to build their dream home. 

I my mind I am thinking “there you go, another $30K lot on a 100% slope where you need to spend 2M just to make it accessible, unless you build an unpermitted tree house with Home Depot lumber-if you have a standing tree on site. The owner is obviously another "visionary" who spent the past 30 years under a rock and just came out of lethargy thinking that half million dollars is a lot of money”. These thoughts of mine turn to be always quite right on the dot.

To add insult to the injury, I am also told that their wife, or nephew or cousin… is such a talented designer who always wanted to be an architect and that they designed this beautiful house for them and now they are asking me to “pass their drawings through the City”...

You know when you receive that cold phone call from am unknown number and on the other side there is some voice with a thick accent asking you if you are interested in lowering the cost of your phone bill?

Now, beside the fact that I am not mocking anyone with an accent because I still have a thick Italian accent myself, if you enter in that scenario, your reaction is: “should I just hang up and block the number, or say something?”. Well, I am usually a very polite person, so unless they give me 5 calls in a row I do not lose my cool and feel obliged to provide a quick and short answer to decline their offer.


Going back to our phone call with the “prospect” customer who just snatched the greatest deal for a hillside lot with views and has not only a huge budget but also a very talented designer in their family, what do I respond?

With a pinch of sarcasm, I could reply “you have a lot great going on and I feel that this project is above my head, therefore I kindly decline this opportunity”, but instead I feel bad for them and somehow I cannot hold back and have this urge to open their eyes.

After breaking down the numbers for them to explain that these days in California 500K would perhaps buy them an open to the sky bathtub and that I could design that for them, the part that is very crucial to me, also in defense to my own category, is to I explain that their beloved relative may have produced just a concept and that Architects cannot just stamp some drawings that are put on their desk and take full liability for it.  To reinforce the concept, I use some metaphor such as “would your dentist take liability for that tooth that you pulled by tying it to a brick that you threw down the balcony?” The answer is always pure silence.

There you go.

Now they understand that an Architect must create 100% of the drawings under responsible control, but more importantly that their budget is way too low for their dream. In the meanwhile, I made them laugh for few minutes and they will probably remember me when they are truly ready for that big step.