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How To Pick A Home Designer

Building a house is a huge adventure with the first step being the design.  You have three options—buy an existing plan, hire an architect, hire a house designer.If you can find a plan in a book or online that you love—go for it.  Your work is finished and you get a set of blueprints for around $1,000 or less.  But the odds are low that you find exactly the right house for you with no modification.

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The other end of the spectrum is hiring an architect.  You will get personalized service from a highly trained specialist.  And you will pay for it.  There are no set rules for how much an architect will charge because each house and architect is different but let’s make a simplifying assumption and pick $4 a square foot.  That’s $16,000 for a 4,000 square foot house.  And remember you have to live in the final result which means you have a lot of work to do along with the architect in the area of design.

Or you can hire a house designer which is what we did—twice.  And it worked both times.This is what a house designer is NOT.  He or she is usually not a college graduate, is not an architect and is probably not certified by some governing body.

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Here is what a house designer IS.  The house designer is skilled at using computer programs to turn out complete and ready to build designs and blueprints.  The house designer will have references—real live people and completed houses you can go look at and quiz the owners.  The designer will also have a style, a way of doing things artistically.  Finally, the house designer is more expensive than plans in a book or off the Internet but a lot cheaper than an architect.  Again, exact numbers are hard to pin down but a house planner should come in at about 30 to 40 percent of the cost of an architect.

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If you decide to use a home designer, do your homework.

Step One—find them.  A Google search of home designers in our mid size metro area generated a list of about thirty.  Study their web pages.

Step Two—select at least ten and call.  Ask for addresses of their projects and go look at them.  If you don’t like what you see, call more designers.

Step Three—narrow it down to three and arrange face-to-face meetings.  Let each planner know you are talking to other planners and this is a preliminary meeting.  Be prepared– have the approximate size of the house, style, features, what you want to pay for the house and location.

Step Five—come up with a time line.  You are not the only customer the planner is working with so he may be backed up or he may want to start right away.

Step Four—Make a decision, pick your planner.

Picking a planner is not easy.  You are embarking on one of the most expensive, time consuming and potentially frustrating projects of your life.  And the one with the most potential for making your life worthwhile—living in the dream house you have always wanted.

Doing a thorough job of vetting your house designer will make the process a lot easier and lot more rewarding.{picture sources:1,2,3}.