Hiring An Architect For Your Custom Home

When I first joined Carbon Architects back in 2018, I had little to no knowledge of the process of hiring an architect. Let me elaborate, I believed that the process would go like this:

  1. Hire an architect

  2. Have them help me find a site to build on

  3. Create plans in a matter of a few weeks

  4. Start the construction of my dream home with all my dream home detail requirements needed

  5. Move into my new home within a manner of a few months (thanks HGTV..)

Over the last few years, my appreciation for architects, designers, and contractors has grown immensely. In fact, the architectural process has a lot of details that need to be met before building even begins. This blog post will focus on hiring an architect for a residential project. We will discuss hiring an architect for a commercial project in a later post. Throughout this blog, I will touch on topics such as:

  • How to find the right architect for you

  • What you should have prepared before meeting your architect

  • What to be aware of when it comes to designing your project


There are very few architects that do every style or type of design. Similar to doctors, most architects specialize in a certain style or type of design. Some may specialize in only commercial buildings with a strong industrial focus. Other architects focus on only residential buildings with a focus on modern design. It is essential to research an architect’s website, observe their past designs, and see if it works with your taste. You should also set up interviews with several architects to see if they are the right fit for you, both personally and professionally.


Here are a few examples of things to provide an architect that will help get your project started in the right direction.

  • Who are you/what are your needs?

  • Family size

  • Disabilities

  • Age

  • Style

  • What are your priorities?

  • Indoor/outdoor connection

  • Sustainability

  • Number of bathrooms

  • Room sizes

  • Amenities

  • Where is your project located?

  • Why are you building or renovating?

  • What is your expected timeline? (see “Designing and Constructing your project”)

  • What are your design ideas, and do you have examples?

  • Budget (not including the cost of the site)

  • To design a custom home, you should have a site chosen. Custom homes are site-specific (views, trees, wind, etc).


It is important for both the client and architects to understand the design needs, design phases, fee schedules, and construction schedules. Arrive with your ideas organized; every architect will benefit from understanding the vision of your project. I have often seen clients share flash drives, Pinterest boards, and photos with our team.


When it comes to cost, most architects will charge between 8%-10% of the cost of the project (not including the site)

For Example:

Let’s say the budget for this project is: $500,000

The architect is charging 8% of the cost of the project.

$500,000 x 0.08= $40,000.

The total design fee would be $40,000, covering architectural design, permit-ready drawings, and structural engineering.

Design Phases

You should roughly expect 3-4 months of design and drawings for permit-ready plans. This time frame is based on the design phases listed below:

  1. Measured Drawings- The location will be field verified/measured to document all the existing conditions of any buildings (walls, doors, windows, etc.) for both the interior and exterior. This information will be input into a CAD program to create a base set of drawings to begin design work. A detailed investigation of the structure is not included in this phase. (This would only apply to a renovation of an existing building).

  2. Programming- Programming consists of establishing and documenting the requirements for your project, including design objectives, desired rooms or spaces, room sizes, relationships between spaces, and relationships to the site.

  3. Schematic Design- Schematic design begins in rough form as sketches, floor plan studies, and 3 d or physical models. Several owner/designer meetings are typical during this phase to make decisions and determine a direction for the design to evolve.

  4. Design Development- The design development phase includes finalizing the size of the rooms and spaces, refining the look, selecting materials, determining the systems, and deciding on the door and window types and locations. This phase may also include several owner/designer meetings, which are critical to finalizing decisions so that the detailed documentation can begin in the next phase.

  5. Construction Documents- The construction documents phase (blueprints) involves adding a level of detail and technical information to the design document. Hence, a contractor has a set of instructions to build the projects as designed. It also includes selecting and finalizing interior finishes, plumbing fixtures, appliances, and decorative light fixtures. This phase is when the architect and consultants work through the technical aspects of the project.

During my time here at Carbon Architects, I have found the above information to be extremely useful for anyone who is beginning their custom home adventure. Get to know your architect personally and professionally, you will be spending a lot of quality time with them! Create a list with what your needs, priorities, timeline, design ideas, budget, and your project location. Most importantly! Stay tuned for our next upcoming blog, “ What happens after your project design is completed.”

Special thanks to our editors Ashley Habluetzel & Joshua Lindgren

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(385) 244-1140