How an architect says it: “So tell me your dream so we can design the right solution for you.”
How a waiter would say it: “Have you had time to look at all the options, if so, what would you like?”
How a banker would say it: “Here are your options based on budget, which do you prefer.”
How a history teacher would say it: “Over the years, this is how we have designed it for others.”
How an engineer would say it: “This is the correct solution.”
All of these approaches are used when designing a home. No really, sometimes as architects we design like a waiter, banker, history teacher, engineer, and even sometimes like an architect. Each project is unique and every client needs a unique approach. The costs will vary, the path to the right design solution will vary, and the time it will take will vary. There are no standard and typical design solutions. The land will be different. The orientation of the building will be different. The family will have different goals, values, and budgets. It all impacts the design process and solution. So when pricing a home in early design phase we work based on averages with a large window of what it might be when we get a more defined solution. The best we can do is offer an educated guess based on averages from past experience and projects. We get pretty close with our guesstimates, but it is simply a guess until we get at least to the end of design development and a builder can do some hard take off pricing.
So how do you know that you are on target? The best thing to do is trust that your architect and builder are working as a team in your best interest. There are people in every industry that are honest and act in an ethical manner. Find those people and be open and honest about your goals and budget. If you want to control the budget that is easy to do when you have a trusted team. The biggest impact on the price during design are the number of changes made by the client. The biggest impact on price during construction is the quality of materials you want to use in the home. Figure out the goals, build a trusted team, and aim for the comfortable and realistic budget for your project. I cannot say the budget can be hit every time and there will never be a problem, but this provides the best chance for a successful project.