Finding the Right Architect

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August 23, 2017
By Dylan Chappell, Houzz

Few things are more exciting than building a new home or watching your old one change before your eyes. And the person who will affect the outcome of your project the most is usually the architect. His or her plan will dictate the ultimate appearance and function of the home, as well as the financial costs and emotional toll involved in its construction.

The client-architect relationship is very personal, involving discussions of your habits, your hobbies, your tastes, and even your relationships. So you want the choice to be right. The suggestions that follow will help you analyze the personality, design strategy and communication skills of your candidates. Ultimately, you want to find the architect who’s right for your situation, for your budget and for you.

Referrals. As many professionals do, architects get much of their business through word of mouth. Ask family, friends and professional colleagues for referrals. Is there a particular home you admire? A knock on the door could yield an introduction to your future architect.

Find one on Houzz. Houzz is not only one of the most practical and efficient ways to find design ideas for your next project, it’s also a good way to find an architect. You can search professionals by location, read reviews from past clients and browse through photos of work. The fact that you’re reading this ideabook makes me think this might be old news, but helpful info is always worth repeating.

By the way, don’t feel limited to choosing someone in your community. In this era of email and Skype, it’s not uncommon for an architect to work remotely on a project.

Bio. An architect’s profile or website should be full of information on previous work and should give you a feel for what’s important in his or her design practice. Is sustainability a value? Fitting into the neighborhood? Making a big statement?

Ask a pro in a related field. General contractors, interior designers and other individuals in related trades can be great resources for finding the right architect. Having a contractor and an architect who work well together is probably the single most important ingredient for a successful project.

The American Institute of Architects. Professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA) are a good source for names, too.

When searching for design help, you might encounter people who bill themselves as architects, and others who call themselves designers. Here is my attempt to clarify the differences.

Architect: Licensed architects typically have a degree from an accredited college, have completed a few thousand intern hours under a licensed professional, and have completed a series of eight rigorous exams.

Designer: Those without an architecture license can call themselves a home designer or a designer. Their experience might consist of a drafting class at a city college — or they might hold a master’s in architecture from Harvard and have 35 years of experience as a principal at one of the largest firms in the country, but for whatever reason, didn’t get their license.

The interview. Once you’ve found The One or a few that seem like they could be The One, then it’s time to start a conversation. Make an appointment to meet at the architect’s office or out on the site. There should be no charge for an initial consultation to discuss your project.

The questions. Wondering what to ask at the first interview? Let the candidate know what is most important to you about your project and solicit thoughts about incorporating that into the process. If you are remodeling, start with the aspects of your house you currently like or would like to take better advantage of.

Here are a few questions to get the ball rolling.

  • Can I see some examples of your work?
  • How would you approach this project?
  • What are some of the largest obstacles on a project like this?
  • How do you charge, and what are your fees?
  • How long will this project take for design, building permits and construction?
  • Can you give me referrals for contractors you like?
  • Are there any red flags with what I want to do?

Don’t forget to discuss your budget. Whether you plan to spend $10,000 or millions, it’s important to be up front from the get-go. First of all, you need to make sure what you’re proposing is possible. Construction costs can vary considerably, and just because the guy who fixed a leak in your attic says the project can be done for X dollars doesn’t mean it actually can.

A great architect will be able to get you the best design for your buck, recommend trustworthy and experienced pros, guide your investment, protect your interests during construction and save you time and money during the whole process.

A great architect might cost a little more than an average one, but the amount of value added to your project could be substantial.

Related:

Ask Home Decorators for a Referral
Discuss Your Decor Style With an Architect
Next Steps – Get Your Project Going

* Please consult with your attorney, financial consultant/planner, accountant, and/or tax advisor for advice concerning your particular circumstances. The information contained herein is for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as professional, tax, financial or legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts or circumstances. The information or opinions contained herein should not be construed by any consumer and/or prospective client as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any particular product or service.