You’ve searched online and asked friends and family for recommendations on the area’s best architects. You may have even created a shortlist of architects you’d like to consider to build your custom luxury home and poured over their portfolios to review their work. The next phase in this process is preparing for the interviews. What are the best questions to ask an architect to make sure they are a good fit for your project? Here is a list of questions to help you prepare for the interviews with your prospective architects.
1. WHAT EXPERIENCE DO YOU HAVE WORKING IN THE AREA?
The architect’s level of familiarity with the Atherton area can have implications for how well their design will suit the aesthetic of the surrounding neighborhood. Not to mention, if the architect has experience designing homes that have been built in the area, they will likely already be familiar with the zoning codes and ordinances that may affect the design of your home. Certain subdivisions may have strict design guidelines that require a committee approval before a project can move forward.
Of course, depending on the architect’s experience and length of time in the industry, they may easily acclimate to varying codes and permitting processes. This will require clarifying follow-up questions to be sure that this is the case. In fact, it would be beneficial for you to do research on the city or neighborhood website to learn if there are area-specific ordinances and guidelines before going into the interview.
2. WHAT SERVICES WILL THE ARCHITECT PROVIDE DURING CONSTRUCTION?
This question will be answered, in part, by how far into the construction process you would like the architect to be involved. However, some architects provide certain functions, like producing all of the necessary drawings to acquire permits, then leaving the project. Others will produce the drawings, acquire the permits, work with the contractor to come up with a budget, handle the contracts, handle possible change orders, and oversee the project to ensure construction is going according to the plans. The difference will affect both you and your builder enormously, so knowing this right away is important.
3. WHAT’S YOUR FEE STRUCTURE AND WHAT CAN I EXPECT IN COSTS?
Clients are typically charged in one of four ways: a flat fee; based on the square footage; an hourly rate; or a set percentage of construction costs. The best fee structure depends on your preferences, if you find their fee acceptable, and if it covers the services you require. Be sure to ask follow-up questions, like if there is the possibility that you could accrue additional fees.
The architect should have this information readily available, including additional fees not included in the original contract. Often these include additional hours of construction administration or amending the drawings during construction. A notable follow-up question? Ask the architect about their history with cost estimating and completing projects within budget. A reputable firm will have this on record.
4. WHEN WILL THE BUILDER JOIN THE PROJECT?
Is the architect open to bringing the builder into the process as early as possible? Builders and architects each bring unique and valuable expertise to every phase of the project. When the architect is willing and enthusiastic about collaborating with the builder early on, this will likely have a positive impact on the accuracy of cost estimates and designs.
If you haven’t decided on a builder, this is also a good time to inquire about the architect’s recommended custom home builders. Many will have contractors that they’ve worked with on previous projects, so they’ll have incredible insight as to who will be the best builder for the job. It may also be the case that the architect has contractors they will want to work with and you will be required to consider approval.
5. HOW DO YOU CONTROL THE BUDGET AND TIMELINE?
Controlling the budget and adhering to the timeline requires a team effort and coordination from you, your builder, and your architect. Find out what measures the architect traditionally takes to keep the project within budget, as well as what they would expect from you as a client. Also, are they willing to work with your home builder to integrate suggested cost-saving measures during the design phase? As with many aspects of a custom home project, the architect and builder will both have industry-specific insight as to how to stay within budget and move along the project plan timeline. This is one of many reasons your architect and builder should collaborate as early in the process as possible.
6. WHO WILL BE MY POINT OF CONTACT THROUGHOUT THE PROJECT?
It’s preferred that you will have one point of contact with the architecture firm to keep communication clear and streamlined. Your project manager may not be the person who creates the drawings, so you’ll want to meet them and build a rapport to ensure you will have a good working relationship moving forward. Also, ask about their typical methods of communication, the availability you can expect from them, and who will be the backup point person when needed.
7. WHY WOULD YOU BE A GOOD FIT FOR MY PROJECT?
After communicating your design goals and projected budget, one of the final questions you should ask the architect is about their perspective on why they should be hired to design your custom home. At this point in the interview, you will likely have a list of reasons to hire or not hire them. It’s just as important, if not more so, to hear their reasoning as well. After all, the architect is vying for your business as much as you are vying for their service.
GATHERING YOUR LUXURY CUSTOM HOME DESIGN TEAM IN ATHERTON
Finding the architect that’s right for your project is an important endeavor that will require several interviews and considerations. This is also true for finding the right custom home builder. The architect you choose to work alongside your custom home builder should involve your builder early in the process to ensure the project runs smoothly and efficiently. K.C. Customs is a high-end luxury home builder who works with the area’s most skilled architects to deliver gorgeous and impeccably built homes. Contact us to discuss designing and building your home in the Atherton area.