Hiring an Architect for a Residential Project
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Friday, August 16, 2013
By Robert R. Larsen, A.I.A.
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For many home owners, hiring an architect can be a daunting experience.  Most people have never even met an architect, let alone worked with one.  Therefore it's hard for them to know how to proceed with finding and hiring the perfect architect for their project.  

A good first step is to talk to other people you know who have built similar projects to the one you are embarking upon.  They may be able to recommend their architect.  Otherwise, check with your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects which should have a listing of local architects categorized by the types of  projects they work on.  

Once you have gotten the names of approximately three likely candidates, start phoning their offices to see if they would be interested in helping you with your project.  If so, request an appointment to meet them, either at their office or at your home.  I suggest it is best to have them come to your home.  This way they can get an idea of your life-style. If your project involves remodeling your present home it helps the prospective architect get up to speed with your project requirements and challenges and start visualizing some design solutions.  This meeting also gives you a chance to observe how the architect thinks on his feet.

One mistake people make when interviewing architects is to expect them to come up with a design on the spot.  It's much more important at this stage to use this meeting to get to know one another.  Keep in mind you will be working with this person for quite a long period of time and it is very important that you feel comfortable with him or her.  You won't be very happy when you find after signing a contract that your architect is over-bearing, condescending, not focused, inarticulate, or stubborn.  Is this someone you could be friends with?

Watch out for the architect who uses the same design style for every project. A good architect will listen to your description of how you visualize your home and try to understand your unique taste.   This is your home, so you have a right to have a say in the design.  You don't want an architect who will try to force his ideas on you against your wishes.  There needs to be a balance where the architect respects your taste, while you respect his professional experience and guidance.

Look at the architect's photos of his or her completed work.  Has he or she worked on projects similar to yours?  It can be a mistake to hire an architect who has done only large commercial projects and has very little experience with residential jobs.  Residential architecture is a specialty in that it is very detailed work.  Also, residential clients usually require the architect to be very patient with them in that they are new to the construction process and need a lot of personal attention. You probably have very specific thoughts on what needs to go into your design, so you want to be sure you've found an architect who will listen to you and take your personal taste into consideration.