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How to Choose an Architect

If you're considering building, you'll want to consider hiring an architect. While you may not need one for a small home, there are many advantages to using a licensed architect. They don't only come up with your design, a good architect will walk you through every stage of the building process including overseeing the construction and making sure the contractor follows his plans.


Things You'll Need:

  • Patience
  • 3 ring binder with paper to keep information in

1. Start by finding architects that you'd like to interview. Ask friends, family, or business associates for recommendations. Use the internet or phone book to aid in your search.

2. Contact architects. See if you can set up a brief phone interview. Remember that architects are highly paid professionals - make sure that you have a list of questions ready. Any architect that you would consider hiring should take the time to answer your questions about their experience, design principles, etc. but don't expect them to give away their knowledge for free.

3. After contacting numerous firms via the phone, narrow your choices down to 3-5 architects that you'd like to interview. Set up a meeting with them. Be prepared with information about what you'd like to build, your expected budget, & questions that you'd like to ask the architect.

4. When you meet with the architect, the following questions are important and should be asked:

  • What is your experience in building (insert project type)? You want an architect who has had experience in your type of project.
  • What do your services include? Ideally, you want an architect who offers a full range of services including schematic design, design development, construction documents, bid assistance, and construction administration.
  • What are your design principles? These should fit with what you are looking for, but ideally, you'll find an architect whose goal it is to take your vision and put it on paper. An architect should say that they are willing to spend as much time as necessary with you, the client, in order to learn about your needs and wants. They'll use that information to design the best possible building for you.
  • What is your fee structure? Some architects charge an hourly rate while others charge a percentage of total construction costs. If your architect charges an hourly rate, be sure to find out if there is a maximum guaranteed cost.
  • What other services are included in your fee? Your architect will likely consult with structural engineers, electrical engineers, and other professionals throughout your design. Find out if any of those costs are covered in your fee or if you'll be billed for those separately.

  • Do you have professional liability insurance? You'll want to make sure that your architect does.
  • Do you have experience in environmentally friendly design and building? As this becomes more important and more popular, you may want to find an architect that has experience in this field. They may be able to assist you with getting a LEED or other green built rating on your home or building.
  • Do you have rendering capabilities? Technology has allowed many architects to offer clients photo realistic renderings so they can see what their building will look like before it's even started. Some architects can even offer virtual tour renderings. If you are a visual person, this may be very important to you!

5. Once you've interviewed all the architects that you are considering, take your time and really compare them. Make sure that you are choosing someone who you connected with as you'll be working with this person for a good amount of time.

6. After you've made your selection, make sure that you get a contract and that you understand all of it. Take the time to have an attorney look it over. Specifically, make sure that you understand payment terms, what happens if you have to put your project on hold or cancel your project. Don't sign it until you understand and are comfortable with all terms of the contract.

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