Selecting an Architect That’s Right For Your Project


You’ve decided to take the leap & build a new house or add onto or remodel your house & you need to hire an Architect. This is the first of many big decisions to be made & should not be taken lightly, as it sets the stage for a smooth running project from start to finish.

How do you find an architect who’s right for your project? The criteria for making this decision should be price, quality, service, & your comfort level with them… the “warm & fuzzy factor.” Most homeowners assume that all architects are somewhat equal, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Based on this false assumption, many homeowners will typically hire the least expensive architect which can be a fatal mistake.

There’s a wide range of talent among architects when it comes to design ability, construction knowledge, & overall capability. What you may get from one architect can be very different from what you get from another. No two architects work exactly the same way or charge the same fees, so be prepared to shop around and talk with several to find the one that’s right for you. There are various levels of service that can be provided & there are many ways to establish fees.

A phone call may be your first step to begin the process. Once you’ve spoken to several and have narrowed it down, set up a meeting to meet in person. This is your chance to assess the chemistry between you, as this is one of many factors. You’ll be working with this architect for 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 someone who is enthusiastic, passionate about what they do, and understands your vision.

· How soon can they start? If they’re interested in your project but can’t take on additional work at the time, are you willing to wait?

· Do they have the capacity to take on your project immediately & produce work in a timely fashion?

· When reviewing the architect’s portfolio of projects, look for both style and substance. In general, do you like their style? Design is very subjective, & if you like what you see that’s a good indication. Have they done projects like yours before? Most architects are fairly versatile; just because they haven’t designed a Tudor home before doesn’t mean they can’t. If they’ve done numerous projects like yours, that’s preferable since they would have more experience in that particular style.

· Some architects have a preference for one or two styles, otherwise known as a “signature style.” Some clients might hire an architect specifically for this reason, so make sure you understand what you’ll be getting. Otherwise, you might feel that you’re being shoehorned into a style the architect prefers rather than one you prefer.

· As the architect develops the design for your house, what will they do to help you visualize the design if you’re having trouble understanding the 2 dimensional floor plans & elevations? For example, will they make models or do 3 dimensional sketches?

· What time frame does the architect propose for designing your house? The process could range from a few months to a year, all depending on the scope of the project & what approvals are required. The important thing is that once you start, the process should progress as quickly as you can make decisions.

When you’re at the point of seriously considering hiring someone, look at their portfolio of work, see some of their completed projects in person, & talk to their past clients. Most people are more than happy to talk about their home building experience, including the good & the bad. Several questions you should ask them are:

· After the project was completed, has their view of the architect changed?

· Would they hire the architect again or recommend to friends?

· Was the architect responsive during both the design process & construction phase? Did he return phone calls & emails promptly?

· Was the architect involved during construction? If so, was that valuable?

· Were there any issues during construction that were drawing related (were there mistakes that created problems)? If so, how was this resolved?

· If there were any disputes during construction between the owner & the builder, was the architect involved to resolve the dispute? If so, how well did they handle that?

· Did they feel they got what they paid for?

Next, talk to builders the architect has worked with, as builders are better judges of an architect’s abilities than a homeowner is. They’re the end users, the ones actually using the construction drawings to build the project.

· 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.

· How good were the construction drawings? Were they accurate, precise & detailed, or were they inaccurate with a lot of missing information? The clearer the construction documents, the easier and more smoothly the job will run.

· During construction, was the architect responsive to questions to clarify or interpret information on the drawings?

· Was the architect involved during construction to visit the site and monitor the progress? If so, was this confrontational or were they more of a team player?

· How well did the architect handle client-builder disputes? If the builder thinks the architect resolved disputes quickly and fairly, it’s a sure sign the builder likes working with him.

Choosing an architect can be difficult if you’ve never worked with one before, don’t know what questions to ask, & don’t know what to look for. You could be hiring the “A” team or you could be hiring the “C” team, & you do get what you pay for. Not enough can be said about the importance of both the design & construction drawings. Hiring a good architect is money well spent, as what they design is what you’re going to be building & spending your hard-earned money on.

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

At DeMotte Architects, our goal is to bring your dream home to life. From large custom homes to small remodels, we’re here to help. View our past projects in Greenwich CT and beyond, or schedule a free consultation for your Fairfield County CT or Westchester County NY project.