Should I Engage An Architect Or A Builder To Design My Home?




Harriet Lammin

When planning a new home, whether it’s a knockdown rebuild, new land purchase or development project, there are two main build options to choose from. Your first option is to go to a volume builder to get a ‘volume home’, which is an ‘off the shelf’ design that the builders have built many times before.

Alternatively, you can engage an architect to design a fully customised home that is a one-off and is specifically designed for you and your needs.

 There are a number of pros and cons for each option. By evaluating the following pros and cons, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your home build:

Pros of a volume builder design


It is usually more cost-effective to obtain the designs from a volume builder. 

Most builders will charge much less for the design as it is not a one-off, and they know that they will recoup the fee once they start the build. Additionally, as the designs have been built many times before, the builders have a good idea of what it will cost to build your home. This means you will have a clearer understanding of the costs from the very beginning of the project.

Streamlined process

You will receive the plans quicker compared to when working with an architect, because volume builders use one of their ‘pre-existing designs’. This allows you to get your building a lot sooner, even if you make minor modifications.

On average, it will take an architect around six months to complete a custom home design from scratch.

Cons of a volume builder design

Limited customisation

When you choose a volume builder to design your home, it will not be customised to suit your individual needs and lifestyle. By using standardised designs, even a ‘limited edition’ design, you will not receive a finished home that is uniquely suited to you and your family.

Designs may not suit your location

Off the shelf designs do not necessarily suit your particular site and location. This could mean the windows are not facing the right way to capture views, get optimum daylight or reduce heat gain and glare.

Less choice and costly changes

There is less choice when it comes to finishes or materials and a lot of the ‘non-standard’ modifications come at an additional cost. Changes can be costly because it means deviating from the standard, which volume builders try to avoid.

Lower quality materials

The quality of materials and construction methods can be lower because the builder has an incentive to reduce costs to increase their profit. You have less control over this when you choose to work with a volume builder.

Less freedom

If you decide not to build with the volume builder for one reason or another, you don’t get to use the plans – even if you love them. Alternatively, you are locked in from the start which will make it difficult to make changes going forward.

Pros of an Architect Design

Freedom to choose

Choice is the key factor when deciding on an architect-designed home – it puts you in control, meaning you are more likely to get what you want and receive a home design that reflects your needs and overall style.

High-quality service

When working with an architect, you get a better level of service. Architects will listen first, ask questions and take time to understand your site before they commence the design.

Professional training

You can enjoy peace of mind when working with an architect, because architects have professional design training. This is in contrast to most builders and drafts people, who often do not have the same training.

Greater opportunity to make changes

Working with an architect means that changes won’t always have an effect on the build cost. You are free to make them at the design stage – you are in charge.

Select the builder of your choice

You have the opportunity to seek competitive tenders or work with a builder of your choice to negotiate the final price – you are not locked into one builder. This helps to ensure you have more control over who is involved throughout the process.

Premium materials

When you partner with a good architect, you can expect a premium end product with materials that are carefully chosen for their suitability and performance. The quality of your home will be something that you can be proud of.

Cons of an Architect Design

More costly

An architect-designed home will typically cost more to build because it is a one-off and has not been built before. An architect’s fees will likely cost more than the price of a ‘volume home’ design and you will also need to pay engineers and other building professionals separately. However, you can rest assured that the cost will be reflected in the value of the home. 

Longer process

It will take longer to produce the designs and drawings when working with an architect rather than a volume builder. However, by taking time to work through the design and communicate the details in the drawings, it reduces the risk of the final product falling short of expectations.

Estimated budgets

Due to the complexity of creating a one-off home design, the exact cost of the build won’t be known until the design is finished and has been priced by a builder. However, budget estimates can be obtained along the way. 

Although it might seem as though you will end up with a new home whichever way you choose to proceed, there are vast differences in the level of service and the final outcome in each scenario.

It is important to be well informed about your choices and to understand what the advantages and disadvantages of each option are. Before you make a significant investment of time and money in your new home build, always do your research.

Trusted Professional Architects

If you have further questions about the architectural design process and the benefits of working with JDA Lammin Architects, send us an email or get in touch via our online contact form.

We also offer 20-minute initial telephone consultations, so that you can find out more about the design process and how we can help. To have a chat, give us a call today on 0439 991 887.