When building a custom home, hiring the right architect is among the most important decisions. A high-quality architect does more than just make sure your custom home follows building code. Instead, they should make sure that the design is one that you’ll be happy with, that works for your lifestyle, and is worth the investment you’re putting in. So, how do you hire an architect for a custom home?
Start with a Budget and Style in Mind
While it is ultimately the general contractor who will give you pricing information for your project and not the architect, you should still have a general idea of your budget and the scope of your home, as well as your desired style. It would be unfortunate to choose your architect and then learn that he/she doesn’t do projects as small or large as yours or isn’t comfortable producing a home in your style. Do your homework first and have some idea of what you want.
Look Through Architect Directories
A quick online search won’t give you all of the architects available in your area. Some will not have websites (and these may either be new architects or ones so experienced that they don’t need to advertise.) If you’re in Redwood City like us, then you might want to check out the Yelp listings for local architects. Make sure you’re looking for architects and not design and build firms, which will insist on building the project they make blueprints of. Often, skilled architects work by themselves, not with a design and build firm.
Explore their Work, Meet with Them
Most architects will have online galleries of their work. Sometimes they show off the blueprints as well as photos of the finished product. Look for either an architect whose style seems to match yours or one who has such a breadth of style that you feel comfortable they could adjust to your personal wants for your design.
Looking at photos is not enough. Your architect should connect with your project on a personal level and be a good communicator who is responsive to your questions and your goals. Meet with many architects before you choose one, and wait for one that you connect with.
Understand What Their Cost Means
There are three ways an architect might charge you:
- Hourly fee for their work
- Flat fee for their work
- Percentage of the construction costs
Regardless of which you choose, the architect’s work should cost thousands of dollars. They should also be able to give you a rough idea of what it will cost, if they’re charging hourly or as a percentage of construction costs.
It may be tempting to choose an architect who appears to charge the least. However, they may be underestimating their cost, or they may not be as talented as those who charge more. In the end, choose an architect who you think will deliver good results and be simple to work with.
Talk to Your General Contractor
Your general contractor will have a sense of which architects in the area can deliver the kind of custom home you want. They’ll also know how easy they are to work with. Getting a referral from your general contractor can be a great idea.