Calling an architect to some seems like a luxury or at least an expense that can be avoided. There are many options to get plans for a new home. If you work hard at it you can find a plan online that is close to what you want or you can find a builder that offers design for free if they build the house. Some even settle for a drafter to draw a “custom” home. So why pay for a custom design done by an architect?
The biggest difference between a drafter and an architect is the licensing requirements required by the state to protect the Health, Safety, and Welfare of the general public. In order to qualify for licensing as an architect you have to earn a professional degree from an accredited University, complete an internship (typically 3 years) and you have to pass the Architectural Registration Examination, and in Virginia you also have to have letters from three other licensed architects endorsing your competence to be an architect. You then have to earn a minimum of 9 learning units per year to maintain your license. To be a drafter, you only need a business license. To offer plans online you only need a business license. To be a builder that offers design you only need a contractor’s license. No training to know how to design. No training to understand building code. No training to understand space planning. No training to understand building science. The difference between an architect and any other option is the level of skill you are required to achieve to be in practice as an architect. The first step to a custom home is to hire an architect. If all you want is a new home, then all the other options are viable options.