Designing your dream home is the biggest investment you’ll ever make—and not just in terms of money. You could have bought stock house plans, but instead you are building a physical object that embodies all the love, happiness and hopes you have for your family’s future. So you want to do it right.

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 a home that shows the world who you really are. But if you’ve never worked with an architect or custom builder before, it can be hard—or nearly impossible even—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, and at worst, architects are seen as touchy artists who can only be hired for billions of dollars. On the flip side, people often think of a builder as the worker bee—some guy in 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. There are excellent designers and communicators in both professions and oftentimes the fees they charge—which might be more comparable than you think—will pay for themselves in project efficiencies. But singing the praises of both doesn’t help you decide which to work with.

Gathering the team — custom builder, architect, interior designer, landscape architect, and other key players — before the project even starts can help ensure everyone is on the same page and help avoid surprises.

Budgets are a large consideration as well…

To help you figure out who should draw up the blueprints for your dream house, let’s take a look at what the differences really are 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.

Although the draftsperson your custom builder employs to finalize your plans and ensure they are up to code may use the same design software as an architect, including but not limited to AutoCAD, in most cases he or she will not be a licensed architect.

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.

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.

What an Architect Could Bring to a DIY 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 tours an architect’s office then sits down with him, holds out a faucet and says, “Design a house around this,” you know that an architect is also a creative problem solver.

If you need a design that suits a difficult site or to make sure your house is the greenest building in the state, you might want to hire an architect. And some people really enjoy the prestige of being able to say they own a home designed by so-and-so.

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.

Sometimes architects will outsource some of the design work and bill it to the client. Mechanical engineers, landscape architects, interior architects and kitchen designers quickly add to the price of home design. “These individuals are, quite honestly, doing some of the architect’s job,” says Rial Jones, president of Jones Clayton Construction in Orlando, Fla. “Truthfully, if you get all of these professionals involved, the end project is better. But the home-owner is paying X number of dollars per hour to design this when they thought they had already paid for that in the design of the drawings.”


Next Steps

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.

To see floor plans from a home builders who has been designing custom homes for over 60 years, Click Here.