How To Find an Architect

You've decided to build a new home - congratulations!   Building a home is an exciting adventure.  If you're like most people, you'll live in your new home for quite a number of years, so planning it carefully is very important.  There are many factors to consider.  You'll want your new home to be exactly the way you want it, but without wasting space, time or money.  Some other factors to think about are how your new home will fit in with the rest of the houses in your neighborhood and how you will maximize its resale value should you ever choose to sell it.  An architect can help with all of these details and make the process of building much less stressful and time-consuming for you.

  1. Word of mouth.  If you have friends or family members who have recently built a home, ask for their opinions.  They're likely to be very honest with you about what they liked or didn't like about the architect they chose.  In addition, you can get a feel for what style and/or architectural details the architect favors.  Although most architects can design a home within an array of styles, you'll usually notice common details in their work. 
  2. Home shows.  Most larger communities have a "Parade of Homes" annually.  These tours give you the opportunity to look at other newly-constructed homes.  They can be very useful in helping you design your own home, as well as getting you in touch with local construction professionals in your area, such as architects, contractors, plumbers and electricians.
  3. The American Institute of Architects.  The AIA has a website which can help you find an architect in your area.  They count over 77,000 architects and architectural firms among their members.  You can search for an architect by location and by the type of construction in which they specialize.  The AIA will also help you through the process of hiring an architect, free of charge.  Even if you find an architect through other means, it's a good idea to check the AIA's website to see if the architect you chose is a member.  AIA members are required to adhere to a strict code of ethics and professional conduct. 
  4. Complaints.  The AIA is also the entity that investigates complaints against architects.  Following an investigation, they will either dismiss the complaint, or issue an admonition, censure, temporary suspension, or permanent expulsion from the AIA.  If the complaint is dismissed or an admonition is issued, all parties remain anonymous and there's no record of it that is accessible to prospective clients.  If a censure, suspension or expulsion is recommended, it appears only in a publication available to AIA members.  In order to obtain a copy of this publication, you will need to contact the AIA directly.

Once you've found several architects in which you are interested, give them a call.  First of all, find out if they're interested in designing your home.  Some architects prefer only larger projects, while others like to design on a smaller scale.  If they are available, set up an interview time.  Don't forget to ask ahead of time if there is a fee for the interview.  Make a list of questions that you'd like to ask the architect.  It's better to go overboard ahead of time, than to start the building process and have to start looking for a new architect halfway through!  Some important points to discuss are their fees, how long a construction of the type you're considering usually takes to build, and whether or not the architect that you're interviewing will be the one that's actually in charge of your project.  If you have drawings, blueprints or sketches of houses that you like, bring them along. Does the architect listen to your ideas? Most importantly, ask for references and contact them.  Once you've found an architect with whom you feel comfortable, have his firm draw up a contract. It's a good idea to have a lawyer review it so that if there are problems later, you'll know what your options are.

Choosing an architect can be a time-consuming process, but with any luck, making the right choice now will help guarantee smooth sailing ahead.


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