Meet In-House Architectural Draftsman Jason Halverson

IF YOU’VE BUILT WITH US IN THE PAST EIGHT YEARS, CHANCES ARE YOU’VE WORKED WITH OUR ARCHITECTURAL DRAFTSMAN JASON HALVERSON. HE’S BEEN AN INVALUABLE ASSET EVER SINCE HE CAME ON BOARD, DESIGNING SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING AND UNIQUE HOMES IN THE ROCHESTER, MN AREA. ‘CUSTOM’ HAS A WHOLE NEW MEANING WHEN WORKING WITH JASON.

Word has spread about his work, though, so his days are *extremely* busy… but we got lucky and found a few minutes to sit down with him and hear his stories from a career in architecture. For this one, we thought the best way to show you what Jason thinks was to let you hear it for yourself. Put your headphones in and scroll down to hear his opinions on home-building, the Rochester market, and why North House by R. Fleming is a step above the competition!

[Above] Jason Halverson, North House by R. Fleming’s Architectural Draftsman

WHAT DOES THE TERM ‘CUSTOM HOME’ REALLY MEAN? – [CLICK FOR AUDIO]

“A lot of people think they’re going to go to a builder and they have a model and they’ll be able to customize it, and change things here and there – which is a custom home. We’re customizing a home to the way you want to live, which we do a lot of. A lot of people have a hard time visualizing what a house would look like from a blank sheet of paper, and it scares a lot of people, so they’ll go off a house we’ve already done or a model house, where they can see the rooms, feel the sizes, and then they might say ‘I want a closet here, I want to change the way this lays out,’ but they can still have a visualization of what that room’s going to feel like. I’d say 80 percent of people go that route because it’s an easier fit for them.

A total custom house, which is where we’ll be the best fit for our clients, is a blank sheet of paper. You tell me your wants and your needs, how many bedrooms you want in the house, maybe some Pinterest ideas, and I’m designing something that’s a one-of-a-kind house. NO one’s ever touched it. You’ll have something that’s not like anybody else’s house. Those are obviously the funnest projects for me to work on, but it’s a lot of blind faith that they have to have, you know, that their vision is being accomplished through my design. But that’s a total custom, where a lot of builders just can’t offer that to people. The only [other] route you can get that is going through an architect, hiring an architect to design your house, but then you’re going to drop $60-80,000 in fees, where that’s a service we offer to our clients as part of our process.

HOW DID YOU GET HERE? – [CLICK FOR AUDIO]

“After I graduated college, I worked for probably four or five different architectural firms – commercial firms, residential firms, mechanical – trying to find out which area of the industry I wanted to stay in. I did commercial for about two years, where you’re working on schools or hospitals, but it’s like, I was stuck on one hospital for a year and a half…. and that’s how long those projects take. I soon found out my passion was in residential. I’ve always loved the residential side. You don’t need to be a licensed architect to do residential, and I had all the CAD experience and knew all the software, so I worked with a local guy for about a year and then I partnered with him. We had a partnership where we owned a company and did residential design. Then 2008 happened.

Everything closed down, so I went a different avenue and started doing sales in the building industry, and about three years later I came back and reopened my own company, Drafting Design Studios, and started doing design work again. At that point, R. Fleming reached out to me to start designing houses for them, and about six months later they reached out about coming on board with them and overseeing the construction of their houses, being more of an exclusive designer, because they saw the designs they were able to get were different than anyone else. They didn’t want to share the same design style with all the other builders, so they saw the opportunity to kind of be a special niche in the market. 

I did that for a while with them… and then, you know, Bob is pretty much semi-retired, and I stepped into those shoes, and now I’m overseeing all construction. You start with me from the beginning of design, and you’re with me through construction. I oversee everything all the way to the end. You’re working with the same guy from start to finish, which is something that’s not normal in this industry.

WHAT CLIENTS SHOULD KNOW BEFORE THE FIRST MEETING? – [CLICK FOR AUDIO]

“Homework, up front. A lot of times, they can get frustrated with the timeframe it takes to design a total custom home from scratch. So, if they’re just saying ‘oh, we want four bedrooms,’ this and that, and I’m doing it maybe the way I would design my personal house or the way I think it is… it might not be the way they envisioned it. So if they have a wants and needs list, or some kind of vision of how they want it to lay out, it’s going to make my job way easier.

Whether it’s like, ‘hey, we want a great room towards the back of the house, and it to be all glass,’ or ‘we want the flow to work like this or that,’ any kind of input they can give me – doesn’t have to be a floor plan, just the way they want their home to flow and function – is going to make my job a lot easier, because I’m trying to capture their vision, but I’m not in their head to know what that looks like. I’m trying, through their words, to put it on paper.”

