If you planned on cutting your hair short, you’d probably choose a stylist known for creating gorgeous pixie cuts. It’s the same idea with architects: each has their own style and specialty. And while two architects could have the same technical training, the end results could be completely different. That’s why choosing an architect is such an important part of the home design process. By choosing a designer that has the same style, taste, and philosophies as you, you’ll be on the same page. Take these factors into consideration when choosing an architect and you’ll be able to pinpoint the one that’s right for your project.

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Websites are the best place to start. Image: Adelaine Construction

Research online

First thing’s first: narrowing the field. On the bright side, architecture is usually a smaller field than other contractors. Still, you might feel overwhelmed with all of the possibilities. Start by checking out architects and residential designers in your area. Click around their websites and see if you can get a feel for their design aesthetics. One might be great with traditional craftsman design, while another focuses more on modern. Online portfolios are the best way to “get to know” a designer before you start to narrow your decision down to a few.

Ask for referrals

If you really want to know how an architect collaborates with homeowners, ask for referrals. You can put out feelers on social media to see if any of your friends or family have recommendations or check out online review sites. Still no luck? Go straight to the source and contact the designer directly for referrals. Talking to past clients is the absolute best way to see if an architect is right for you. It’s best to ask specifically about the timeline, collaboration, and how residents feel about the finished product. Feel free to also ask past clients what they didn’t like about a designer and weigh their comments against your own set of dealbreakers. If communication is huge for you and a past client complains that they didn’t feel included in the process, you’ll know it’s not the right fit.

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A tight timeline could limit your choices. Image: Firmitas Design

Check availability

Homeowners are often surprised at how full architects’ schedules are. The timeline and availability could change the field of potential designers. If you’re looking for a tight turnaround and a quick build, a designer who can’t schedule you for another eight weeks is going to be a no-go. What’s more, the actual design process can take up a large chunk of your build timeline, so make sure you check each designer’s current workload and completion timeline. While you should plan for about six weeks for the process, individual schedules can vary widely when choosing an architect.

Consider pricing

Pricing is obviously a huge consideration when choosing an architect. Most architects calculate pricing based on square footage and it’s pretty rare to find one that uses an hourly rate. Still, it’s worth asking so you can run some calculations yourself. With a general idea of the size of your project, it’s easy to ask for quotes or pull pricing from websites and figure out how much your plans will cost. Remember that your finished project could be smaller or larger than you thought, especially after hearing your architect’s input. Give yourself some wiggle room in the budget and choose an architect who can deliver what you need at a price you can afford.

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Meet face-to-face to see how you work together. Image: Heartwood Homes

Schedule a meeting

Before you make your final decision, schedule a meeting with two or three potential designers. It’s best to meet face-to-face to see how (and if)  you work together. Designing a home is an extremely collaborative process, so it’s important to work with someone with whom you can communicate effectively. Ask questions about style aesthetic and specialties, as well as the general design process. How many meetings can you expect? What’s the typical timeline? What happens if there are changes after the plans are complete?

Once you’ve interviewed a few architects, you’re in a much better position to make a final decision. Remember that if you do your homework, you’ll find a designer that can help your vision come to life. It’s worth it to shop around, ask the right questions, and find the fit that makes sense for you and your project.

Here are some additional tips for finding the right architect.