Today, most people in the market to build a new home find a suitable solution in stock house plans. However, there still remains a significant amount of folks who desire custom home plans and need the services of a Building designer. This option requires that you do some prep work to determine who you will trust with such a personal and important duty for you and your family. So then the questions becomes, How do I choose a design professional?
The first thing you should do is to seek referrals from friends, co-workers, family members, or other professionals in related fields that you feel comfortable with. This is always a great place to start! To compliment referrals, you should also look through the yellow pages under the terms "Residential Designers", "Architects", or "Building Designers". These terms may vary depending on your location but should get you going in the right direction. Third, you should do a internet search for local design companies or you can search beyond your area if your are comfortable working with a designer across state lines.
After you have made a few choices to select from, now comes the part in which you will need to interview each designer to get a feel for the person as well as his or her work. There are several important things that you should key in on with each designers interview. There is no particular order in which they should be asked; however, the should at the very least be addressed to a level of satisfaction on your part.
1. Inquire about the Building Designers experience. How long have they been in the design business? What is their training?
2. Request to see examples of their work. (i.e. a set of plans, photos of finished products, etc.) Ideally, if the designer has a website you usually can see a portfolio of photos and stock plans there prior to your initial interview.
3. Ask if your state requires a Architect seal on the drawings. If the answer is yes, then only an Architect registered in your state is allowed to seal your plans. (Note: Most states do not require a licensed Architect to seal house plan drawings, allowing Residential Building Designers to design and create plans for single family homes, duplexes, and small light commercial buildings.)
4. Ask for references. While you will only be provided with references from folks who had "good" experiences with the designer, it is always good to here what others have to say.
5. Ask about Professional Affiliations. Is the designer a member of a business related organization? Often this is a testament to how serious they are about their profession.
6. Do they participate in Continuing Education? Usually, if they are a part of a professional organization, it is required.
7. Ask if the designer has a contract for custom home design services. Ask about the terms and what is expected of both parties.
8. How much? Don't ignore the elephant is the room. Know what your are expect to pay for the service. (Note: It is important that you have some knowledge of custom home design services and pricing prior to interviewing the designer so you will have a benchmark on cost to determine your budget for a set of custom plans.) Prices will vary as will the level of talent and experience.
There may be more questions that you would want to ask, but the above are essential in making a decision on who you will hire. Remember, you will have to work with this person for several weeks, perhaps months. Make sure you are comfortable with the designer, that way the process can be a smooth and pleasant journey.