What is the first thing you want your friends, coworkers and family to say when they walk through the door of your new home? As they breathe in the fresh hewn pine scent of your hand carved balustrades? As they step through the stained glass door into your sunken living room? As they run their fingers over the delicate filigree gracing the archway to your dining room? Don’t you hold your breath in anticipation waiting for their breathless exclamation of delight?
What about you? What sort of feelings do you want your home to invoke in yourself? Your wife? Your children? You need to ask yourself these questions before you make your choice of which architect you will permit to design your home. Your home is a big time investment with a potentially life long commitment. Would you risk your home on an architect who raises more questions in your mind than answers them? You need to choose wisely. There are many items that need to be discussed and decided upon before you choose your architect.
There are design firms that can give you the complete blue prints for your new custom home for as low as few thousand dollars. And then there are famous architects who would charge six figures for their design work and have long wait times. Money is of course important, and you might not have the budget for that hot shot architect, but cheapest designs at this level does not necessarily mean money saved. Remember that beside the aesthetics, making design mistakes at this stage could cost you a lot more at construction phase. However, there are many more questions to ask yourself before choosing an architect.
Here’s where the answers to these questions come in. You have to live or vacation in your home for a long time, unless you choose to sell of course, so you want your home to reflect your and your family’s personality as much as possible. A good architect, chosen wisely and experienced in your areas of concern, can help you with this. Figure out what it is that you really want in your home.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What sort of medical needs does my family have or expect to have? If you have diabetes and are overweight you may want to incorporate a small exercise area. If you provide a home for an aging parent you may wish to keep your home on a single level or include an elevator. These necessities should be decided before choosing an architect so that you can evaluate your potential choices in context to these accommodations.
- What sort of building supplies do you wish to use? An environmentalist may prefer to use green building materials whereas someone less concerned with the environment may not care what sort of materials are used. Some architects specialize in the design of green and sustainable buildings and may offer valuable insight to your options that would not be available should you choose a non-specialized or traditional architect.
- What type of home do you wish to have? Again the issue of specialty and areas of expertise come into play. If you wish to have a traditional home (i.e.: Cape Cod, Plantation House, Farm House, Ranch, etc…) you may not wish to work with an architect who focuses primarily on modern structures. The opposite would hold true as well. So familiarize your self a bit with home styles and look through the architect’s portfolio.
- What goals/likes/dislikes do you and your family have? A social family would likely not want a small cottage whereas the elderly couple may prefer such a home. A married couple who plans on having children may wish to build in an additional bedroom and bathroom or two. An individual with aging parents may want to include a small mother-daughter suite in their design plans. By considering these things before choosing an architect you can find the architect who is willing to negotiate the best price for these desires.
This is just a general listing of the questions you want to ask yourself as you begin your design process, the first and most important step of which is choosing the right designer for your home.
Now that you know what you want, what should you do next?
- The internet is a boon for anyone who wants to build their own custom home. A valuable tool, it will help you locate architects/architectural firms that specialize in the styles and needs you outlined in the beginning of your process. Many firms have made their professional portfolios available online for your benefit. Take advantage of this to find the firm that’s right for you. You, as a well informed, prudent home builder will choose the architect whose past projects most closely reflect the home you have in mind.
- The phone is also an excellent option for acquiring information. By calling the firms you have an interest in you can get answers to questions that may not have been answered on their website. For those firms that don’t have a website you can acquire the location of different projects they have completed, a must for drive-by viewings of their work. Seeing a house in real life is much different than just viewing the images online. So try to visit at least few of the homes design by the architect to get a better feel for their work.
- Now that you have chosen a select few you will need to call and set up a consultation appointment to discuss your project and receive a quote.
- Here is where you will address the concerns and desires you have already outlined earlier. Feel free to ask questions, if the architect is not willing to answer them, he may not be the right architect for you. Come prepared with a list of your wants and needs so that both parties are clear on what the project entails. This is just an interview; you are not obligated to contract with them just because you are sitting down with them. Don’t forget, you still have to look at the others you are interested in.
- What is your comfort level with this individual? Your interview should not be a contained remake of “Clash of the Titans”. If your personalities don’t mesh or you don’t like the way he handles things or he’s not flexible in allowing you to have input, you will likely not enjoy your home building experience any better then you did the interview. Review your options carefully before selecting your architect.
- What are the costs? Of course we recognize that finances are a chief concern, does the cost for their services exceed what we are willing or able to spend? Is his (or her) quote reasonable for the scope of the project you have in mind? Don’t just snatch up the first architect that falls within your budget range. That would be like snatching up the first suit that you set your hands on. Shop around. With a bit of research you should be able to find an architect that has equal or better quality at a more reasonable price. Many are willing to negotiate. If not, that’s okay; you can always go back to your first.
- Workload is also a concern you should address during the interview. You have to ask yourself if you are willing to accommodate his workload or are you adamant that he accommodate yours? A popular architect may have a longer line of projects to fulfill before he reaches yours. Are you willing to accept that in order to get him as your designer or are you willing to accept your second choice in order to have your home built few months sooner? Some famous architects have waiting times of up to two years! Deciding this now will minimize the impact waiting has on your stress level.
This is your dream home, your life, your family. Your architect may feel almost like an extension of your family by the time your home is completed. Is your architect your fun Uncle Joe, your sour Aunt Jane, or your best friend in a hard hat? It’s your home and your choice; make sure it’s the right one.
If you need help finding or choosing the right architect we are always there to help you choose the best architect for your budget and style.
– Jennifer D. Stone