Why hire an architect?

I had a potential client come to me last week, elevations and plans in hand.  They wanted to know how much I would charge to provide a package for permitting and construction similar to the drawings they brought from the internet.  I let them know I would provide a proposal the next day.  In looking through the pages they left me, I noticed the price for the complete set of “constructable” drawings is $1450.  There is no way I can possibly do a complete set of drawings for that price.  Just, no way.  So, I wrote the proposal and sent it off, thinking they won’t be coming back anytime soon.   I provided a bare minimum price which was many times more than the $1450 (which amounts to less than two days’ work). 

Let me provide a parable that may help in clarifying this situation:

Pretend your objective is to take a cruise to your desired destination.  At the docks, you have your choice of cruise liners.  Ship A, fueled and ready to go, costs $1,000 a ticket.  Ship B, also fueled and ready to go, costs only $500 a ticket.  I don’t know about you, but I would go with Ship B thinking I got a tremendously good deal… and that would be correct for the first half of the trip.  But Ship B only has enough fuel to get half of the way there.  They are certainly not going to tell you about their lack of sufficient fuel and will likely tell you they have everything well in hand.  Of course, you’d save $500 if you took Ship B, but you would also end up sitting out in the ocean awaiting rescue instead of safely at your destination.  Eventually, you would end up spending a lot of time and money, yet never reaching your desired destination.   

In the situation of my potential client, the $1450 plans may be a tremendously good deal, but they were not the desired outcome.  They would need to be changed to fit the existing conditions of the site, the city’s ordinances, codes, and any number of other desired/required changes.  Shortcuts with construction can send you, very quickly, back to square one.

Here’s the final question:  Will you arrive painlessly, on schedule at your planned destination?  Or will you find yourself in the middle of the ocean waiting for the Coast Guard, wishing you’d made a better decision?