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Architectural controls: What are they and how do they impact my new home build?

Architectural controls are local mandates in an area that regulate certain elements in the design and construction of your home; generally used to maintain a cohesive and controlled aesthetic. The purpose isn’t to create a cookie cutter look but to ensure that the houses contribute to the overall look and quality of the area and community.

It is imperative that you know these before purchasing a lot to build your home. It is possible that it could not only limit or prevent the design and layout that you want, but often the guidelines can drive up the costs to the homeowners as well if not well understood in advance.

Some things that may be controlled are:

  • Style of house, as well as its size
  • Height and elevation, including if walkout levels are allowed or required
  • Roof slope and materials
  • Exterior materials and colours
  • Garages (detached, attached, bays, access to the garage/home)

For example, at one St. Albert neighbourhood, we are seeing the impact such controls have on the cost of a new home build.

In this particular project, the roof needs to be thoroughly thought out, as asphalt shingles are not permitted. Instead, the guidelines state cedar shakes, clay or metal tiles are the only material options. This means that costs associated with these materials need to be kept in mind, as some materials can cost as much as four times more than other commonly used options. This will quite obviously be reflected in the full project budget, and it’s beneficial to know in advance to make important budget decisions.

In the same situation, all homes in this particular community are required to have a walkout basement. While this also provides additional cost to the budget, it also means that your house will have this as part of the design. If you don’t want a walkout basement this obviously creates a compromise on your part.

If down the road you want to change colours on the exterior of your home or replace certain things, you will also need to get approval from the Community Association, which again doesn’t have to be a challenge, but should be known upfront.

Failure to comply with the controls will result in fines and ultimately changes to your home at your cost to fit the required mandates. This can be an expensive change and one best avoided by getting all plans approved before moving into construction.

It is obvious while driving through some of these communities that the houses are aesthetic and all maintain a high level of coherence, but still maintain their individual look. These controls also help the area and the houses within it perpetuate their property value.

It makes sense to ensure all due diligence is done prior to building or even purchasing a plot of land that has architectural controls in place. This isn’t to portray controls in a negative light, but rather to encourage potential clients to make sure that what they need and want is in alignment with the expectations and ordinances in place for that community.

A trusted advisor provides you with all the information you need to make informed decisions while going through the custom home building process. This means helping you understand the architectural controls in your area, if they are in place.

We work with the clients, homeowners' association, architects, engineers, designers and city planners in our planning phase before ever signing a construction contract to ensure that all of this is known and considered upfront.

If you have any questions or considerations on building or renovating your home, I’d love to talk to you and help you out.

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