Architect or Home Designer?

When my in-laws built their home, she drew the plan on a napkin and he built the home.  Apparently things were simpler in Sugar City, Idaho 40 years ago.  Today, most individuals don’t have the knowledge, skills, or confidence to tackle such a large and complicated job.  For this reason, home owners almost always have a new custom home designed by an architect or home designer.

As one of Utah’s premier custom home builders, DaVinci Homes has the opportunity to work with several of Utah’s leading home designers and architects to provide their clients with the new home of their dreams.  But what is the difference?  And is one better than the other?

A home designer:

  • Is not required to have specialized education or to be licensed, although they may have some of the same training as an architect.
  • Specializes in designing residential homes.
  • Typically has an inventory of pre-designed homes that you can choose and then customize. These plans are usually less costly to purchase.
  • Can custom design a home from scratch based on your lot and exact requirements.
  • Usually charges less than an architect for a custom-designed home.
  • Works with an engineer to ensure that your home is structurally sound.
  • Provides complete plans for building permit requirements.

An architect:

  • Must have specialized education and be licensed.
  • May design not only homes, but also offices, multi-family, and commercial buildings.
  • Commonly charges several times the fees of a home designer.
  • Will create a one-of-a-kind home just for you based on your chosen lot, needs, and desires. They do not provide pre-designed home plans for purchase.
  • May provide additional services that a home designer does not. This may include construction supervision through-out the building process, detailed design of certain architectural elements, and coordination with builders and interior designers.
  • Typically charges more for a custom-designed home than a home designer.
  • Works with an engineer to ensure your home is structurally sound.
  • Provides complete plans for building permit requirements.

While both an architect or home designer can create a beautiful, well-designed home, the higher fees eliminate the option of using an architect for some home-owners.  While charges vary from one firm to another, I recently checked with both a local architectural firm and a residential home designer about their charges for creating a 2,500 square foot rambler-style home with an additional 2,500 finished basement.  The home designer charges $1.75 for above grade square footage, and an additional $.35 per square foot of finished basement space.  That would bring his bill to $5250. The architect on the other hand, charges $8.00 per square foot of finished space.  In this case that would be a total bill of $40,000, or seven and a half times that of the home designer.  But, keep in mind, that there are certain municipalities or subdivisions that may require you to have your home designed by a licensed architect.  Check your local building codes and CCRs.   Also, if you are building a large, luxury home or a home on a difficult site, using a licensed architect may be the right choice for you.

Whether you choose to use an architect or  home designer, make sure you meet with them personally.  Ask about their experience designing homes and try to get a feel for the style of homes they have created in the past.  Do their plans represent work that feels compatible with the vision you have of your new home?  The design stage is critical so choose someone you are comfortable working with and will really listen to what you want.  Ask about their fees and what they include, their time schedule, and how the design process works if you choose to use them to design your home.  And don’t be afraid to ask for references from past clients.


And if you are ready to build your new custom home, check out DaVinci Homes at or call Dave at 801-971-6650.

DaVinci Homes Mission Statement

Our mission is to be Utah’s premier custom and semi-custom home builder through superior customer satisfaction and exceptional building practices.  We strive to make the home building process clear and enjoyable.  We believe in helping our clients enhance their lives by helping create the home of their dreams.