5 Surprising Truths About Hiring An Architect Vs. A Design Build Contractor

5 Surprising Truths About Hiring An Architect Vs. A Design Build Contractor

Your choices when building a new custom home are seemingly limitless, restricted primarily by budget and buildings codes or zone limitations. After you find that perfect piece of land and calculate your build allowance, the next decision you make has far-reaching ramifications. Do you hire an architect to come up with a design and house plans, then bring in a builder for the construction? Or do you hire a design build firm that does it all, from drawings through construction? It’s normal to feel some trepidation at this stage, particularly if this is your first experience with a custom build.

At Foley, we have “in-house” plans that may precisely meet your budget and design needs or, if needed, can be modified to accommodate your distinct vision. We will also generate plans from scratch or work with an outside architect. Both options can ultimately deliver you the home of your dreams. Let’s take a look at some points and questions you should consider and ask as you try to solve the architect vs design build contractor puzzle.


Architects are professionals trained in design theory, engineering, and project management, while design-builders sometimes do not have academic training in those fields. What design build firms do bring to the table is their extensive and valuable experience in the area you are building, as well as their familiarity with state and local regulations, permits, fees and more.


Budget requirements and restrictions should be clear from the start. Architects often base their estimates on input from area contractors, and overruns can add up fast if consideration isn’t given to your unique design. A design build company’s teams are constantly working with each other, so budget overruns happen less frequently. Also, the design build contractor has more invested than an architect does in staying on budget.

Changes inevitably occur, and architects tend to bill for those changes at an hourly rate; those rates can quickly kill a budget. In a design-build scenario, some expenses related to design details and drawings can be avoided as everything is done in house.

Finally, we know time is money, and a lot of time can be spent on communication between the outside architect and contractor. A local design-build firm saves you both time and money, because all such communication is internal.


An outside architect designs and creates your plans and is sometimes retained to act as an advocate during your build, which increases your bottom line. With a design build, the firm is entirely responsible for overseeing your project and keeping it on budget. Also, when an outside architect is hired, the worlds of design and construction will often collide, creating that put you squarely in the middle. You may find yourself with an architect’s initial design that doesn’t work within your budget, meaning you must either abandon the design altogether, or pay more for changes.

Communication, as in all things, is vital to a successful working relationship, whether you go the architect/design-build route or custom design builder alone. Make sure an outside architect is willing to work as part of a team and you’ll avoid unpleasant surprises.


Architects cannot begin their work until all the pieces, such as land development issues, are in place, meaning plans and start of construction can be delayed. With a design build contractor, timing from design to build is often quicker, as “back to the drawing board” issues are handled in-house and there is no competitive bidding process.


Furnishings and fixtures play an important role in the design process. Most design-build firms have an internal process to assist you in choosing the building products that make a house your home, including cabinets, appliances, countertops and fixtures. This service is typically outside the architect’s realm.

We at Foley Development believe it is in our – and your – best interest to guarantee your entire design experience goes smoothly and falls within your budget. We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the architect vs design build choice, and invite you to download our eBook to learn more about how our custom design build process works.