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  • Writer's pictureKeith Groninger

Do I Start With the Builder or the Architect?

Updated: Dec 27, 2023

Building a new custom home in Winter Park, Orlando and Central Florida.

Many future homeowners wonder how to start the process of designing and building a new home. Who should they talk with first, the builder or an architect? In some cases, there are regional trends or community requirements that dictate which comes first. Sometimes a builder already owns the property so there is no choice, although we caution against this.

Following are some thoughts to consider as you begin your new home project.

Design-Build and Design-Bid-Build are the common methods used for establishing the relationship between the owner, builder and home designer. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Design-Build has surpassed Design-Bid-Build as the most popular method.


The design-bid-build method has been around for quite some time and is what many believe is the only way to build a custom home. However, the method is fraught with complications and the probability of going over budget. Why? Let’s start from the beginning.

Usually, the design-bid-build process will begin with spending time with an architect to create a design that will be sent to builders for a bid. Prospective builders will create a bid at no cost to you. This may sound great, but by not charging you, they will spend the minimum amount of time possible to create a bid that’s at the lowest cost possible. This means they will source the cheapest materials and the cheapest labor, often excluding things you’d expect to be in the bid. You get a number from each.

The bids may not include what you want and you may not even know because they likely won’t have a lot of detail in these bids. What you do see is written in a way that you won’t see what’s included. Seems frustrating, right? In the worst cases, you may be charged tens of thousands of dollars more than you originally thought you’d have to pay, or even end up in court because of your builder’s cost-cutting practices.


With the design-build model, you’re focused on finding a builder that you like rather than the cheapest option. Many times, the builder will recommend architects that are best suited for your project and your expectations, which will set the tone for a more tailored experience that keeps your budget intact and on time. You’ll also have your builder and architect working together to design a plan that’s within your budget based on all the information necessary to get it right from the start.

Your builder will dedicate more time to researching costs and focusing on what you want out of your design. They’ll spend time getting to know the materials and designs you like and want to include in your custom home. It’s the only way to get the most accurate price–from a collaboration of each professional’s complementary knowledge.

The price will also be far more detailed due to the time dedicated to get every detail to your exact wants and needs to create a Statement of Work. Add-ons, options, what’s included and what’s not will all be there for you to see. Paying for a service to price your design accurately will save you far more than using the design-bid-build process in the end.

Of course you probably realize that our opinion is biased toward starting with the builder and the reason is because we want control but maybe not for the reason you think. We want to control the process and help guide you on this adventure. Even though you and your home design are unique, the path we follow is well known from repeating it so many times.

Some additional articles that compliment this topic:

Little is more meaningful and personal than a home, and the experience of designing and building your own home should be rewarding and enjoyable. Choosing a builder is difficult. The process of designing and building a home involves numerous decisions about components, systems and services selected from criteria that includes price, quality, appearance and performance. How can you possibly understand everything unless the builder is willing to share all of the information?

Allow us to introduce you to The GCH Way of building your next home. Please let us know if you have any questions. Keith Groninger

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