Hiring An Architect……What You Need To Know


I’ve been in this business for 30 years & speaking from my experience, it’s difficult for most homeowners to objectively choose among architects. They don’t understand the process, what’s involved, how long it takes to do. It is very often oversimplified & underestimated by those outside of the profession. They also don’t understand exactly what they’re going to get from one architect vs. another, which can vary greatly. Builders are in a much better position to evaluate architects, as they’re the ones building off of their plans. Most builders can recognize good design vs. bad design, and they know which architects do good construction drawings vs. those who don’t.

The following is a summary of my advice to help guide you in your selection of an architect.

• The architectural phase is THE most important part of the project & should not be rushed through or underestimated. This is where we’ll decide what will ultimately be built, and it’s easy (and inexpensive) to change lines on paper vs. moving walls during construction (which can get expensive).
• You should consider the selection of an architect as an investment in the value of the house (or addition or remodeling project) you’re planning on designing & building.
• Most good builders will tell you “good design is the single best dollar you can spend when building”, “never skimp on the initial architectural design” & “invest in design pros & trust them”.
• A good builder cannot fix a bad design, as they’re just building whatever was designed. A poor design will cost just as much to build as a good design, so you need to choose your architect wisely.
• Architecture is known as an “old man’s game”……the older you get, the better you get in terms of design ability, knowledge & experience.
• The architectural process is widely misunderstood by many; it’s a lot more involved than you think, & it’s time consuming to do. Many homeowners are surprised by the fees, not realizing how much time is involved.
• Architects are primarily problem solvers, along with being a psychologist, an artist, a scientist & a marriage counselor.
• It would be a mistake to hire an architect based on price alone, as the quality of both the design & construction drawings vary greatly among architects (which isn’t apparent to most homeowners). Just as you most likely would not hire the least expensive doctor or lawyer, you should not hire the least expensive architect.
• Your selection should be based on price, quality, service & your comfort level with them. All too often it comes down to price, but you need to make sure you’re not sacrificing quality or service.
• Architectural fees (much like contractor’s estimates) can vary greatly for numerous reasons; how long they’ve been in business, size of the firm, whether they work from home or have an office with staff, their experience, how busy they are & the quality of the work they do (this applies to both the design & construction drawings). There are no set rates when it comes to fees, so you need to understand what you’re getting for what you’re paying.
• “You get what you pay for” applies to this business. While we primarily provide a service, there’s also a product (being the design & construction drawings) and the quality of these can vary greatly.
• There is a wide range of talent out there among architects as it applies to design ability, construction drawing thoroughness & the amount of detail provided, along with knowledge & experience. You need to understand the quality of what you’re getting relative to what you’re paying for.
• There are no standards when it comes to the quality & content of the construction drawings. What is “normal” for one architect may be very different from what you may get from another architect, which is typically reflected in the fee. A bare bones, stripped down set of construction drawings clearly takes less time to produce that a complete set of construction drawings (as an example, 6 sheets of drawings vs. 25 for the same house).
• The construction drawings are important; they are what the builders will be basing their estimate on & what they’ll be building from. The drawings are what your contract with them is based on. What YOU want is a detailed, complete set of construction drawings for them to work from. This is what the builders really want as well, as it makes their job so much easier. An inexpensive set of construction drawings leave much to the imagination, so the builders typically charge more to cover themselves of all the unknowns. They also leave you vulnerable to “change orders” & extras as the builders can say “it wasn’t on the plans, so it wasn’t in my bid….so it’s an extra”.
• Talk to builders for references for good architects, as they know the good from the mediocre.
• If you’re considering hiring an architect not found through a builder, talk to builders who know that architect for their (hopefully) unbiased opinion.
• I am not the most expensive architect out there, nor the least expensive. I am very good at what I do, and provide those services at a price point that results in a great value to you. I’d suggest asking my builder references about the quality of my work compared to others.
• My fees might seem high or low, all depending on who I’m being compared to. I’ve lost jobs for the being the least expensive as well as the most expensive.
• Why hire me? I’m not just another architect….I’m ideally suited to work with you on your project as I specialize in residential design. I love what I do & approach it with a passion. I’m a creative problem solver as it applies to residential design.

DeMotte Architects | Fairfield County CT Architect | Westchester County NY Architect

Whether you’re just researching architects near you in Fairfield County CT or Westchester County NY, or ready to hire an architect for your home project, schedule a free consultation here. From new custom homes to renovations, we’re here to help. Click to view our past projects in Greenwich CT and beyond.