Who To Hire First: An Architect or A Builder?

Should I hire an architect or a builder first?

Starting a new home addition project can be nerve-wracking. With so involved in a project, homeowners may not know where to go first. This post covers who to call first when starting a home addition project: an architect, or a builder?

The short answer… neither. Let’s look at why.

John’s Problem

Let’s say John Smith is looking to start a home addition project. With two kids and a third on the way, the starter home he bought 10 years ago just does not have enough space and he really needs 2 more bedrooms. After months of careful research, he decides to add a level to his Ranch-style home. But now he’s presented with a dilemma. Who should he call first, an architect, or a builder?

Following a chronological order, John thinks he should call an architect to get his home addition underway. It makes sense that a good set of architectural drawings that detail every bit of the job is the first thing needed.

Architect First

Here is why going to the architect first is the wrong approach.

Architects are not estimators. Calling an architect to start a project raises a few issues. First, the architect does not have John’s budget in mind. An architect will design plans according to what John wants in his new addition, but that’s about it. And while the plans that an architect gives John may satisfy John’s wants, the job costs that the drawings reflect may be substantially higher than John’s budget. This is because architects are more interested in the pay they receive in exchange for the plans rather than if the plans are truly what the homeowner needs.

Now that John has a beautiful set of architectural drawings, he will now have to send them out to get quotes from multiple contractors in hopes they will return with costs that are compatible with his budget. After receiving bids that are much higher and sometimes almost double than expected, John will have to pay the architect again to scale the project back and hopefully to within his budget.

Going to A Builder First

On the other hand, John can go to a builder first. This, however, would not be efficient either.

Builders are not usually equipped, nor do they have the time to go over floor planning and design. After all, they are builders and not architects. Builders generally prefer having plans already drawn up so they can calculate costs for the job. A builder would give John an estimated cost without any details and leave John with no visual for the rough numbers in his cost evaluation.

In other words, the number he will give you without architectural drawings will not be accurate and the finished project will be left to John’s imagination.

What Homeowners Should Do

Most of you are probably thinking “okay but that still doesn’t answer the question…”, which is a correct path to take. The reason why John shouldn’t go to an architect or a builder before starting his home addition project is because John should be looking for a “design/build” company that offers both services of an architect and a builder under one roof. A design/build company will design John’s home addition according to his budget and he will get an accurate cost simultaneously, so he doesn’t have to deal with surprises or delays.

The Power of Design/Build

Design/build companies do exactly what they sound like they do. They design the project and then build it. This takes the hassle of working with an architect who may design projects with costs that are unrealistic, as well as a builder who does not deal with the project planning.

If John hires both the architect and builder separately and they are not compatible, this could cause a multitude of problems throughout the project that the homeowner will be caught in the middle of. Instead, John should find a company that offers design/build as a service. This saves John time and money and ensures that when the project is all said and done, he is happy with the investment he just made.

Don’t confuse this explanation as the be-all-end-all. John (or anyone in that matter) can call a builder then architect or vice versa. The reason we don’t recommend this is because a home addition project is a lengthy and sometimes strenuous process. Starting the process off with a design/build company increases the chances of a headache-free project by keeping the homeowner informed throughout the entire process from the beginning.

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