Whose First – Architect or Custom Home Builder?
Before you build your custom home, build a one-of-a-kind team.
When you set out to build your dream home, hundreds of decisions have to be made, but none is more important than who you hire to design and build it.
But who do you hire first? You could probably argue either the architect or the builder. From our perspective (we’re builders), the answer is both.
Teamwork And Synergy Are The Keys To Success
Intuitively, it would seem that the architect comes first, designing the home and turning over the plans to a builder to execute. But anyone that has ever gone through a custom home build knows that design changes are part of the process as the best-drawn plans meet the reality on the ground. This can lead to unnecessary delays and expense, as well as compromises in the client’s vision for their custom home.
The best builds happen when the architect and builder are engaged as a team from the start. You want to have a team that works well together, a team that gets along, and preferably a team that has done successful projects together in the past.
When there is team synergy, projects successfully flow naturally. They are enjoyable to build for everyone. The clients’ goals and aspirations are fulfilled, and the home is exactly what they envisioned it would be.
How Do You Hire A Builder And Architect At The Same Time?
The first step is to find architects and builders who are up to the task. Ask your friends whom they hired. Look at high-end home magazines – what local companies advertise? Who is active in your area? Whose signs do you see on projects under construction? Are those projects well-kept and active?
Most important, look at their portfolio of work. Have they done projects in the scale and scope of your custom home? Even better, have they done custom homes in your preferred style?
Once you have your list of viable architects and builders you would like to consider, set up interviews with them. Do you trust them? Does the personality match the reputation? Do you like them? After all, you’re going to be working closely with them for months or years, so it’s important that you feel a certain chemistry…a good fit.
As you gather names and complete interviews, certain names will rise to the top. These are the names you hear from multiple sources. Ask your short list what architects/builders they would choose? Who do they think are the best in the area? What do they like about them? Have they worked together before?
It’s not imperative that they have worked together, but that goes a long way to creating the teamwork and synergy you’re looking for. If they haven’t worked together, be sure they have a mutual respect for each other and recognize the benefits of collaboration. That is the key to ensuring the architectural design comprehends constructability concerns raised by the builder… prior to breaking ground.
The Power Of Collaboration
Architects and builders each bring valuable knowledge and insights to the table.
- Document your vision on paper in detailed plans and elevation drawings
- Applied knowledge from past designs
- Creative solutions to fulfill your vision
- Current with latest design trends consistent with desired architectural style
- Compliance issues with regard to deed restrictions, planning approvals, fire department issues, building permits, neighbor concerns, etc.
- Ability to translate your vision from architectural plans to fruition
- Proactive input (pre-construction phase) regarding design layout and features to avoid issues during build
- Ideas and lessons learned from previous homes
- Insight into the latest design and building trends
- Extensive knowledge of material and labor options, pricing, and availability
- Preliminary estimate of costs before plans are completed
- Best practices in building products and systems
- Knowledge of building & planning codes, fire department restrictions, PG&E and water district requirements, permitting processes, etc.
- Process control and regular progress reports and updates
Some Screening Tips
There are pitfalls in hiring architects and builders that should be avoided. Do they meet the following criteria:
- Are they professionals?
- Are they organized?
- Do they have systems and processes they follow and use successfully?
- Have they done the type of project you are envisioning?
- Are they humble or does their ego get in the way?
- Does their reputation precede them? Are they universally known for doing exceptional work?
- Are they fair?
In addition to in-person interviews, be sure to check all relevant outside sources, especially ratings and reviews, client testimonials, etc.
Once you have identified an architect and builder you would like to work with, and have confirmed they can work well together, hire them both – the architect to a design contract, and the builder for pre-construction services.
Having both on your team from day one assures you that the main team members – the owner, the architect, and the builder, are all on the same page regarding how the design was developed, why it was developed that way, and what the expected cost of the design is. Surprises are eliminated, and assumptions are minimized. This team will be together until the project is complete.
Take It From A Builder – You Need Both
There are those that will say a builder’s input is not required until the design is complete. We have a different perspective. Builders have a wealth of knowledge on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to building and maintaining a custom home. They have this knowledge because this is what they do day in and day out. Often architects are not involved in the pricing and cost accounting that goes into building a home. It is not their expertise. Rely on your experts in their area of expertise.
At Conrado, many times we are contacted by owners before they have interviewed or hired an architect. We then help them select the best architect for their project. It is in everyone’s best interests to put together the best team possible. We know many great architects and are very interested in meeting new ones.
So, give us a call. We’ll help you find the best team for your project.