There are only two instances when you should hire an architect. The first is when you know exactly what you want. The second is when you’re not sure what you want.
Architects offer a wealth of information, both technical and aesthetic, from building codes to imaginative interior design. Using an architect not only ensures that you get what you want, but that you understand all of the options available to you.
By hiring an architect, you are bridging the gap between your dreams and your builder’s vision. The role of an architect is to understand your needs and interpret them in the design. Acting as your liaison, advocate and adviser, your architect makes sure your desires are carried out to the letter. While some people may see architects as arrogant, they are more often than not just exacting.
Good design is good investment. You get an immediate return every day you live in a well-designed home. You get long-term return when you sell a well-designed home, because well-designed spaces are appealing and inviting and thus are easier to sell and command higher prices. Any your neighbors will thank you.
It all sounds good, you say, but why do architects cost so much? What’s so special about architects? Aren’t most builders architects anyway, drawing blueprints and building from them?
Builders are not architects. They know how a building goes together and when to pull a permit. But having a builder do your design work is a little like having your general practitioner perform surgery. Both know a lot about the human body, but one is highly specialized, and that’s who you’re going to consult about having your appendix removed.
Second, there’s no such thing as free design services. Unless the builder is a close friend or family member, you’re not getting design services for free. Most builders charge a percentage of the construction cost, from about 15 percent on new construction to 35 percent on remodeling, and will either earmark a portion of that for design services or will offer you design services at an additional cost.
As the contractor’s fee is somewhat flexible, it is important to find out if design and any changes to that design are included. Many times design services are not included and will increase your total cost. Conversely, if you bring in an architect, your cost for the contractor will go down. It’s important to ask a lot of questions about what you’re getting when it comes to design.
What if your builder tells you he has a designer on staff who will do the design work? Find out what qualifications the designer has. Designers are not necessarily architects, and they can’t use the term “architect” or “architecture” unless they are.
Most architects will either charge an hourly rate ( from $100 to $250) or a percentage of the construction cost ( between 5 and 15 percent). The number of drawings and detail required may also affect the cost.
Anyone can afford an architect. It just takes a little foresight and planning. Meet with your architect before any work is begun and create a contract. Once you know how much his or her services cost, work that number into the construction loan.
If you’re just ripping out a floor and putting in a new tub and vanity, call your contractor. But if you’re adding on to your home, moving walls or doing a complete remodel, call an architect.