So, you have financing, a lot (Or your looking at one) and you have a list of contractors, or an actual contractor. What do you do next?
Should you let the contractor show you his designs and work off of those? After all, he/she has built this before, it should be cheaper, right?
Maybe I should just go to one of those house design websites and purchase a design from them. They should be easy to work with, right?
As a custom home designer, let me just say that all of the above options are valid and workable. However, that being the case, I suggest sitting with a designer. Here is why.
- The designer should be able to sit and talk with you to find out information. He/she has been trained, through school or experience, to ask specific questions and gather information through general conversation. Basically, they have been trained to communicate and listen.
- They have been trained to prioritize your wants, desires and needs. To take what you are looking for and begin the process of creating the “must haves” and the “would be nice” and even the “saw it and wanted it, but not important.” lists that will define how your new custom home is laid out and how it will function for you and your family.
- Contractors know how to put a house together, quite well. They know what designs have worked for them in specific regions or subdivisions, they even know a lot about the flow of the house, but they are not designers generally. A good contractor will work well with a good designer. They will want the designer to take the time to communicate with you, so they can get a set of plans they can build from.
- You want the home you are building to be yours, not something someone else has built multiple times, but slightly modified to appease you. Yes, you can get a lot of good ideas from contractors and home plan sites, but the designers job is to tailor those ideas to you and to make sure that it is functional and build-able as well as within your budget.
You may speak to a few designers before you settle with one. There are many factors that may stop you from choosing a designer. Personality, experience, cost, etc. This is your home, it is alright to ask questions before you sign a contract. Interview them, find out if they are a good fit for you and if you are a good fit for them.
Yes, a designer may choose not to work with you. It could be because they already have too much work going on, your personality may clash with theirs and a myriad of other reasons. Don’t take it personally, there is too much at stake to settle for someone you aren’t a good fit with.
Be ready to sit for a long time with your designer. They require a lot of information from you and will take the time to gather as much as possible in one meeting.
Be prepared with pictures, with talking points and with notes you’ve gathered. You know what you want, no one else does. We cannot read your mind, so please do not expect us to. We can often anticipate based on the conversation, but we cannot actually read your mind.
The designer will often interject ideas and options he/she thinks are good fits. It will be in your best interest to consider these options, but do not do something because someone suggested it. This is your home, you will live there and you have to live with all of the choices made, make sure it is something you will be happy with in 5 years.
Do not try to design every detail on the first meeting. This is your initial meeting and your biggest responsibility is to decide if this is the designer you will choose to design your new home. If he/she is, then great, sign the contract and allow them to get you a preliminary drawing so you can decide if what they shared with you will be what you live in, or if you need to make changes. If they are not, let them know and go to the next appointment.
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