How to Make Sure You Don’t Hire the WRONG Architect to Build Your Dream Home

Joseph Meyer
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1. What did you do to become an architect?

I started school in photography. I loved it. Had my own dark room and everything. I hated the pose-and-shoot thing, so I attended an art school instead of a photo school. I didn't like it. I still enjoyed art and photography but preferred to create rather than just interpret.

Engineering seemed like a perfect fit. I entered this field out of curiosity and got caught up in a whole new world. It was fascinating how architects design buildings and solved problems. Conceptually, I was very interested. I was a quick study and applied my engineering skills to solving the practical problems of design.

From there I immediately approached the biggest project I knew. It was my parents' house. They were having troubles deciding on how to remodel the kitchen. I solved it. I showed them the house. They were very happy.

2. Are there any special credentials that one should look for in hiring an architect?

3. What would one expect to pay when hiring an architect?

Generally, first job estimates with an architect are free. Then, if you hire the architect, you will have to pay him or her a fee for the project. A fee is based on a percentage of the construction costs, as well as the expected time (and non-expected time) of the architect's involvement with their client. It is common for fees to range from around 4% to 10% of the total construction costs. The lower end of that scale may be for more straightforward projects.

4. What are some telling signs on when to avoid hiring the wrong architect?

Of course, you want to find reliable architects to work on your project and to make it happen as quickly and seamlessly as possible. But how do you get started?

First, you need to take the time to put together a list of potential architects you can enlist.

Secondly, you need to be ready to talk to potential candidates so that you can figure out detailed questions to ask them.

And most importantly, you must figure out when to avoid an architect that’s not going to work out well for your project. There are some signs you’ll definitely want to avoid.

5. With so many books and websites offering house plans, when would it be wise to hire an architect?

6. Is there anyway to do any background checks on architects before you hire them?

Unfortunately, you can’t go back and check up on the person’s past. They’re given free rein once they enter the U.S. unless they’re given a sanctions of some kind.

Take your time to get to know them. Don’t ever hire the first one you meet. Speak with at least three. Talk to them about your plans and see if they have experience with similar projects.

Some people also get their friends in the industry to recommend someone.

What should you do when you realize that you’ve hired a bad architect?

If you’ve never gone through the process of hiring an architect before, it might surprise you to learn how much of the design process is actually up to you.

This has to do with what is called the “staging” of the house. When you’re building, you’re actually entering into another world where the contractor will proceed to build your new home based on the details that you establish. What you need to know is that your home won’t just magically appear. The team will build it based on your plan, which you need to nail down before the house is built.

If you’re a perfectionist, you’ll want to find a way to get control of the plans. Otherwise, you may end up facing some unexpected surprises.

What sort of information should someone already have before working with an architect to make sure they get the house they really want?

Before you work with an architect to help you design your new dream home, it is important to know who you are working with. You don’t want to get halfway through a project only to find out your architect is not the right person to actually do the job.

Architects are perceived all different ways by just about everyone who is not one. This of course shapes their knowledge of what they are and what they do to fit in with this perception. This can cause a misperception, where you believe you are getting something from them that they may not be able to provide. This can make it risky for you to work with them

By being clear on what it is you really want, you can make sure you get it. To do this you need to know what is required of you and your architect to make sure that you get what you really want. Here are the questions you should ask your architect before you work with them.

What do you charge to do house plans?

I get this question a lot. I’m going to explain why you shouldn’t care.

Why Do You Charge What You Charge?

Everyone wants to get the maximum value out of what they are paying for. So when hiring people for certain kinds of services, people like to know, ahead of time, what it’s going to cost them. It’s important to know how much it costs so you know whether you can afford it or not. Right?


Having worked as an architect for the last 20 years, I’ve seen a lot of “cost” related issues. I’m not going to be so bold as to say that all of these issues are created by the client (although it’s partly true). In my experience, most of the time the issues are created within the Architect’s office by the Architect’s staff.

The Architect’s office staff considers the Architect the client. Their job is to support the Architect and do whatever it takes to be sure the Architect is successful. This means they create problems that they don’t create.