The first order of business is purchasing a lot. A truly custom home design is specifically designed for the lot it sits on. Please read EzineArticles online article “Buying a Lot to Get a Custom Home Designed” for what to consider. A survey will be needed before the custom home design can begin. If it is an older property there should be one in the closing documents.
Now there is some home design homework to do even before purchasing a lot. You have to know what you desire in the home and what the footage goal is to know what size the lot has to be.
This homework is the first step in the house design. No matter how talented the designer they are dependent on you for it to be a custom design with communication being the key. So do not be shy about providing whatever you have accumulated or generated whether it be pictures, notes, spreadsheets or anything else that helps present what you want. Whether you provide a lot of material or none at all though it is the designers responsibility to discuss anything relevant to the project.
The initial design conference meeting(s) will be to completely define your dream home.
The footage will determine the cost more than anything else and should be the first consideration. How many stories and what exterior style and finish material needs to be defined. Each room should be discussed to determine the size, raised ceilings, flooring or any other features. The first factor in determining room locations is what view they will have. If there is a stunning rear view only so many rooms can take advantage of then these rooms need to be defined. A stairs if any often has expectations that go with it whether it is the railing, finish or location. If it is viewed as more of a functional need then a location requiring less expense in finishing than a foyer might be considered. Will the house be open concept so that the family room, breakfast and kitchen are open to each other. All aspects of the kitchen should be defined. Especially if there will be an island and all appliances and their locations. It is often helpful to know what the current kitchen cabinet footage is to ensure equal or greater cabinet footage. Does there need to be a private desk area off the kitchen for paying bills. Would a backpack, hobby or sports storage area with cabinets off the garage be helpful. All features of the utility room including a built in ironing board need to be considered. If there is a pool does there need to be a pool bath or can the powder room be located near the rear. Is the master bath to be more functional or luxurious or something in between. How many bathrooms. Will there be a game room, study, hobby room or other rooms not considered a given. Are art niches or ledges desired. This is a minimum necessary to start a design drawing.
If the due diligence has not been this thorough then there is a good chance you will not get your dream home design. No matter how creative it is if it is not what you imagined then it is a failed design. I am not suggesting taking away creative freedom only that any expectations have to be communicated. Make sure the designer is asking all the right questions or make sure you volunteer them. Alternatively just consider another designer because it is hard to correct a design that heads down the wrong path.