When It’s Time to Build Your Dream Home, Do You Find an Architect or Builder First?

When you build your dream home in Charleston, do you hire an architect or builder first?

If you are like most people, you only get one chance to build your dream home, so you want to get it right and have the process go as smoothly as possible. One variable that has a large effect on the end result is the professionals you choose to work with. You are entrusting them with your vision, your investment, and the place you will be calling home for years to come.

Many people will play a role in making your forever home a reality, but two of the biggest players are the architect and the builder. And while both are equally important to the success of the project, you might find mixed opinions about who you should hire first.

Why You Need Both an Architect and a Builder

Architects and builders work in the same industry, but fulfill different parts of the process. The former envisions a structure, designs it to meet your requirements, ensures the design meets all regulatory requirements, and prepares the detailed instructions on how to build it. These instructions are in the form of blueprints, or more appropriately, “construction documents.” They not only lay out the design of your home, they also estimate the cost of the material and labor needed to construct it.

Some builders offer design/build services, but the creation of a truly custom home, which is what your dream home will be, is best left to those whose primary focus is on design. An architect who is well-versed in construction in addition to design can be a real plus.

Who Should You Hire First?

It should come as no surprise that we recommend hiring your architect before the builder, since we are an architecture firm. However, there are other reasons than us just wanting to be picked first. Think about the actual process of building a custom home. The home can’t be built without having a plan, so it makes sense to find the person who will provide that plan first. Architects can also guide you to the appropriate builder—helping to remove that risk of hire from you. They presumably are well-acquainted with quality, local builders and can help you select the one that is most appropriate for your project and budget.

Chances are you have already put a lot of thought into what you’d like your dream to be and you are looking for someone who can turn your thoughts into blueprints. This is the personal part of creating your custom home, so it is important you work well with the architect you choose. Your builder needs to be knowledgeable, experienced, meticulous, and honest, and you certainly don’t want to strongly dislike the person who builds your home either, but that relationship will be less personal than the one you’ll have with the architect.

Many people contact a builder first because they are “building” something, then they ask the builder for recommendations on architects. Sometimes this works well, and sometimes it doesn’t. If you like one of the architects, you may feel obligated to use the builder who recommended them instead of asking for multiple bids and choosing which company to work with. Also, once building begins, it can be difficult to transition from the builder being a trusted advisor or consultant to them being the on-site contractor. Finding an architect first puts them in the advisory role, which they can maintain throughout the project.

Have a Builder Involved in the Planning Process

Hiring an architect first is usually the best way to go, but it can still be important to have a builder involved in the planning process for budgeting purposes. You don’t want to fall in love with an architect’s plans for your dream home only to discover it’s hundreds of thousands of dollars above your price range. Some architects are better at predicting the cost outcome than others, so ask the architect about his methods of cost control.

Contract with a builder as a consultant to review your plans and provide a rough estimate of what it will cost to build. If you enjoy working with the builder, encourage them to submit a bid for the actual project when the time comes. Or better yet, work with an architect who has experience in construction and can provide a cost estimate during the planning phase.

Is There Ever a Good Time to Hire a Builder First?

If you have an established relationship with a builder because you have built a home with them before, or someone you know has worked with them and highly recommends them, it might be better to select the builder first so you’ll already know who you’ll be working with during construction. If your builder knows your tastes, they may be able to recommend an architect who fits your needs. However, we still recommend you do your own due diligence when selecting your architect.

Blueprint for Success

Building your forever home is an exciting, and often stressful, experience. Having the right professionals in place will help alleviate some of that stress and ensure you end up with a home you can be proud of and enjoy for years to come.