There is a wide spectrum of architects and residential designers available for hire to design your new home. Hiring an excellent architect will be of far greater advantage than a mediocre residential designer. In the same breath, an excellent residential designer will be of far greater advantage than a mediocre architect.
Though most jurisdictions allow a home-builder or even a home-owner to design a home, provided it is build to local safety standards, there are advantages to hiring a design professional. An architect brings years of schooling and practical experience plus a level of accountability to the design of a home. And in many municipalities any home over a certain size must be stamped with an architect’s seal. On the other-hand, when upwards of 10-15% of the construction budget will be going toward architectural fees, many home-owners will find hiring an architect prohibitive.
Residential designers provide home-owners with a competitive alternative to hiring an architect. On the down-side there are few jurisdictions which govern the operation (and ethics) of residential design professionals. It is a job that they say “anyone can do”, which isn’t entirely correct. Though in most cases anyone can design a home, not anyone can create a well-designed home (just as anyone can paint a picture, but few can create a masterpiece). Residential designers are passionate about home design and spend their time exclusively in this field, whereas many architects who are capable of designing a great home might spend most of their time running an office or working on non-residential projects. Most of my favorite homes have been designed by non-architects. Homes by the likes of Jack Arnold or Karl Willms can be matched only by a select few architects. These residential designers have spent their careers absorbed in the design of great homes and have perfected the art of their craft.
A good residential designer will provide most of the same services that an architect would, including proper construction details with consideration for local codes and zoning bylaws and well as schedules and specifications. They will also co-ordinate the design with local engineers, interior designers and suppliers plus make numerous site visits to ensure fidelity to the design. They will even assist in obtaining a building permit. When hiring a residential designer you should get what you pay for and sign a legal contract for their services. In many cases you can not only save a bundle on architectural fees, paying as little as 3% for a complete service, but achieve a superior design in the process.