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 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. 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.
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 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 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.