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What to Ask Your Architect

Learn what to ask your architect before hiring one. Preparation is vital when vetting potential architects to hire for your project. A few basic questions have been provided to help make sure the architect is compatible with your tastes, is capable of doing what you want, and will complete the project under terms amenable to you.


What is your design philosophy?

You want to get some insight into whether the artistic preferences of the architect are similar to yours. Ask to see a portfolio of previous designs, and even contact client references where possible. You don’t want to end up with an architect who specializes in modern design if you prefer a more traditional approach, or vice versa. You want to determine how practical the designs really are and whether they are a good match for your project.


What experience do you have designing projects like mine?

Make sure the scope of your project is aligned with the architect’s areas of expertise. This includes parameters such as the size of your home, the location and topography of where you would like to build, and previous experience with any highly customized design features important to you. You want to assess how interested the architect is in designing your project, and whether what you would like to do is even possible.


What can I expect from you?

An architect’s range of services can vary dramatically. Are you just looking for design ideas, or do you want a full set of construction documents? Do you want to manage the construction process yourself, or do you want to retain the architect for project administration as well? (See article on What Does an Architect Do? to get an idea of the range of services available) You want to be very clear on exactly what you are hiring the architect to do, and what deliverables you will be receiving. You should also get an overview on what the process will look like, once you have engaged an architect’s services. Lastly, make it a point to identify and meet with the person who will actually be designing your home.


What else should I be aware of?

You want an architect who proactively alerts you to potential challenges or watch items. Are there any obstacles or red flags related to your project? You want to know what else you should be aware of that may be on the architect’s mind, but has not been communicated to you. You want to have a good idea of any preliminary thoughts the architect may have regarding your proposed project.


How will you be held accountable?

Get everything in writing! You want to know how long each step of the process will take. The architect should also share with you what the anticipated construction cost of the project will be. Inquire about the average square-foot construction price for your type of project, then establish a window of tolerance and penalties for exceeding either cost or timelines.


How much will this cost me?

Understand the architect’s fee structure—this includes knowing what the basic fees are as well as what would trigger any additional fees. Determine how changes are handled, as they almost inevitably will come up. The more transparency the better. You should know exactly how much the architect’s services will cost you and not be fearful of hidden costs coming back to haunt you.


Another good reference is the list of 25 questions published by The American Institute of Architects entitled Questions to Ask Your Architect.