You can use an architect or other professional such as a Structural Engineer who also prepares plans, a designer (someone who develops plans but is not a licensed architect) or the contractor (who might also have access to either architects, designers or who may draw the plans themselves).
Many people believe that an architect is essential for any project that requires plans. While there are many very experienced and highly skilled architects to be sure, we have found that for many residential or even commercial projects, most of the skills an architect has are not really utilized. That said, if you want a very distinctive design or want plans that show lots of finish details then certainly an architect is an excellent way to generate these plans. However, many times architects are not as willing to design around a fixed budget or to design in such a manner that construction costs will be minimized. After all, they are getting paid to create something worthy of their fees so trying to minimize cost may not fit. If you do decide to use an architect, you should know that their costs for plans are normally more than a designer. Make sure the architect knows your construction budget (see below) and is willing to design something they believe can be built within your budget.
We have seen many fabulous plans from architects that the client could not afford to build which never got built. A possible strategy for working with an architect might be to make sure your agreement with the architect allows for your project to be modified if it is determined that the finished design cannot be built for the established budget as determined by the contractor you select. This way, at least you will not have to pay more for the architectural work if a redesign is necessary for financial reasons and the architect is motivated to try and consider costs in their work as they will not want to do redesign work for no additional fees.
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