Ask the Architect

‘Are we just unlucky?’


Q. We just bought a house, and this has been a real test of our marriage. We have so many things to do, and both of us are hoping to keep our jobs. Money we had planned to use for the work may have to be put toward food instead. We’re very nervous, and wonder whether a chunk of money is going to have to go for permits we were told we wouldn’t need. Now we find out that even our patio repair, our new central air conditioning unit and insulating the attic need a permit. We’re wondering who to trust. Nobody involved in the house sale or who gave us estimates told us about this. Is this common? Are we just unlucky?

A. I have so much admiration for schoolteachers when it comes to the patience they must have in dealing with all the different personalities they must reach and try to shape into responsible members of our communities. Not only do people learn differently, they also communicate differently, and choose what to communicate based on varying degrees of what’s in it for them. I sometimes wonder if it was a good thing that my parents instilled that “honesty is the best policy” because of the number of people who didn’t want to hear the truth, tell the truth or communicate the truth.
Many have stated to me in their daily business dealings that what they don’t know won’t hurt them, but eventually it actually can hurt them. I started writing this column after all the times I witnessed people who were being misled or out-and-out “burned” as consumers. Sadly, the truth hurts, and I’ve also often tried to warn people that they probably won’t get away with things they thought they could sneak by officials. Some people are trusting, but many are willing to take their chances, and they move on to work with others willing to happily misguide them.
As I have done many times in my career, I drive by projects where I told the owners they wouldn’t get all that they wanted, and as expected, the built project is missing the building parts that never would have passed. One client, for example, insisted they owned the waterway behind their home and could build over it. The section of the home that would have protruded out over the waterway was never built when the rest of the home was constructed. It was no surprise, just a disappointment, because they didn’t want to hear the truth, and whoever did the planning led them down a garden path to a dead end. When this happened, I wonder if they had a lot of aggravation, or simply accepted the truth and moved on.
Now you will need to select someone you can trust to warn you of pitfalls, verify by calling code officials, and possibly do things in phases that may cost more than doing it all together. Good luck!

© 2021 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.