You, your house and the architect


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A house is built in successive stages: in order to speed up the progress of your building site (the final cost of your construction depends on it), your architect can assist you in each of the stages, either as part of his normal mission as project manager, or because you entrust him with additional missions that will be specified in the contract that you will sign.

If he draws up the house plans and takes care of the construction himself, you sign a contract with him for the construction of a detached house with the supply of plans.

Your building site (architect) will only be able to open under 3 conditions:

  • you have verified that your land is constructible
  • you have obtained the loan(s) needed to buy the land (if you are not the owner), to build the house (including various connections) and, finally, to pay the architect’s, surveyor’s and other fees…
  • you have obtained the loan(s) needed to buy the land (if you are not the owner), to build the house (including various connections) and, finally, to pay the architect’s, surveyor’s and other fees…
  • you got your building permit

It is also in your interest to include suspensive conditions concerning the study of the planning certificate or the obtaining of the building permit.

Conditions precedent, included in a contract, prevent its execution until they are fulfilled.

The exploratory phase
In principle, it should be carried out by the client, i.e. yourself.

It requires a certain number of steps.

If you wish, your architect can assist you with a “special assignment” that you will specify in his contract.

1 – Is your land constructible?

This is the land you own or for which you have signed a purchase commitment: .

Apply for a planning certificate:

Four copies of the planning certificate application must be sent by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt to the town hall of the commune where the land is located.

It must be obtained within a maximum period of 2 months.

It is your request if you are the owner of the land, and it is your seller or his notary who will provide it if you sign a promise of sale.

It is in your best interest to obtain this document which will specify, if your land is constructible, the possible administrative easements (expropriation project, alignment rules, renovation perimeters) and the town planning provisions to be respected:

  • permissible density
  • height
  • outer appearance
  • destination
  • location in relation to neighbours and roads
  • authorisation, if necessary, to demolish existing buildings
  • classification in a protected, classified or safeguarded area .

Find out if there are any private easements on your property that would be detrimental to your project:

  • right of drawdown or right of way
  • citizenship constraint
  • view easement on neighbouring propertiesunspecified property limits requiring boundary action
  • building ban,
  • etc

Make sure that your land is “technically” constructible:

  • verification of the subsoil: if your town planning certificate informs you that you are located in a risk zone (unstable subsoil for example), your building permit application file must be accompanied by a geological study which will specify the precautions to be taken.
  • serviced lot: connection to sewers, roads, water, electricity, gas and telephone supply
  • Check whether or not your land is subject to land clearing legislation.

If your land is included in a subdivision, your promise to sell or contract of sale must include:

  • a clause indicating that the subdivision order and the specifications have been handed over: you must not make any payment to your seller before being in possession of this order
  • the allotment by-law and the specifications specifying the distribution between the different owners of the specifications concerning the common parts of the allotment, as well as the administrative, town planning and private law easements concerning the allotment
  • a clause indicating that has been delivered to the seller, as the case may be :
  •  a certificate of completion of all the work imposed on the developer; only the execution of the finishing work (road surfacing, sidewalk layout) may be deferred, provided that the developer has been authorized to do so.
  • the order authorizing the sale of the lots before all or part of the works, provided that the developer proves a bank guarantee of completion of the works.

2 – Your funding opportunities

To finance the purchase of the land (if you do not own it), the construction of your house or the completion of conversion work, you may need to take out several loans:

  • State-assisted loan, if your income does not exceed a certain amount;
  • Agreed loan, if the cost of construction does not exceed a fixed price per m2 ;
  • Interest-free loan ;
  • Building-savings loan, if you have opened a plan or a passbook account

They allow you to obtain most of the capital you need.

  • Don’t neglect the smaller loans that you may be entitled to and whose rates are often advantageous: 1% housing loan, civil servant loan, departmental loans, pension fund or executive loans…
  • If you are not entitled to any of these regulated loans or if you need an additional loan, find out about the loans granted by the banks and the rates offered by each of them; the differences can be significant from one institution to another.

The characteristics of these loans are very diverse: constant or progressive monthly payments, fixed or variable rates. You can obtain information from your local Housing Information Agency (ADIL).

Don’t forget that your financial commitment is spread over many years and that it must be compared with the foreseeable evolution of your resources.

If your income does not exceed a ceiling, some loans allow you to benefit from a personalised housing aid or housing allowance which reduces your repayment charges. But the amount of this aid is not constant: it can be revised annually, upwards or downwards, and varies according to the composition of your family and the evolution of your income.

If your architect is convinced that you do not have enough money available for the work you are planning, he must inform you of this.

Preparing your building permit application file
Based on the above information, your architect can start working.

During the design period that follows, your dialogue should be ongoing so that the chosen party is an expression of your needs, tastes and financial possibilities.

1 – Preliminary studies and the preliminary design

If you are planning to build a house, your architect will study with you:

  • your land: its location, its environment, its topography, the characteristics of its subsoil, the easements attached to it
  • the climate
  • what you need and what you want…

If you’re planning to convert a house, a workshop, a barn…

Your architect must first examine the condition of the premises:

The extent of the work and its cost depend on it.

The combination of these different pieces of information allows your architect to make one or more proposals that are called “preliminary design”.

