The first step in building a custom home is to find a consultant (Realtor) that is familiar with the processes involved (this will save you thousands of dollars). Your consultant will help you with financing/budget, appraisals, and specification performance. Your consultant will help guide you toward finding (or at least narrowing down) the most important aspect of the home - the architect/designer. A good Architect will not only "Value-engineer" your home to fit your budget, they will also come with a built in network of construction professionals to help him/you achieve your ultimate goals as affordably as possible. It is important to realize the difference between a true architect and a professional designer. In short, only an architect is trained enough and legally able to design a building.
Your selected architect will present a proposal detailing many phases of the project. Phase I includes the interior and exterior design of your project and does not include the actual final (CAD) building prints and specifications. While these costs may be included in your home financing, they will range depending on the style and size of your home. For a 4-5 thousand Square foot home I would expect the fees to range between around 35-40K.
Talk to your consultant to see how you can reduce those costs and maybe even pass them along to the builder! It may seem like an ominous task but the hardest part is merely getting the ball rolling while dealing with the day-to-day challenges life presents. Talk to your REALTOR...we do more than open doors...we help create them too! Custom Home Design.