Selecting an architect that’s right for your project

So you’ve decided to hire an Architect. How do you find the right one for your project? Since no two architects work in exactly the same way or charge exactly the same fees, be prepared to shop around and talk with several to find the one that’s right for you. Once you’ve spoken to several and narrowed it down, be prepared to meet in person. While you’re talking assess the personality mix, as this is one of many factors. Your decision should be based on price, quality, service & your comfort level with them.
You’ll be working with this person for at least at least a few months, so it’s very important you get along & have a good rapport. You should also consider the following:
• Does the architect seem interested in your project? Assessing this is completely subjective, but you want some one who is enthusiastic and understands your vision.
• How soon can he start? If he says in six months, look for someone else unless you’re willing to wait (which may or may not be worth it).
• When you see the architect’s portfolio of completed work, look for both style and substance. Does the architect seem versatile and comfortable with any number of styles? If you want Tudor Style home and the architect has never done it, do you think he can handle it? If the portfolio shows that the architect is versatile, he can very likely work in a style he hasn’t done before.
• Some architects have a marked preference for one or two styles, otherwise known as a “signature style”. While some architects are hired specifically for that reason, it may not work for all clients. You might possibly feel that you are being shoehorned into a style the architect prefers rather than one you prefer. You want to be open to new possibilities, but you are going to live in the house, so follow your gut instincts and design what you like & what appeals to you.
• As the architect develops the design for your house, what will he do to help you visualize what he’s creating? For example, does he make scale models or create sketches of exterior and interior perspective drawings?
• What time frame does the architect propose for designing your house? You should anticipate at least four months and likely more than that if you want a large house with many details.
• How long will it take to build the house? Six months to a year is about average.

If things seem promising, go look at several of the architect’s completed projects and talk with the owners. Don’t worry about intrusive questions, as most people are willing to talk about their homebuilding adventures and will be forthcoming. Several questions you should ask them are:
• How well did they get along with the architect?
• Were there any cost overruns? This is always a concern when building a never-built-before house)
• Did they feel they got what they paid for?
• How well did the architect handle disputes between the builder and the owners? The architect is supposed to be the owner’s advocate for such disputes.
• Does the house include any unusual design elements that you might want the architect to replicate in your house?

Next, talk to the builders the architect has worked with, especially the ones who built the houses you saw.
• How many houses has he built with this architect? If they’ve done a number of jobs together and know each others working style, there’s less chance for miscommunication and errors.
• Were the architect’s drawings and written specifications useful and informative, useless and confusing or somewhere in between? The clearer the construction documents, the easier and more smoothly the job will run.
• During construction, was the architect responsive to field questions? If it’s urgent, the architect should be available to answer questions right away.
• How often did the architect visit the site and was this a problem? Remember that whether or not the architect be involved is solely based on the clients desire to have them involved. If so, the frequency depends on the stage of construction: at some points he needs to be there once a week. At other times, once a month is adequate.
• How well did the architect handle client- builder disputes? If the builder thinks the architect resolved disputes quickly and even-handedly, it’s a sure sign the builder likes working with him.

Choosing an architect can be difficult if you don’t have experience in what to look for in a good architect. Doing your homework, knowing what questions to ask and what to look for when interviewing an architect can help you avoid making an expensive mistake.