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How to Choose an Architect: 5 Considerations

When it comes to designing and building a custom modern home, you will need to make many different decisions that will all add up into the final, finished project. One of the most important of these decisions, which will impact virtually every step of the design process, is: Which architect will you work with to bring your dream home to life?

Ultimately, choosing an architect will be an incredibly personal, subjective decision. Sometimes, you’ll know right from the very first conversation that you want to work with someone because you can tell that they immediately “get” your vision. But very often, it will take some serious deliberation to know that you’re working with someone who you trust will guide your project through to completion.

Below, we discuss five important considerations you should bear in mind when evaluating different architects so that you can be sure you make the best possible choice for your needs.

What to Look For in an Architect

1. Do they communicate well?

When you decide to work with an architect, you are making a decision to weave your lives together for a certain period of time, whether that be weeks, months, or even years. With this in mind, it’s important that you choose an architect who communicates clearly and in a way that you understand.

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If break down in communication starts early even before you hire them this could be a sign of what’s to come down the road. If they don’t respond within a reasonable period of time when you call, text, or email, or they regularly miscommunicate with you about your project, you may want to find an architect with better communication skills to work with.

2. Do they treat you with the respect and priority you deserve?

The decision to build a custom home is likely to be one of the most important, intimate, and expensive decisions that you ever make during your life. The architect that you ultimately choose to work with should understand this fact and treat it as such.

This doesn’t mean that your architect should be at your beck and call and always be immediately available when you want to talk about your project. But you should be confident that they are engaged in the process and that they treat you with both respect and priority.

Similarly, you should ask yourself: How do they handle criticism? Design is, by its very nature, an incredibly subjective and iterative process. The right architect should demonstrate a willingness to be collaborative.

3. Do they understand your needs?

All design projects should begin with a requirements list, which outlines what you need out of your project. This can be practical—for example, a certain number of bedrooms, specific intents for different areas of your home, etc.—and aesthetic. A high-quality architect will listen to your needs and goals, take that inspiration, and develop it further into a truly great design.

If the architect doesn’t understand your needs—or worse, won’t acknowledge or prioritize them—then it is a sign that you don’t see eye to eye.

4. Do they respect your budget?

For better or worse, many architects view a budget as more of a “starting point” and don’t often worry too much about where the final cost of the project ends up.

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But the reality, for most homeowners, is that the budget is one of the key constraints for most projects. Dramatically exceeding the homeowner’s expectations when it comes to cost can lead to a lot of issues when it comes to actually executing upon the design. It’s important, then, for the architect to regularly check in with the homeowner as to the state of the budget.

5. Who will you be working with?

Architecture firms come in all shapes and sizes. Some consist of just the lead architect; others add a layer of support staff; and the largest firms can involve numerous layers of junior and senior architects. With this in mind, it’s important to understand who is actually going to be working on your project.

If you are choosing to hire a firm because you want a specific architect to be designing your home, ask the question: Will they actually be working on your home from day to day, or will they be handing it off to a junior staff member?

Don’t get us wrong: Junior architects play an important role and can create exquisite designs. But you never want to feel like someone you are trusting with the future of your home is pulling a “bait and switch” on you by implying they will be leading your project when in reality it will be someone else’s responsibility. It’s always best to ask the question directly before the work even begins.

6. Do you admire their work?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, before you hire an architect you want to make sure that you admire their work.

Take a look at their website, review their portfolio, and read articles that spotlight their past projects. Ask yourself: Does their approach to design match what you hope to achieve aesthetically with your project? Does each of the homes that you view make sense from a layout perspective and feel “right”? How do the projects overarchingly make you feel?

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By focusing on these elements—instead of whether or not an architect has completed a home in a style similar to the one you are looking for—you will often be able to make a more informed decision about who you hire.

Finding the Right Fit

At the end of the day, you know just how important it is to choose the right architect for your project. By asking yourself the questions discussed above for each architect you are considering, you will be able to feel much more confident that you have made the right decision.