After the sketch phase, which gives an initial idea of what your house could be and what it will cost you, the purpose of the preliminary design is to specify the general conception of the project: it is made to be modified at your convenience; it is at this stage of the design that you will determine a general part on which your architect will be able to refine his project.

It is on the basis of the preliminary design that you have chosen that the architect can move on to the next stage, the “final preliminary design”.

2 – The final preliminary project

Your building permit application file will be studied from the final preliminary draft: the sketch at this stage, therefore, becomes a much more precise proposal.

The final preliminary draft includes :

  • a plan for integrating the house into the site: scale 2 mm/m
  • a ground plan of the construction: scale 5 mm/m
  • a plan of the different levels: scale 1 cm/m
  • details about materials, roofs, colours,
  • built-up areas
  • an overall estimate of the cost of the work The building permit

1 – The building permit is compulsory

  • for all new construction
  • for all new construction
  • or to change the purpose of the building (barns or workshops transformed into housing)
  • either to modify the facade or the volume of the building
  • either to create additional levels or areas

2 – Steps to be taken and investigation of the file

Your architect gathers, on your behalf, all the documents necessary to submit your application:

  • the final draft
  • son identité et la votre
  • the legal situation and the surface of the land
  • permission to clear land if necessary
  • permission to demolish existing buildings if necessary
  • the financing envisaged
  • if you don’t own the land, the identity of the owner.

The file is sent, by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, to the mayor of the municipality in which your house will be located (generally in four copies or more depending on the town).

As a general rule, you will receive a response from the administration within 2 months from the date on which you will have received the acknowledgement of receipt from the services informing you that your file is complete (approximately 15 days after you have sent them the file).

The acknowledgement of receipt from the administration specifies the time required for the investigation: it can be a maximum of 6 months if your land is located in a listed site.

Your architect is familiar with the regulations and administrative practices: by personally following the investigation of the file, by immediately providing the missing documents and by bringing without delay the details requested by the town hall or one of the requested services (EDF, Departmental Direction of Agriculture…), he will considerably speed up the procedure for obtaining your permit.

Once the building permit has been obtained, your architect will proceed with the detailed design project which will enable him, on your behalf, to consult the companies.

The opening of the building site

1 – The detailed design project

You are now at the final stage of the design; the detailed project that the architect submits to you includes all the elements that will allow the companies consulted to make you precise offers.

The detailed design project includes :

  • plans, sections, and elevations made at a scale of 1 or 2 cm/m
  • a detailed descriptive estimate
  • an indicative work schedule by trade

2 – Consultation of companies

Your contact is :

  • either a sole contractor who will be responsible for the entire construction, subcontracting part of the work to specialized companies; he is then solely responsible for the proper execution of the contract; or
  • or several companies: masons, roofers, plumbers, painters… Each company is responsible for the proper execution of the work you have entrusted to it.

Whatever the formula you choose, your architect has the duty to advise you in the choice of the company:

  • verifying the necessary qualifications and professional guarantees
  • he studies, as a specialist, the quotes she offers you.

Your architect is required by the Professional Code of Duties to inform you of any personal ties he or she may have with a company.

3 – Contracting: business contracts or contracts for the supply of a single-family house without supplying the plan

The architect may also be contracted to carry out the entire construction.

  • If only one company takes care of the entire construction, you will sign a “contract for the construction of a single-family house without plans” with this company.

This contract is regulated; a number of clauses are mandatory and the contractor is obliged to provide you with a guarantee of delivery at the agreed price and on time.

  • If several companies are involved in the construction, but one main company is at least in charge of the structural work, the air and water drainage (walls, roof, installation of frames and windows): you will sign a “contract for the construction of a detached house without providing a plan” with it, and with each of the companies involved after the air drainage (plumber, electrician, heating engineer, etc.), a “company contract” lot by lot.

If several companies are involved in the construction and none of them is in charge of the structural work, water and air removal, you sign a “contract of enterprise” lot by lot with each trade (mason, roofer, plumber, electrician …).
The work contract is very little regulated and requires particular vigilance on your part. You can refer to the NF P-3-001 standard drawn up by AFNOR to draw up your contract.

Clauses to be included in all company contracts:

  • the nature and scope of the mission you entrust to the company
  • precise and detailed specifications and execution plans by trades
  • an indication that the company is well insured for professional liability
  • the C.T.T. price and any revisions; if they are planned, the index according to which they will be calculated
  • a schedule for carrying out the work by trade
  • the precise staggering of payments, according to the progress of each category of work
  • the time limit for starting work and a deadline for completion, with penalties to be paid by the company in the event of delay
  • the time limit for carrying out the work to repair the defects that appeared upon acceptance of the works
  • a holdback of 5% of the total price, which guarantees you, if the defects appear at the time of acceptance of the work or during the first year thereafter, that the repairs will be carried out :;

The retainer will be returned to the company 1 year after acceptance, provided that it has carried out the repairs;
if the company is in default, the client may lodge a duly motivated objection by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt.
The 5% withholding may be replaced by a bond from an approved financial institution.

  • a clause providing for a condition precedent regarding the obtaining of your loans
  • the possibility, if the repairs are not carried out, of using another firm at the expense of the defaulting firm
  • the management of a pro rata account allowing the companies’ accounts to take charge of the hazards of their events
  • the possible application of late penalties in the event of failure to respect the schedule

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