Ask questions and get answers from experienced industry professionals
Ask for references of their Clients who worked with the architect in the past year on a project similar to what you're planning.
Ask for a copy of their contract
Who owns the plans and specifications?
Ask to visit a project that is in process
How long have they been in business?
Who will be our main point of contact? and then ask to meet the individual
Dennis D. Gehman, Master Certifed Remodeler (MCR)
Gehman Design Remodeling
How will they integrate design, selections, and construction?
What is their track record for being able to design a project that meets a target construction budget, and actually complete the construction project?
How do they help to ensure that the project ends up on time, on budget, and as beautiful as imagined?
I aggree with everyone above. In our experience the most common thing that tends to happen in the design process is that the design tends to overrun the budget and often there can be delays and added expense as a result.
Ask for references and speak to past clients to find out if the architect can design within budget. Find out if the architect has experience doing residential remodeling. Get a complete price for the entire design development and construction document package including consultants i.e. engineering, permit processing etc. Don't pay a retainer until you check hiring an archictect against a design - build firm who will handle the entire process for one fee.
There is mudh information about how to find an architect/designer for new home construction or remodeling additions. Unfortunately, many decisions end up being based on numbers, specifically the cost estimate to prepare the design and specifications. Basing such an important decision and arguably one of the largest investments of your life on mere numbers is at least incomplete and at worst, a potential nightmare scenario.
It is recommended that a comprehensive approach be undertaken that admittedly takes a little more time than just providing an initial cost estimate but one that can result in truly finding the firm for your unique situation and budget.
It starts with identifying what's "right" for you, a unique definition that requires a solid vision for your project and some personal introspection. For instance, if you are planning on undertaking a large whole house remodel or a contemporary/modern design style, you should look at architects and/or design/build firms in your area that specialize in and have a track record of building those types of projects.
Narrow that list by investigating each company's websites, calling their references if available, the Better Business Bureau, and your local building association chapter.
You should consider the types of personalities you like and respond to best. You won't know if you're 'compatible' until you meet face-to-face. If you're confident in one firm either from your research or a strong referral, you may not feel the need to meet with any other candidates. But if you are truly starting your search from scratch, without a referral from a trusted source, it is suggested that you develop a short list of 3-4 firms and invite them to make a presentation in your home -- as much to glean their methods as to gauge compatibility and their interest in your project.
At those meetings, be open and honest about your project. If you have a draft fllor plan or inspiration photos, show them. Request that each candidate bring photos of projects that are similar to yours in style and size. Inquire about how they differentiate themselves from their peers.
Finally, ask each candidate on how they price their services and, in turn, share your project budget, There's no sense in trying to forge a good working relationship if you are not forthcoming about what you can afford..
Once you find an architect or design/build firm that's earned your confidence in their skills, understanding of your project, and (most important) their ability to communicate with you, it's time to refine and sign a contract and get them involved in the project as soon as possible.
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