Once you have your budget and financing nailed down, the next step is to find the right professional to help you create the blueprint for your dream home. But if you’ve never worked with an architect or custom builder before, it can be hard to know where to start.
The stereotypes don’t help. For many people, architects are the peacocks of the design world. At best, people imagine they bring an aloof beauty to a project with grand designs. At worst, architects are seen as touchy artists who can only be hired for an outrageous amount of money.
On the flip side, people often think of a builder as the worker bee—some guy in Carhartt jeans who works for cheap because he knows a lot about tools but not much about design.
But those stereotypes don’t give proper credit to either profession. Custom builders bring a wealth of on-the-job experience to a project’s design and architects are known for their skills at thinking outside of the box to find practical design solutions.
To help you figure out who should draw up the blueprints for your dream house, let’s take a look at the differences between a custom builder and an architect.
Advantages of a Custom Builder
Consider a custom builder a craftsman. He or she will often work from an existing set of plans that will then be tailored to your needs on land you own or are purchasing. This can make the process go faster than designing a house from scratch.
The customizations your custom builder offers can be small, including choosing colors and materials; or larger, like moving the kitchen to the other side of the house.
A custom builder is not the same as a production home builder who usually works by buying a large tract of land and subdividing it out into parcels. That type of builder will frequently offer a few options of plans and sets of finishes which allows him or her to build a large volume of similar houses all at once.
Instead, a custom builder works on a smaller scale. And although your dream home might be similar to other houses designed and built by the same company, you have the opportunity to make it uniquely your own.
Once you have agreed on a final design, a custom builder usually works with an established team of subcontractors to make your plan a reality.
What an Architect Brings to the Project
An architect is a designer who can help you envision a house that’s completely unique. If you’ve ever seen that commercial where the couple holds out a faucet and says, “Design a house around this;” you’ve got an idea that an architect is also a creative problem solver.
If you need a design that suits a difficult site, or want to make sure your house is the greenest building in the state; you might want to hire an architect. In addition, some people really enjoy the prestige of being able to say they own a home designed by a well known architect.
Architects are also highly-trained. Depending on the state an architect hopes to become licensed in, he or she must complete either a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Architecture. Then, most states require architects to complete an internship. Finally, to earn their license and the title “architect,” an intern architect must pass a comprehensive test that includes seven separate divisions lasting four hours or longer. This can mean upwards of eight years of higher education.
You can work with an architect on a wide range of projects from a remodel to a large-scale, multi-family home. If you decide an architect is the right partner for your building project, the American Institute of Architects offers a brochure to help you get started.
Take some time to think about your project and what you really want from a design. How important is it to you that your house is unlike any home ever built before? How much time do you want to spend in the design process before starting to build?
Once you’ve decided whether you want to work with a custom builder or architect, the next thing to do is find the right individual within that field. Ask friends and neighbors for referrals, visit online portfolios and project sites, and set up informational meetings with a few people.
Regardless of whether you choose to work with a custom builder or an architect, make sure you ask enough questions up front to know you’ve found a person you’ll enjoy working with, because you’ll be spending a lot of time together.
Look for someone with good listening skills who shares your vision for what your home should look like. Feel free to ask for references. Then, before you sign on the dotted line, check with your state to ensure your architect or custom builder is licensed in his or her field.
After that, you’re ready for the next step: finding the right team to transform your blueprints into a physical home. Both custom builders and architects should have a good network of people to work with if you don’t already have someone in mind.
Building your dream home is a huge investment and it will take some time. But if you’re working with the right person, you can start building great memories before you even move in.
Want to get a feel for the type of home that’s right for you in terms of size, rooms, amenities, and build time?
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