8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Designer + a Bonus Question

So, you want to build a new home. You’ve been thinking about your dream home for years, and now you’re at a place in life to see your dream come true. You’ve envisioned the style, the space and functionality, perhaps you have in mind every detail for your new home. Now, you just need help designing your home and bringing it to fruition. As rewarding as it is to design and build your dream home, it can also be a very stressful process. Finding the right designer for the job can be challenging.

How do you know which designer to trust out of the vast selection? Start by asking any potential designer these 8 questions, during your interview process. Their answers to these questions will help you see if the designer is a good fit for you and your project. After all, designing your dream home should be enjoyable and you want to avoid additional stress or costly mistakes in the process.

Question 1 - How will the designer approach your project?

Their answer to this question will help you find out what their design philosophy is, and what sets their services apart. Designing your dream home involves true talent for the design professional. A designer must be able to see your dream and execute it creatively, providing you with what you have envisioned all along.

A designer’s approach to your project can vary somewhat however, in general it begins with a consultation to learn about your needs and wants.

In our office, we offer a no obligation consultation. The consultation gives us the opportunity to get to know your ideas, taste, space and functionality needs or wants, and goals of architectural style and more. During this meeting the more you can share, the more we gain insight into your dream home. We generally follow up this meeting by providing you with a link to an in-depth questionnaire. The questionnaire is optional but, many have found it gets the creative juices flowing, and even causes them to think about options they never considered.

During our consultation, we can share more of our design process with you.

Question 2 - What are the design professional’s qualifications?

One of the misconceptions is that all building design professionals are licensed.  Since this is not the case, it’s imperative that you find out what qualifies them to design your home. For more information on licensing see # 2 on our misconception page by clicking here.

Some qualifications to consider for your home designer are:

  • Training – Experience in design/drafting
  • Structural design experience
  • Knowledge of construction
  • Familiarity with varying construction methods & materials
  • Knowledge of current building codes
  • Sustainable design practices
  • Building science
  • Continuing education/training

As you consider the qualifications for your home designer, ask to see examples of their work. A well thought out design, along with the above qualifications, and detailed plans doesn’t cost you in the end, it pays massive dividends in construction savings and less stress.

So, you’ve settled on a well-qualified designer, are there other factors that you should consider? Yes. Part of the design professional’s qualifications should include having E&O (errors & omissions insurance). You can even ask if they have ever had a claim against their E&O. This insurance is a protection for you, and can provide peace of mind. After all, even the most skilled and well-qualified professional designer, is an imperfect human.

Your peace of mind is important to us. And although we have never had any issues that would cause the need for errors and omissions insurance, we carry  $1,000,000 in coverage thru Lloyd’s of London.

Question 3 - Do you provide a contract and what does it include?

Most of us would like to do work based on a handshake. Handshake deals do still exist, but today it’s important to initiate that handshake with a written contract. A contract provides a clear understanding of what is being provided and what is not included.

If there is anything on the contract you don’t understand, be sure to ask your designer for clarification – and keep asking until you’re sure you understand completely.

We are happy to review our contract with you, and if any portion makes you uncomfortable we are happy to discuss it with you and if necessary make minor modifications. After all, a contract is our meeting of the minds for what each of us is obligated to do.

Question 4 - Who is responsible overall for the design of my home? What are the lines of communication?

Before hiring a designer, you need to know who is in charge and who will make the final decisions when it comes to your home. With the varied means of communication today, in person, phone, text, skype, or email, what methods are best for the scope of your project. If the firm has more than one designer, have a clear understanding of each person’s roll in the design of your home and who you need to speak with if issues come up or you want to change part of your design.

During our consultation, we will introduce the design team for your project and provide you with all the contact information you’ll need.

Question 5 - What services are included with my home design?

There is a wide array of services that the designer can offer that go beyond the design of your home. These additional services include: site survey, soils testing, 3D exterior design, collaborate with engineering, 3D interior design, collaborate with an interior designer, landscape design and so forth. During your consultation, be sure to ask what services are being included in their price and what additional services will be required.

Question 6 - How do you work with the builder and if I don’t have one can you help me find one?

If you already have a builder for your project, it’s important to find a designer that can help provide the specs and details that your builder will require. Some builders have a specific look, feel and design that they build and you want to ensure that the design aligns with that look you’re searching for. When the designer and builder can work together early on than it adds to the success of your project.

Don’t have a builder yet? Many designers have builders they can recommend.

We have had the privilege to work with numerous builders over the years specializing in specific styles, and are more than happy to provide you with references. By putting the right team together early in the process, from the designer to the builder, you can ensure that your home will be exactly like you imagined, or better yet even better.

Question 7 - How is my budget managed?

Open communication with your designer is important, after all to see your dream home built involves designing something within your budget. During the design process, we recommend having a builder or two be a part of the design meetings. The builder(s) being familiar with pricing, should take into consideration the materials and finishes you want, and can serve as a guide for keeping the design in your budget.

However, it should be noted that no quality builder would ever give a firm price without first having complete plans, and those plans need to be thorough, and obtaining realistic bids based on materials that meet your approval.

Question 8 - Do you have references I can speak with?

The opportunity to speak with prior clients of a design professional can be a real benefit. They’ll offer insight to the process, performance and how the designer was to work with.

We are more than happy to provide you with client references. When possible we can arrange to visit projects under construction, and homes we have completed.

We will also provide references to contractors who have had the opportunity to build a home we have designed.

Bonus Question

Does the designer offer or receive any kickbacks (referral payments) to or from contractors, real estate agents, engineers, product suppliers or any other industry professionals?

This bonus question we feel speaks volumes as to the ethical business practices of the designer or builder you may work with. The “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” mentality is all too often a sad but true reality in this industry. Sometimes these referral fees can be upwards of 10% or higher, and in the end, we know that it’s the client that pays. Either way, kickback payments are certainly not in your best interest. If a designer refers you to a contractor, other industry professional or recommends a specific building material with the goal of getting paid, you can’t be sure you’ll get the best person for the job or pay the right price.

Ask yourself does that highly recommended designer/contractor from your real estate agent, or residential development personnel come with a shady kickback? Anyone relying on kickbacks or these referral fees to get business is likely not at the top of their game.

At Western Design International, we do not play that game. When we recommend a contractor, industry professional or product we do not accept nor do we pay a referral or kickback. Our referral is based on the confidence that the contractor, or industry professional will perform to our high standards and that any product we recommend will be in your best interest. You can rest assured our referrals do not come at a price.

Finding the right designer to help you with your dream home plans is a critical part in the process for building your home. We hope that we have given you some tools to help in your search.

If you would like to ask us these questions, or any others that you may have; we invite you to request your no obligation consultation today