4. Consider a Design/Build Firm

Design/build or design/remodeling firms are one-stop shops that offer both architectural design and construction services— pretty much guaranteeing good communication between the two sides of the job. Even if you prefer an independent architect, there can be a benefit to hiring a design/build firm to do the construction. "By definition, we pay close attention to how design affects cost," says Harmer, of the Wills Company, a design/build firm. In one job Harmer's currently involved in, the client is requesting things that will take the costs 20 percent over budget. To bring expenses down, Harmer and his team are going through the design bit by bit — from the broad strokes, like whether to build a finished basement or a crawl space, to the details, like whether to use paint or stain on the kitchen cabinets.

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