This is in response to a questionnaire given to a previous customer by a potential customer. We are currently building the potential customers home.
Welcome to the Northwest! We made the journey out to the NW in 1979 from NJ, and never regretted it.
Our answers to your questions...
1. When was your house built? 2001
2. How did you find your builder? We had been looking for a few years at houses and properties for our "dream home," and in our search and explorations, whenever we saw a house that was "Wow!" we would try to talk to the owners if they happened to be outside, or the builder if it was under construction. We'd ask questions similar to yours, and amazingly most of these homes were built by Moceri. Years later when we had the right property, and managed to save enough for the new home, we had about 3 to 4 builders on our list of top builders from recommendations. We then interviewed these folks and two of them had very poor responses in just trying to setup a meeting (that ruled them out for us), and the other was Z Construction. We asked to see houses that each one has built, and never having had a house built before we had many other questions. By the time we were done with this whole process, there was absolutely no way possible that we could have gone with anyone else. I was intimidated by many of the Moceri houses, as many are the epitome of design and quality. I was convinced because of the wide variety of designs, and engineering challenges for many of these homes, that Moceri could build anything requested.
I have many quirks from what people say about me, so I'll spill my guts on a couple of them. My background is in art, engineering, and computing, so things have to be aesthetically just right, and the details need to be perfect. The craftsmanship of Moceri met and exceeded my standards as quirky as they were at times. The other big thing with me is that I have to like the personality of who I'm doing business with. Just recently I purchased a car and I did not care for the Bellingham dealer, so I went to the other dealers between here and Seattle, and ended up buying in Seattle (100 miles) because of the attitude of the dealer. Absolutely nothing to do with cost, just how I feel about who I give my business to. Paul Moceri and Robin Findley spent a phenomenal amount of time with us, and were always ready and available. Their team and the people they pull in are all the very best of the best.
3. How big is your home? Our house is 3400 square feet, which does not include one detached outbuilding. How long did it take to build? It took 11 months. Were there any delays or was your home finished when it was originally scheduled to be completed? Another quirk... We did not have or ask for a set schedule, as I wanted everything just right, and I didn't want any corners cut because of the pressure of a schedule. I told them this, and I also said that as long as there was constant progress, and no time periods where nothing was occurring I would be happy. In hindsight, a little delay here or there might have been a good thing, as so much happens during the construction of a house, and by my nature this was a stressful time, but also very fun and exciting.
4. Who designed your house? Tom Chambers. Was it done by an architect, a design service, or your builder? Tom Chambers is an architect, although we were not necessarily stuck on the idea that we had to use an architect. So this was similar to the selection criteria of the builder. We interviewed architects and a couple of design services that were recommended to us. Remember the art background? Well my wife, also has an art background, so the design was important to us. We looked at books and magazines for years and years, and saved multitudes of articles and pictures of house designs or details that we liked. If I met with Moceri earlier I could have eliminated this research from just viewing his portfolio and projects! Wow!
Anyhow, the design services seemed to have a very "cookie cutter' look and feel to their houses, ...nothing unique. And to top it of when I looked at some of the actual homes under construction I spotted some design errors that would be maintenance problems down the road. There were two or three architects whose designs we liked, determining a ballpark cost for their fees was frustrating and darn near impossible. They typically would say that their fee would be a certain percentage of the total cost, which did not sit well with me, since the more complex and the bigger the design, the more it would cost and the more they would get. As an example, if I used high quality fixtures versus low quality fixtures, this would increase the overall cost of the house and the architect would get more. Why should the architect get more?? So then we met Tom Chambers, who seems like he should be in Montana as he is more laid back personality wise. We hit it off, and he was willing to look at the ideas we collected over the years and not impose his ideas entirely on our house. Other than that, one of the other notable differences was that he had a set fee, and he said he would work as many iterations of the plans as need be until we were satisfied with the design. Additionally the property had several restrictive setbacks and he developed a floor plan we loved, and he pulled our satisfaction, and we are currently gearing up for a investment house and will be meeting with him shortly for this project.
5. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being relatively painless and 10 being extreme) how would you rate your stress level during certain key periods of your custom home building experience (i.e. design, production and building material selection, budgeting, change orders...)? Well on the Richter scale of 1 to 10, I would say that we started off with a pleasant 1 which quickly escalated to a 10. So remember you asked about my stress level during this time. I felt that I had to be involved, and this experience had to be a part of me. A lot happens during the building of a house, and I wanted to select materials, finishes, fixtures, etc., and I wanted to select the best for what I was willing to pay. So as these things come into play during various cycles of the project, I had to be ready with the answer or it could eventually hold the project up. So lots of decisions since I wanted to operate that way, and I also work full time in Issaquah. Then a short time after we started our project the stress magnified intensely when my father who lived one mile down the road passed away. He had just recently purchased the house he was in, and he had multitudes of construction projects all underway at the same time. From adding a 3 car garage, re-siding the entire house in industrial metal siding, removing and replacing the entire roof with a new design, moving interior walls, anew doc, and more. Yikes? So now we had two major projects going on at the same time. This I would not recommend.
6. How closely did you stay to your original budget? 1-5%, 6-10%, or way over the original amount? When we heard the original amount from Moceri, it wasn't overly shocking but we felt it was more than what we were willing to spend. This bid had everything we wanted, so it included all of the bells and whistles, so to lower the budget we eliminated most of those items, and kept the house design the same. Well as we progressed and when it came time to pick out those items, such as the heating system, instead of going with the lower budget plan of forced air heating, we went back to the original in-floor heat. You should really consider this if you haven't already. Then came time to pick out the vinyl windows. I just couldn't do that one also, so it went back to Marvin windows (wood on the interior, and clad on the exterior). Countertops were the same. So I would say that we actually were probably 1-5% within our original budget, and not the revised one. Everything that increased was primarily my doing by upgrading. Early in the project there was one encounter that was out of our control, and that was when they were digging a trench for the sewer line they hit major areas of rock. So they entailed bringing in some specialized machinery to deal with that.
7. If you had to do it all over again would anything change significantly? If I did it all over and I got the exact same result, I would still be delighted. If I changed anything, I would probably make the upstairs guest bathroom a foot wider.
8. Would you use your builder again? In a heartbeat. Second choice was not even close.
9. Would you recommend them? Absolutely, positively. Perhaps part of my liking them, is knowing that they, and all of their crew and subcontractors are also artisans and perfectionists in the quality of their work. The carpenters, tile-setters, etc. often had excellent suggestions that we incorporated into the finished product.
10. Would you consider allowing your builder to build your home if you were not physically present? That's a hard one for me, not because of the builder, but my hands-on personality. So this wouldn't be my 1st choice. But if I had to go this route, I know I could trust Moceri to do the job correctly, and raise the appropriate issues when need be. I also believe they have done a couple of projects in the mode already. For me I would ask that they e-mail me weekly digital pictures, and if they didn't have a digital camera, I would buy Paul or Robin an early birthday present of an inexpensive digital camera for this purpose.
What ever you decide, best of luck in your project, and next time you are in Bellingham we would gladly meet with you and show our house and answer any other questions if you are interested.