How to Hire an Architect

The architect determines the design and function of a building as well as the emotional toll and financial costs involved in its construction. Finding your perfect match in an architect is not impossible and the following eight points can guide you along the way. Use these to help analyze the personality, design strategy and communication skills of your candidates. Your goal is to find the right architect for your project, for your budget and for you.

How do I find the right architect for my project?

Do I really need to hire an architect?

How much are architects fees?


Finding an Architect

Like many other fields, word of mouth is the best way to look for an architect.  Ask family, friends and professional colleagues for referrals. Professional organizations such as your city or country’s local architectural institutions are also great sources to find architects. Be sure to visit web sites of your candidates. Look at their previous work. Get a feel for what is their design style and language –is it about blending in the neighborhood, is it environmentally sound designs or is it about making a big statement? Then, start a conversation. Make an appointment for a consultation. Meeting face to face will help you decide if it is a fit.


An Architect’s Biggest Success and Largest Obstacle

How will the architect approach your project? Let them know the most important aspects of your project and ask how they will be incorporated into a process.  If you are doing a remodel, addition or relocation start with what aspects of your current space you like and ask how they can be improved?  Even though the architect might have an attractive portfolio and good references you will still want to make sure their design process and approach is right for you and your project.


Signature Style: Who’s Got It and Do You Want It?

It is common for an architect to be known by a certain design style, though most architects are able to adapt their signature style to what you want.  Have plenty of examples of the look you want; these can be found from catalogs, magazines or the Internet. Discuss the importance of these elements with your architect from the outset.


Meet Your Project Architect

Signing a contract with an architect representing an architectural firm does not necessarily mean that person will be your project architect. Be sure to meet the project architect before making any final decisions.  Being able to communicate freely and openly with your project architect is vital to the success of your project.  You should share a clear understanding of the project with your architect and feel completely comfortable.


3-D Modeling: Don’t Build Your Project Without It

Architects understand how elevations and floor plans translate into actual buildings; their clients necessarily don’t. A 3-D model is the best way to see how your new project will look when built. Software today allows design reviewing from multiple angles and room walkthroughs.  Being able to work in 3-D helps clients get better involved in the design process and they enjoy the viewing experience and “walking” through the space before it is built. Don’t hesitate to ask for a 3-D model before the commencement of your project.


The Full-Service Architectural Firm

Conceptual renderings and blueprints are not the only services architectural and planning firms provide. Ask about other services the firm offers.  Ask about benefits of specific services to you and their corresponding costs.  Ask your architect if there are any additional services offered and how they could be useful to you for your particular project. If a firm doesn’t offer a requested service, they should be able to refer a firm that does.

Below is a glimpse into some additional services a typical architectural firm provides:


  • Project Feasibility Studies
  • Programming
  • Evaluation Of Potential Building
  • Architectural Design
  • Traditional And Computer Renderings
  • 3-Dimensional, Fly Through, Computer Visualization
  • Comprehensive Construction Documents
  • Certification Assistance
  • Detailed Cost Estimates
  • Furniture, Furnishings & Equipment Specifications
  • Construction Administration

Figuring Out the Fees

Typically, an architect’s fee is calculated as a percentage of the project’s entire cost (minus the architect’s fee of course).  Depending on the services provided by the architect, the rate could range from 5 to 20 percent. However, when you first start the design process for your project, it is difficult, if not impossible to accurately determine the final project cost. During this initial time period (before a good estimate of the final project cost is possible) the architect may charge an hourly fee or a retainer.  The retainer or hourly fee will be credited towards the total architectural fee once it has been determined.  Billing monthly is the industry standard. Also, ask when payment is expected and the preferred method of payment, i.e. check, credit card, etc.  Keep in mind that the architect’s fee applies to all the costs of your project. Examples of project costs are the construction budget as well as consultant fees such as environmental impact studies or structural engineering fees. The most important thing about fees is complete transparency. Insist upon it.


Hiring a Contractor

An experienced architect should have a list of contractors they like to work with. Your architect should be able to help you choose the best contractor for your project. Always get multiple bids on the construction of your project.  These tips are meant as a guide to choosing the best architect for your project.  Did they take time for details to clear up any confusion?  Did you feel comfortable with them?  Did they conduct business in a transparent manner? The creation process is exciting but can get intimidating at times, however choosing the right team can make it an enjoyable process. That team always starts with choosing the right architect and we hope these tips will help you with that for your next project.

The Next Steps

If you are in the process of looking for an architect for your project, you can fill out and submit the Initial Questionnaire for a free consultation.  DE LA GARZA ARCHITECTURE LLC offers a free consultation to review your needs and options.  This can help you wade through the necessary requirements and make sure you aren’t overlooking a crucial factor that could doom your project to failure.  Typically, the need and options review saves clients thousands of dollars and weeks of lost time, not to mention the stress and headache of getting something wrong.