How to Get Started

While designing and building a custom home is a process foreign to most people; it isn’t complicated.  It can be harrowing and stressful, and demanding of your time.  But the end result is a home that exactly matches your needs and dreams.  Engaging a professionally licensed architect can help you save time, and money, and improve the final outcome.

Begin the process by evaluating the space in which you currently live.  Identify what you like and don’t like, and decide which things you want and don’t want in your new surroundings. Take note of features of other homes you admire.  

When hiring an architect, carefully examine their credentials. Unlike “designers,” “draftsmen,” or “home plan experts” who do not have to have any specific education or licenses, a registered architect must complete a rigorous course of professional study in an accredited program to earn a degree, complete a three-year internship with a registered architect, and pass the eight-part Architect Registration Exam before they are deemed certifiable.

The most common mistake we see homeowners make is allowing the builder to produce their home plans.  What you don’t know (until it’s too late) is that when the builder produces the drawings, he owns them. This means the homeowner has no control of over costs or subcontractors, and can’t even get a second opinion on the plans.

The second thing you should do, as you interview qualified registered architects, is start by asking questions about their background, past projects, current projects, and the specific services they provide as well as the costs of these services. You should also ask about viewing completed projects and doing a walk-through of them, as well as requesting a list of references.

Finally, thanks to the Internet, it’s not essential that your architect live in the city where you plan to build, but you should be prepared for at least three face to face meetings during the process. Sharing images and plans electronically and meeting with video calls not only keeps everything on track, but is incredibly efficient for busy homeowners.

Hiring an architect before you begin building a custom home is one of the smartest, most cost-effective choices you’ll ever make. Your architect will not only help you envision your dream home, she will also be an advocate whose only allegiance is to you. As I tell every one of my clients: It’s your money, your time, your home, and my job is to ensure you get the most out of all of them!

If you like this post, you might also enjoy viewing our virtual reality model of a new project here.

Lisa Saldivar