[Above] Example of a custom floor plan designed by Jason.

WHY DOES AN IN-HOUSE DESIGNER WORK BETTER THAN HIRING A THIRD-PARTY ARCHITECT TO DESIGN MY HOUSE? – [CLICK FOR AUDIO]

“Let’s say you want to build a $600,000 house. In-house, I’m going to be designing your house to fit your budget – so if you show me a million-dollar floor plan that you wanted to imitate, I’ll tell you flat out that you’re not going to be able to get all that, because your budget is 600 – so we have to cut out this and that, get to a certain square footage, and style to meet your budget.

A lot of people that fall into this same category will outsource, go to another draftsman that’s in town, because you know, builders use the same pool of three or four draftsmen that are available. They’ll design your house the exact way you want it, you’ll bring it back to a builder, they’ll bid it out, and your budget – that was $600,000 – is now $750,000 or 800,000. So you’re instantly frustrated… you’ve wasted two, three, sometimes six months of your time to get a plan designed that’s now $200,000 over budget, that you can’t even build. You spent all that time and money and effort to basically design a pretty picture that you can do nothing with.

Doing it in-house, I handle all the pricing. I get all the bids, I gather everything and do all the numbers, so I have a really good feel of the market and what things cost. When I’m designing, I’m keeping that all in mind, so when we get the pricing back, it’s not going to be something that’s going to deteriorate and make you upset that you wasted time or didn’t come to anything that you could afford.”

[Above] Front elevation of a custom home Jason Halverson designed

WHY THE FIRST MEETING IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT (AND FUN) MEETINGS OF THE WHOLE PROCESS – [CLICK FOR AUDIO]

“You get the drawing in front of you, and I have you come in and we make a night of it. We have beer and pizza, and we’re having my AutoCAD right up on the big screen in front of you. We’re designing the house together. I’m pushing and pulling walls, going through different scenarios of how different rooms could lay out. Maybe you want to see a bathroom a different way, I do it, and you’re like ‘never mind, I don’t like it.’ We undo it, and we’re really doing it together, so you feel like you’re a part of the design process – not just ‘I have to do what this guy’s idea was.’ No! We’re using your ideas and my ideas. 

We’re collaborating together. When you leave that meeting, which will save you months of time going back-and-forth, you’ll leave with excitement that ‘this is my house,’ and you’ll feel like this was you. Even though I was pushing the buttons and moving the mouse, you designed that house for yourself, so you’re going to feel like it was a total custom design.” 

WHY JASON FEELS AT HOME AT NORTH HOUSE BY R. FLEMING  – [CLICK FOR AUDIO]

“I’ve always wanted to build houses. The hardest part of being an architectural designer is that you design the house and kind of move on from there. You never get to see the finished product, unless you really just drive around to every house you ever designed. So, to be able to, from the ground up, be a part of the whole process, that’s the direction I always wanted to go. So R. Fleming was an awesome fit. They saw it, I saw it – it was going to be a perfect career path for both of us to go.

It helped me in the way of being able to understand the construction side more, and the pricing. That’s the hard part, even from school – they teach you about the basics, but until you go out to the job site and see how it’s actually built… now you understand how things should be drawn, because the framer on-site is going to look at your plan and either going to hate you or appreciate you, based on the way you’re designing things and how they go together. So seeing things actually being built on site makes it easier to know how things actually go together in the real world, to design it too – which will save the customer money if you’re making things not as complicated. 

THE VERSATILITY OF NORTH HOUSE BY R. FLEMING – [CLICK FOR AUDIO]

“We’re a very versatile builder, to the point where we don’t just build million-dollar houses. WE don’t just build $500-600,000 houses. We can build you a house whether your budget is $500,000 or $5 million. What we pride ourselves on is… you’re not getting a different crew. You’re not getting the A, B, or C crew depending on the house you do. Whether it’s a $5 million house or $500,000 house, that’s your top dollar. Typically, when you’re building a house, that’s your all-in budget – so why should it be any less of a quality home because you’re not spending $500,000 or $5 million? You’re getting the same crew no matter what. 

We use the same guys, the same quality, the same warranty, and that’s what I think we offer differently than everyone else, that we’re seeing different, because now we’re getting all ends of the market. That’s why we’re building so many houses now, because we can fit everyone’s needs – whether you’re doing the multi-million route or if you’re just getting into a first home, a starter, entry-level home.

We’ll fit your bill, basically.”

To hear more from Jason, check out our other blogs – featuring insider information on how to navigate the Rochester, MN home market, client testimonials, and behind-the-scenes looks into how we do our job every day.

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