Now that you have made the decision to build your dream home it is time to hire an architect. In my opinion, it is best to hire an architect before you purchase the land on which you plan to build, however, in most cases the architect is hired afterwards. I have listed 10 areas of discussion for your interview with architects you are considering for your project. Comparing the answers to these questions for all architects you interview will be a tool in helping you decide which to hire.
1. Background and Experience What is your educational background? What associations are you a current member? Are you licensed/registered in this state? How long have you been designing homes? How many homes have you designed in this municipality? How many homes have you designed in this homeowner association (if applicable)? Do you personally know the HOA's design approval committee's architect? If so, what kind of a relationship do the two of you have? (I know of situation where the HOA's architect had worked for the homeowner's architect and left on bad terms. The HOA architect made unreasonable demands causing costly revisions and delays which appeared to be out of spite).
2. Compensation and Payment How are you compensated? There are many approaches to the way an architect is paid for his/her services. Examples include being paid a percentage of the overall construction fee (sometimes with a cap), a flat rate based on the square footage usually with a set number of revisions, a flat rate based on a mutually agreed upon number of projected hours with a per hour rate for hours exceeding that projected number, a flat fee for a complete set of architectural plans plus a per hour fee for site visits during construction, etc. What is your payment schedule?
3. Meeting Budgets How accurate are you in designing a home that when put to bid will meet or come in under our budget? What percentage of homes that you design meet the budget? If your design comes in over budget, will revisions to meet the budget be free?
4. What Role Will You Play Do you personally design the house or do you have a staff that does most of the work and you oversee it? If so, what is the experience of the person who will be assigned my project? May I have names and contact numbers of clients who worked with this person?
5. Timetable What is the timetable? How long does it take to see the first set of plans? How long does it generally take to complete all plans and put the project to bid? How many homes are you currently designing?
6. Experience With Similar Homes How many homes have you designed that were the same number of square feet as I want designed? How many homes have you designed in the same budget range as mine? If you have a challenging lot such as on a steep slope, on a cliff, in a dry dessert area, in an earthquake prone area, in a hurricane or tornado area, in a beach area with sandy soil, in a humid wet climate or a flood prone area, ask the architect what kind of experience he or she has in that particular area?
7. Designing Green Explain your approach and experience in designing a green home?
8. Awards Which design awards are you most proud of? How many times has your design been published in a magazine or book?
9. Contractor License, Insurance, Contract and References Please provide the following: contractor license number, certificate of insurance, copy of the contract you use and the names and contact information of the homeowners of the last 5 homes you have designed.
10. Miscellaneous How do you stay current on residential building materials? Does a model of the home come with the plans? If not, how much would a model cost? (I have seen HOA's that require a model and the model ending up costing $25,000) If you already have a builder in mind, ask the architect if he or she has ever worked with that builder. it is best if the builder and architect have worked together before, though not imperative.