10 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Architect

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

1. What is your design process? What are the deliverables during each phase?

Typically, the architectural design process is divided into 5 phases: (SD) Schematic design, (DD) Design Development, (CD) Construction Document, (CA) Construction Administration. To get more detail on these phases, read this blog post. The contract will usually follow these phases, and the payment schedule might be correlated to the deliverables.

2. Do You Have a Signature Style?

Architects can tailor their style to fit each house and client, but most architects have some overriding design sensibility that they bring to every project. For example, an architect might specialize in modernism, and get a flare of that design style and ethic even if working on a farmhouse, hence the new terms farmhouse modern.

3. What experience do you have working in my area? (City? County? Subdivision?)

Each city, county, and subdivision can have different zoning, design guidelines, local ordinances, and permitting processes. These differences affect the length of time needed to get a permit. Meaning some projects can take a few weeks to permit and others years, yes I said years. If your project has a quick turn-around time and is not a complicated project, and does not need substantial design input, a local architect or even contractor working in your area might be all you need to get in and out quickly. If you want to build your dream home, it is best to find an architect near you with the design portfolio you love (try a 10-50 mile radius first). They may or may not have submitted work in your local jurisdiction, but they will be able to find out the differences reasonably quickly from their network and review. If you have a discerning taste and want to hire a specific architectural firm from another state or even country, ask them if they have partnered with a local firm in the project's jurisdiction. If so, this could be the best of both worlds. If not, it would be needed to find a local architect for them to work if they are not licensed in your state.

4. How do you charge?

Four things are needed initially for the architect to figure out the fee: time, Quality, Scope, and Budget.

If these factors remain undefined, it is typical for the architect to charge hourly until they are determined.

However, if they are defined, Architects usually charge a percentage of the total project cost, anywhere from 8%-25%, depending on the services provided. The more complex the job and the more renowned of the architect, the steeper the fee.

5. What does your basic fee cover? What additional services might I want or need?

Based on your desired level of involvement, you could choose to hire an architect as a consultant. You may only want a permit set of drawings. It is advisable to only ask for those if you have a solid PM background and the project is a light remodel for your home or business. The larger the scope, the more you will benefit from hiring an architect, and the less work you want to do on your end, the more there is to do for the architecture firm.

6. How do you manage the budget?

When it comes to managing the budget, all parties, architect, contractor, and owner, should be involved to stay within your allotted budget.

If you already have a contractor selected early, your architect can check in with them on costs at every step of the way. This way, you have a higher probability of staying on budget. If you are on a strict budget, the architect should only show you items you can afford. If you do not have an outlined budget or a selected contractor, the architect will design what they think you want. You will most likely say yes to all of it, and then when the price comes time to get pricing from a contractor. You might want to cut the project in half because it was double the cost of what you thought it would be. Share your budget with your architect on day one. Or, if your budget is open, work to establish it with your architect early.

7. Do you stay involved during the construction process?

Find out if, and to what level, your architect will stay involved during the construction process. Some tasks require the architect's oversight during construction. Depending on your needs, the architect will have varying degrees of participation. Plans are sometimes handed over to the owner at design completion with no additional time spent, while Plans are not always perfect, so that questions may arise. Have the conversation upfront so that expectations are clearly defined.

8. Who will be my project manager on the job?

The Project manager is the primary contact responsible for scheduling, planning, keeping the design true to the intent, and keeping your project on budget. These responsibilities will then fall on you if not included in the main contract.

If you want more hands-on attention, you should clarify what added benefit a PM could have at each phase.

9. What builders or contractors would you recommend for my project?

You may have found a builder through family or friends. In this case, you could ask, what is the architect's strategy for working with a contractor they have not yet worked with?

If you have not found a builder, many architectural firms work with various builders around their offices. They are familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to recommend professionals based on the needs of your particular project. They usually develop a shorthand with a builder they have worked on a couple of jobs with, leading to fewer headaches down the road.

10. What is the estimated timeline for my project?

In today's hot market, setting realistic timelines for architecture and construction is more important than ever for a project to run smoothly. Find out when your architect is available to start your project and how long they estimate it will take to complete. A good architect will have an open line of communication and update you if decisions are made that will extend your timeline or if unusual outside factors will—goodluck on your exciting journey to redesign your environment.

Before you hire an architect have you done your Pre-Design Work?

This is the gathering information work that is usually done by the client before hiring the architect. This work can be done by the architect to but it is not typically included in most architects' basic services. To get a free guide and checklist download our helpful pdf.

email me at merissa@perianaarchitecture.com for the password for the Pre-Design Guide


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