Steve Lazar



Chemistry - Featured Image

Like anything that works well in life, chemistry is one of those things we can’t explain but is often the key ingredient that ensures that something ”works”. What is chemistry? Is it shared passion? Is it mutual trust? Who knows, but you know when you have it and you know it when you don’t. Having it is magical.

My team recently tore down an old beach house and we are beginning to build a new home for a couple where the chemistry was spot on. From the very beginning, we had a client-builder relationship that both parties committed to, nurtured and developed. Now that the project is underway, managing expectations while achieving maximum quality are just a few of the main ingredients in nurturing this chemistry. Building quality relationships with city officials and inspectors is not only mandatory for a successful job, but it also enhances my client’s trust in me. Then there are the neighbors. My clients need to co-exist with these people long after we are gone, so keeping them happy is vital to my client’s satisfaction with me. Chemistry is bumped up another notch when my clients see us working harmoniously with the neighbors and minimizing disruptions.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is - Featured Image
via Flickr: miri695. Used under Creative Commons

Everyone knows the old adage and has most likely been stung by its inevitable truth.  What happens, eventually, is that the other shoe unfortunately falls; the truth rears its ugly head and leaves us with egg on our face.

Well, it is no different in the world of architecture, construction, and real estate.  Being deceived is a product of wanting something for less than its real value.  Oftentimes we fall into the deception trap to close an unwanted gap between our budget and what we want actually costs.  Budget and cost either match or they don’t!  Expecting to get something for nothing, while human nature, is foolish. Either today or somewhere down the line, the truth will come out or it may be very hard to accept.

Five years ago, when the real estate and construction boom was out of control, there was always a shortage of really competent help because everyone was so busy.  Prices became artificially high. People who were less and less qualified entered the workforce and were being hired regardless of the obvious. Let’s use Brooks as an example.  I remember Brooks say, “He’s only a plumber.  I’m not him paying $32,000…it’s only plumbing.”  So instead of paying the licensed/insured/bonded plumbing company what they deserved, he had his general contractor friend (first mistake) hire some under qualified guy in order to “save” about 30%.  “That’s gonna pay for my Viking stove,” he boasted at the time.

Alma's Story: Sometimes you just know

Alma's Story: Sometimes you just know - Featured Image
© Fotolia

We just left off with Budget Is What Budget Does… well this posting will help with any clarifications.

I ran into a colleague of mine recently and he shared with me a story about a client that I was interviewed by 6 months earlier.  Let’s call her Alma. At the time of our initial meetings, I knew that I wanted the job because of its style demands, yet I knew that I really didn’t want the job.  Sometimes you just know.  For one, and one reason only, she was going to be very difficult.  Like the sign at the auto mechanics shop for hourly rates:

Price for labor

Price for labor if you watch

Price for labor if you help

She had remodeled her own home, and it looked like it. An eclectic combination of eras, worldly styles, and personal touches that was all placed into an original stucco box at the beach. Not one room had any rhyme or reason nor any relation to any other room in the entire house. The outside had fresh paint over facia that was held together by termite snot. Pretty picture, huh. But her perceived knowledge of construction was the one thing that would ultimately isolate her from ever being able to achieve her goal. She thought she knew more than me.  Sometimes you just know.  And this was one of them.

Reality Check: Budget Is What Budget Does

Reality Check: Budget Is What Budget Does - Featured Image
© FotoLuminate -

Remember we left off last week with “It cost what it cost“. Does your budget really reflect what you want it to, or what you wish it would? BIG DIFFERENCE. Remember it cost what it cost and there is really no way around that, so manage your expectations within your budget. It is your budget. No one forced you to that budget, it’s yours. If the budget exceeds your taste or requests…. than the pile of poop you are about to step in was put there by no one else, but you.

Ok now clean off your feet and let’s get down to business. MANAGING expectations is only one of the many challenges I face as a designer + builder.  To be honest with you, sometimes more modest budgets force wonderful opportunities to create great results within the means.

Design + Build: It cost what it cost

Design + Build: It cost what it cost - Featured Image
© Fotolia

There really is no way around the time tested adage; You get what you pay for.  Good things cost money and better things cost more money.  Where does one draw the line on good enough?  Cars, clothes, watches, diamonds, food, vacations… the list goes on and on.  However, when it comes to our home, do we really give it enough consideration?  Our home is where we spend a great deal of our time.  Our home is also our most personal possession.  It may very well reflect almost everything we do in our most personal times.  The quality of our homes could very easily parallel the quality of our lives. Simply stated, “if you don’t like going home, how happy can you possibly be?” However, if home is a place where you would rather stay, then you really have something.  Shouldn’t your home be your favorite place to be?

If you don’t like how much something cost, what are you supposed to do?

A- Change your taste so something cheaper will suffice. B- Save your money so you can afford what it is that you really want C- Squeeze your master builder to the point that you can afford to get what you want at the expense of him or someone else….

Design + Build: Marriage

Design + Build: Marriage - Featured Image

Editor’s note:You can now follow @SteveLazar on Twitter!

Funny I should say marriage. But to some degree, the relationship between the client and the master builder is a marriage of sorts. It also has an analogy to becoming pregnant. But I will save that for another post. I am married. For almost 20 years… and yes, to the same person. 4 awesome, yet exhausting little offspring, add even more chaos to the mix. Back to the point. The homeowner and team, whether a DESIGN / BUILD team or an architect and accomplice needs to be anchored in trust, communication, and equal vision.

Just like a marriage. My guess is, the more the merrier, adds inherent conflict, and will probably not work out. Less is more. Trying to decide to go to the movies is never simple in my family. The easy solution is ask them if they would like to join us for a family movie or would you rather mommy and I go to movies and you guys get a babysitter? The choice is simple and clear-cut.

Design + Build

Design + Build - Featured Image

Editor’s note: Design + Build is a new series by Steve Lazar, owner and operator of Lazar Design/Build, focusing on aspects of the profession usually left unsaid.

Look up the word ARCHITECT in the dictionary and there is the typical Latin root of the word and other roots of the word, but essentially it says nothing more than MASTER BUILDER. Your architect or master builder will head your process in the proper direction. Let’s call the “point man”, the “go to guy”, or the “solution.” Whatever he is referred as, it is imperative that your chain of communication is with one and only one person to eliminate confusions today, tomorrow, and in the future. There is an inherent challenge to the standard relationship between the homeowner, the architect, and the builder. There are three different entities, all with possibly different goals or objectives.

Home owner:         budget

Architect:                creation

Builder:                   conflicted

Who is the client? Is the home owner? Is the architect?  If the builder is hired by the home owner than of course the home owner is the client.  Typically, this is the standard relationship. However, the builder also has some allegiance to the architect, and this is where things can start to get conflicted.  The builder is caught in a pickle between two different entities with possibly two different goals.  If budget is not a consideration than there is no conflict.  In 20 years of designing and constructing custom homes, I have never been bound by some sort of budget.