Diary of a Dream House – Part 4: Hiring an Architect

Once you have a builder selected, and your budget in order, the next most important person on your team is your architect. He or she is the one person who is going to take your dream and make it reality. So, it is extremely important that you and your architect think alike…or even better, they think like you! Sure their credentials and reputation are important, but what you are really searching for is chemistry.

How do you Find Chemistry?

Finding chemistry takes more than simply searching the web for architects in your area. Instead let’s start with more personal ways to find just the right architect, like asking your friends and colleagues for recommendations. At least you would be working with someone who worked well with your best friend…that’s a good start.

Keeping it personal, how about talking to your builder? All builders have architects that they use and they might be a good choice for you. After all, you trust your builder, now perhaps you can trust the architects they choose to work with. This doesn’t mean you should take what is given, the interview process is still important, and the architect’s personality really needs to mesh with yours more than with the builders.

If you haven’t been successful with either option above, then the internet is your next best choice.

Today you can find reviews on architects through sites like Angie’s List. Again, at least you are getting some information directly from people who have worked with the architect.

The Houzz website also has listings of architects in your area and you can see their portfolios online as well. In this scenario at least the listings are confined to a certain radius from your current location so you don’t have to travel too far to find them.

Or, you can check out your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). You can search their listing of affiliated architects, but I must say that often the list is daunting.

Make a List and Narrow it Down

Once you have a list of several architects to consider, it’s time to get a hold of each architect and describe your project. This is the time to find out if they are even available to take on your project. If so, ask them to send you some literature on their qualifications and experience. You will probably receive photos of past work and perhaps references that you could call.

Narrow your list down again and set up face to face appointments. At these appointments you want to see even more of their past work to make sure the houses they’ve designed are homes you would want to live your life in. If you like the architect’s past work, chances are you will find common ground. But, that still isn’t chemistry!

During these initial meetings, just be yourself. Ask lots of questions about how they do business, and make sure to clearly communicate what your goals and expectations are. The manner in which they answer your questions will help you determine if their personality will mesh with yours. If you can talk something other than shop that forges some other bond between you, all the better.

You want this person to “get” you and design YOUR home, not theirs. If at any time during the interview you feel uncomfortable or have difficulty understanding the architect’s explanations, this one may not be the architect for you.

Aside from Chemistry there’s Economics!!

Being simpatico with your architect is very important, but if you can’t afford him, it might be best to just become friends! So, remember to take the time to ask about the fees for his service.

Expect to see something in writing that describes the duties of both sides of the contract: you and your architect. For instance, some architects help you make interior selections as well as designing the plans and look of the exterior of your home. In my case, we paid a lump sum for finished drawings only and we are using an interior design to help with the interior finishes. Other fee structures include an hourly rate, a percentage of a project’s construction cost, or maybe a combination of those with something that outlines how the fees will be paid. You’ll want a time frame to finish the project included in the contract as well.

Make Your Choice and Become a Team

Your face to face interviews will help you to make your final choice.  Once you do, be a part of the team. Don’t relegate decisions to just your spouse or even to the architect or builder unless you are prepared to live with those decisions.  You don’t want the architect to control your project to the point that your dream home is no longer yours. But, you also don’t want to restrict the architect so much that you are not getting your money’s worth in terms of their design ability and creativity!

Architects Drawing

Starting the Project

Start your project with the architect by bringing everything you’ve collected from photos, to swatches to chicken scratches on napkins so he or she can start to understand what you are looking for in your dream home.

My architect is a whiz at quick sketches, and every time he would sketch up something to put our ideas on paper, we were mesmerized. This is a great way to get started with an open back and forth brainstorming that eventually settles in on something more concrete.

These concrete ideas turn into initial drawings of your dream home with the architect taking your ideas and restrictions (like budget or square footage) into consideration. These drawings are so exciting to finally receive. It’s your first look at what you’ve been dreaming about for months!

Take some time with these drawings and imagine yourself going through your daily routine within the walls of what they have designed. Can you “see” yourself in this home? Have they included those special details that will make this the house of your dreams? Make changes until you are sure you feel right about the design. These more detailed drawings will help your builder price out the cost of building your home.

At that point there may be alterations to the plans or elevations to accommodate the budget. Once that is done and your signature is on the plans in approval, you’re off and running!

Now don’t think all the decisions are over…they are just beginning, but that is exactly what you signed up for, the ability to create YOUR house, YOUR way. Enjoy the next few months and stay true to who you are and how you live. Let your architect support you in what you want to achieve and when the dust settles, you’ll have that dream home with a little help from your newly forged friends!!



    • Shari Hiller says

      Hahaha! Thank you, but that was a very early version….I can’t afford that one!! Especially since my family is continually getting smaller. Once I do get things figured out, I’ll let you take a peek at it!

Speak Your Mind

2 × four =