How To Select Your Architect

Selecting your team is one of the most important decisions you will make during the entire process, so if you are ever going to slack off, now is not the time to do it.

Things to think about when selecting an architect:

1.       Determine if you are looking for a signature style

o   Are you looking for someone who has a particular style that they repeat in all of their projects?

o   Are you looking for someone whose portfolio indicates that he or she can work in multiple styles, is a creative problem solver and can think outside the box?

o   If you get a stellar recommendation from a trusted friend for an architect who only does contemporary work, but you have your heart set on a traditional white picket fence and the house to match, he or she might not have the experience to design and detail things the way you want them.

2.       What type of services do you need, and do the architects you are considering provide those services?

o   Are you adept at reading architectural plans and if not, can they provide alternate visual methods to help you understand them, like 3D models?

o   In addition to your architectural needs, do you need help selecting finishes, fixtures, furniture, art, etc., and do they provide these types of services? Some do and some don’t.

o   Do you want help managing the construction, or do you just need a set of permit drawings? If you only want permit drawings, is the architect okay with that? Some prefer to be involved through to the end to ensure the design intent is carried out, so even if you are blown away by their design sense and estimate, it might not be the right match after all.

3.       If doing a project of any significant size, you should use a licensed architect. Designers cannot legally call themselves architects without actually having gone through the painstaking torture that is our licensing process. While I am sure there are qualified unlicensed designers out there, would you want a dentist that isn’t board certified? No thank you. Having a certified professional 100% in your corner during this challenging process is a huge benefit.

4.       Call people's references, and if they are willing to let you visit their house, go do it. Keep in mind that not all architects have online reviews, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad at architecture. It just means they are bad at marketing. Regardless, you should talk to real humans so you can ask specific questions about how well that particular architect listened, responded to challenges, managed the process, schedule, budget, etc.

5.       What is their schedule? Do you want them to start right away? Can you get on their schedule for next summer if that works better for you? Don’t just assume that because they took the interview that they can start immediately, and if it matters to you, then ask.

6.       Some architects charge for an initial interview and some don’t. If you are serious about finding the right person, I wouldn’t let this initial fee influence your decision in any way. It takes about half of an entire work day to travel to a potential client’s home, meet with them, travel back, and put together an estimate. In addition, you will inevitably be educated on the process and maybe even snag some ideas. There is value in that. Don’t forget, you are being interviewed by the architect just as much as the architect is being interviewed by you.

7.       Before your initial meeting, ask if you will be working with them or a project manager, as you need to meet with whomever you will be dealing on a day to day basis. No one wants to be wooed by the tall, dark and creative and inevitably end up working with the Grinch.

8.       It is important to make sure your personalities match! They will need to get to know your preferences, daily routines, pet peeves, etc. Is this the type of person to whom you can see yourself divulging your obsessive compulsion to organize your laundry into lights, darks, whites, heavy fabrics, damp fabrics, and super soiled? Did you feel like she was listening well and answering your questions when you first met? Listen to your gut. If she doesn’t seem like the right fit, on to the next one. Finding someone who matches your personality is just as important as their portfolio.

9.       Last but not least, I’m sure you are wondering how much architectural services cost. I could write a novel on this topic, but the short answer is that the industry standard for architectural services is about 15-20% of your total project budget for residential construction. Seem high? Trust me; it isn’t, as the extensive amount of properly detailed documentation will save you a lot money in the long run. I once saw photos of two boats owned by one contractor. The small rowboat was named, “Original Contract”, and it was sitting atop the yacht named, “Change Order”.  Get my drift? You need the drawings and they cost money, so why not take the time to pick the person who is right for your job?