Whether you are thinking about remodeling your home or building a brand new house from scratch, you already know that getting your dream home will require you to find the perfect architect for the job.
In choosing an architect, there are certain questions that everyone knows to ask. What’s their style? Does it match yours? What fees will they charge? Etc.
But while these are of course important questions to ask, they’re not the only questions that you should consider. There are also other, deeper questions that will give you a better sense of what it will be like to go through a project with a particular architect, which can help you ensure that you are making the right choice.
Below, we take a look at five key questions you should ask before working with an architect.
Questions to Ask an Architect
1. Who will be designing and working on my project?
Picture this: You meet with the head architect at a large residential architectural firm and explain your project. They join you for a site visit where you tell them your vision, and they begin to walk you through their ideas. You sign the contract, and your project officially kicks off.
In a case like this, you might think that the head architect who was involved in those early meetings with you would be the person designing your project, but that may or may not be right, especially at many larger firms with large teams. In fact, your project may be designed entirely by junior architects, with only minimal input from the person you thought you were signing on to be your architect.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. But if the main reason you agreed to work with a firm was because you thought you were working with a certain member of the team, it’s understandable that you might feel a bit betrayed. That’s why it’s always better to ask before you sign the contract.
As a note, this tends to be less of a concern when you hire smaller firms. If a firm’s team consists of one or just a handful of people, you can generally feel pretty safe in the assumption that the head architect will be involved with your project.
2. Do you have any references?
You should approach hiring an architect like you would approach hiring someone to do any other job. A big part of the hiring process is asking for references that you can speak to to get a better sense of who the architect is, what working with them will be like, and, ultimately, whether or not they’re the right person for your project.
And yet, clients don’t always ask for references. This is a huge wasted opportunity.
When asking for references, you’ll of course want to ask for previous clients whose homes the architect worked on. But it can also be valuable to ask for references from contractors, who will be able to offer a slightly different point of view.
3. What’s your process?
While the architectural design process will be similar from firm to firm, it’s important to understand that every firm will have its own unique process that might differ from others.
For example, one firm may design entirely in sketches and drawings and plans, and then move right into construction upon approval. Another firm might generate renderings and physical or 3D models to help the client consider different options. Neither of these routes is right or wrong, but it’s critical that you know what to expect so that you won’t be disappointed.
Knowing what an architect’s process will be before you sign a contract with them will ensure that you know exactly what you can expect from working with them. More importantly, it will allow you to compare the architects on your short list when you are making your final decision.
4. Does my budget fit my design goals and needs?
Many people don’t talk about their budget early enough in the design process. But this is an important piece of information that’ll impact literally every aspect of your project. Having the budget conversation early on, when you’re still choosing an architect, can help you align your expectations for your project.
It can also give you some real insight into who the architect is and how they work. When you tell them your budget, how do they react? Do they immediately tell you that it isn’t enough to reach your goals and try to convince you to spend more, or do they come up with ideas to get you as close to your dream home as possible? Are they blunt, but encouraging, or are they dismissive?
5. What do you include in your construction document set?
Everyone asks what an architect’s fees are, but usually never go beyond that by asking what is included for that fee.
Knowing what level of construction documents you are getting for their fee will make a big difference. Not all architects provide the same level of drawings and specifications. Some architects will only provide the very basic number of drawings to get permits and a bid, but in that scenario there will be a lot of decisions to be made during the construction of the project. Other architects provide a significantly more developed set of drawings and specifications, thus lessening the need to make decisions during the construction of the project when time counts.
Go Deeper to Know You’re Making the Right Decision
Making the decision to work with an architect to design your home is an exciting one to make, and one you should be proud of. But it’s also important to keep yourself from getting caught up in that excitement and to do your due diligence. Asking the questions above can help you feel more confident that you’re making the right decision.