If you’re looking to remodel your home, or are building the house of your dreams, it can be easy to become overwhelmed by all of the planning, designing, and work it takes to finish a project of this magnitude. There are countless things to keep in mind and hundreds of different options for even the smallest of details.
An architect plays an integral role in building your dream house, so it’s essential that you hire a talented, trustworthy professional you can have a positive working relationship with. Finding an architect that’s right for you is a process that takes considerable time and planning. We’ve come up with a step-by-step guide to help you find and hire an architect that’s right for you.
What Does an Architect do?
Before you hire a residential architect, it’s important to know exactly what an architect is responsible for, and what you should look for in an architect.
A residential architect is a professional who designs residential buildings including apartments, individual homes, and condominiums. They also work on restoring and renovating existing properties.
When you hire an architect, they will design custom and original designs for your home. Once they have a clear idea of your vision and budget, they will create the blueprints of the design. Architects are also responsible for deciding the placement of plumbing, outlets, and heating and cooling compartments in the home. Usually, an architect will visit the site regularly, check in with the construction team and ensure that everything is going according to plan until the project is completed.
When Do I Need An Architect?
As a budget-savvy homeowner, you might be wondering whether you need an architect in the first place. Depending on your project, an architect’s skillset can range anywhere from unnecessary to absolutely crucial. Here is a quick checklist, if any of these are true for your project then hiring an architect is probably well worth it.
- You’re unsure how to accomplish your home improvement goals.
- You’re making significant alterations to your home, larger than swapping out some cabinets or appliances.
- A good rule of thumb, your total cost for the project is more than 5% of the value of your home.
- You’re making changes to a unique, non-standard, or historic home.
- You want some expert advice or are uncomfortable with making all decisions on your own.
- Your local laws/regulations require one.
There are some nuances to the above, but in general, if you check off any of the above then hiring an architect is likely a smart move.
How to Choose an Architect That’s Right For You
Choosing the right architect for your home takes time, research, and effort and is not a task to take lightly. Here is our step-by-step process that will help guide you on this journey and get you closer to achieving your dream home.
1. Do your research
It’s integral that you research the expert architects in your area to find an architect that aligns with your style and project’s needs.
Search online: Start by doing some online research for architects in your region. Websites like HomeAdvisor let you search for architects by zip code, so you can filter your searches depending on your criteria.
Ask for recommendations: One of the best ways you can find a professional architect that suits your needs is by asking for recommendations from people you know. Ask your family, friends, and neighbors for any recommendations they may have.
Use the AIA chapter database: The American Institute of Architects features search engines that let you search for architects and architectural firms in your area. This can help make searching for your architect a much easier process.
2. Take a look at their portfolio
Even if you’ve received a recommendation for an architect with glowing reviews, they still may not be the right fit for your project. Once you have a few architects on your radar, take the time to look at their portfolio of work. Look at their recent projects to determine whether or not they’re the right professional for the job. Ask yourself whether you like their style of work and whether you can envision yourself living in a home designed by them.
3. Plan out your budget
Before setting up a meeting with an architect, have a budget set in mind that you want to stay within for your project. Having a budget set at the beginning of your project helps prevent any delays. Once you meet with the architect, you can clearly state your budget and ask whether they can work within your limit.
4. Prepare for an interview
Now that you have your eye on a few architects, you’ll soon be setting up an interview with each of them to meet them in person and discuss your requirements. Meeting an architect in person will give you a better feel for who they are and whether or not you feel comfortable moving on to the next step with them. Before setting up a consultation, write down the basic requirements for your project criteria before meeting them. This should include:
- The size, appearance, and style of your project
- The services you are looking for from your architect
- A proposed timeline
- A proposed budget
You can also bring a portfolio of images that reflect your project’s vision and style. This will help the architect have a clearer picture of what you’re looking for from them, and whether or not they can meet your expectations.
5. Schedule a consultation
When you’re ready, schedule a consultation with the architect you would like to work with. You must prepare yourself with questions before the meeting to get the most information possible from the consultation. Here are questions you need to ask an architect during the consultation:
- What are your qualifications?
- How many years have you been working as an architect?
- What sets you apart from other architects?
- How many people are employed by your firm?
- What are the steps in your process?
- What services do you provide throughout each process?
- How long do you estimate the project will take?
- What issues or challenges do you anticipate with this project?
- Will anyone else be working on the project? If so, who?
- What is your estimate of the cost of this project?
- Can you provide me with references?
6. Review their references
Before making your decision, review your architect’s references to get a better idea of how their previous projects have turned out. Here are essential questions to ask your architect’s references:
- Did the architect work within your agreed-upon budget and timeline?
- Would you work with this architect again? Why or why not?
- What issues came up during the process? How did the architect handle them?
- Were you able to communicate with the architect regularly with updates?
- Did the architect listen to your concerns, needs, and feedback?
If possible, you can also visit a few of the architect’s previous projects. By seeing the look of their previous projects, you’ll have a good idea of their style, and whether or not it matches your vision. Do you like the layout, colors, materials, and fixtures?
7. Decide on a fee structure
Once you’ve chosen the architect you would like to work with, you will need to decide on a fee structure that you are both comfortable with. Before getting started, you’ll want to understand their fee structure, what they charge, and why. An architect or architecture firm will charge an hourly rate, a percentage of the costs, a fixed fee, or per square foot. Your architect may also offer packages that include prices based on square footage.
Review the plan your architect provides and ensure that you understand what is included in their fees. If the plan is too vague, ask your architect for a more comprehensive and detailed service list.
There are many things to consider before hiring an architect to work on your home project with you. You’ll want to consider the architect’s price, communication style, design style, and previous work before making your decision. It’s important to choose an architect who you can have a positive, honest, and productive working relationship with as well. With this step-by-step guide, you’ll be able to find an architect that’s right for you and will help you achieve your dream home.