Why You Need to Hire an Architect before a Contractor


You’re probably thinking this post will be a bit self-serving but I promise you that’s not the case. As an architect, I’m on your side and have no financial pull to give you anything but the best solutions for your design project.

The best first step in your journey to building your custom home is hiring the right architect. Why? The most important reason is control. You’ll have greater control of your custom home project when you hire an architect first.

Starting with an architect is also best for the others that come on board the team, such as your interior designer, landscape designer, and builder. Your architect becomes the point person that manages your project from beginning to end so there’s less room for miscommunication. Your architect is your advocate; protecting your interests throughout the entire process.

I’ll illustrate why this is so important with a story from our book, Dream Inspire Design.


Homeowner Mrs. Smith goes to open houses to see what she likes from local builders. She finds a builder she likes and sets a meeting. With a deposit from Mrs. Smith, this builder hires an architect to sit down with the client and produce some design drawings. Preliminary bids look good. The builder hires the architect to produce Construction Documents. The builder works up final costs and a contract.

After reviewing all of this Mrs. Smith hears a little voice in the back of her head: “How do I know this is a good price? I wonder what someone else would charge me. Does he use the best/cheapest/fastest subcontractors? Are all of the finishes and appliances what I am expecting?”

Mrs. Smith calls the architect: “Can I run this by another builder? I’m just not sure.”

Architect: “No.”

Mrs. Smith: “Why not? They are plans for my house.”

Architect: “Unfortunately the contract is between me and the builder. He owns the rights to the plans.”

Mrs. Smith: “But I paid him to pay you.”

Architect: “I know. Unfortunately you started off giving away your control.”

Always, always, always start with an architect. You, as the homeowner, want to own the plans. You want control through the entire process and that control starts with the ability to bid out the job. If your contractor produces the drawings or pays to have the drawings done he owns the plans. You will not have the right to bid or build with another contractor.


This story is unfortunately a common scenario. I want to help you to avoid making this mistake yourself!

If you're planning to start work on your dream home, 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