Q&A With Your Custom Home Architect: How Can I Match My Vision With My Budget?

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Thinking about building your dream home? The first step in your journey is to hire the right architect. Your architect will guide your project, managing the process from design concept to construction. The right architect will also help you make the most of your budget; so that you get the home you desire with no surprise costs at the end.

The first meeting you have with your architect is the time to discuss your ideas for your dream home and your budget range. This first meeting is such an important step that I’ve written a short guide to help you get an idea of what happens, what to bring with you, and how you and your architect can get the most from this initial meeting.

What to Bring to Your First meeting with Your Architect

It’s impossible to bring the wrong thing to your first meeting with your architect. Your ideas are the right thing. The most helpful thing you can do before you meet with your architect is to know what you want – at least kind of.

Your important contribution to the design process is to have things as clear in your mind as possible. Take your time getting ready for this first meeting. And remember, you are meeting with an architect; anything that you bring in picture form is appreciated. Some architects are gifted both verbally and graphically, but it is true that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Make a computer file and bring your tablet to share, clip magazine ads that show a staircase you love (even though the ad is for soap) and definitely bring pictures of what you are expecting the exterior to look like.

It is perfectly acceptable to not have all the answers. Actually, it can be quite helpful if some of these things are fluid. Be prepared to discuss these things:

Square Footage

Think about the way you live in your current home. Is it currently too small or are you looking forward to downsizing? Do you need certain areas to be larger? Think about how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need as well as what type of space you need for entertaining. Do you need a dining room? As you consider square footage, think also about your budget. Larger usually means more expensive, but that is complicated.

Site Selection

It is best if you have a site in mind. It is impossible to quote a project without knowing basic site info. It may also be best if you haven’t actually purchased the property in case the home you want is not possible on the site. Consider how much home you can fit on the lot you’ve picked out. Look up setbacks and covenants to see how much distance there needs to be from your home to your neighbor’s.

Neighborhood covenants can be very important. They can govern anything from the style and size of the home to the exterior finishes and colors. If you’ve already bought a lot, your architect needs to know those rules before she can start designing.


You don’t have to have a hard number at this stage, a range will do. I need to know if you’re trying to get as much space as you can for a certain range or if you’re trying to keep the house smaller but want to use upgraded materials and finishes.


Don’t get hung up on names and definitions here, just show what appeals to you. Bring lots of pictures from all kinds of sources. If you like elements in your current home, bring pictures of them. The styles don’t have to all be the same, either. My job is to make all of the ideas come together into your house.

My most important job is to understand what you want. The clearer your communication is to me, the more accurately I can translate what you want into built form. After a meeting where we sit down and go over all your gathered information, I will write out and send you a proposal.

The proposal will include fee estimates, proposed timeline, and legal descriptions of what services will be provided. If your architect’s proposal looks good to you, then the real fun begins!

If you’d like to have a pdf copy of this resource and additional information on the custom home design and build process, download our book: "Dream Inspire Design". It's our FREE step-by-step guide through the design and construction process. That's what we do. We guide you through the custom home design and building process.

Already have a copy of our book? Learn about our 3-step process to building custom homes: LISTEN. PLAN. BUILD.

Lisa Saldivar