Tips for Hiring an Architect

Do your buyers need an architect? Here are some tips to start them in their search.

July 1, 2009

Despite the notion that hiring an architect—even one without star billing—may be too pricey, it needn’t be, particularly in a down economy. The best way for home owners to find a good match is to look in their own backyard at the residential designs all around them.

Tell your buyers and sellers to drive through neighborhoods and ask which architects built the homes they like. They can call their local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for members’ names who specialize in residential design and then ask to see their portfolios. Suggest they inquire at architecture schools, which know about area architects. Also, ask contractors and designers for suggestions.

Home owners should also glance through architecture books and magazines to see what they like—perhaps a sweeping front porch, weathered cedar siding, use of colors, or building materials. Encourage them further to consider the environmental and social effects of the architects’ work, says architect Andres Duany, co-founder with his wife Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk of the Miami-based firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ).

Architect Richard Landry, president of the Landry Design Group in Los Angeles, which works on classical and contemporary homes, likes to see examples of what architectural styles appeal to potential clients, whether Modernism or period designs such as a chateau from France’s Loire Valley. He, in turn, points out the telling details that his firm tries to recreate in its architecture.

Home owners should give careful consideration to how each architect charges. Some architects bill a flat fee for design work, others an hourly fee, and still others a percentage of the total cost.

Architect Marc B. Spector, principal of the Spector Group in New York, says that architects can save home owners money and delivery time since most show up at the site throughout the project.

Finally, you might want to encourage your buyers and sellers to choose an architect whose goal is to create a work that suits the client’s physical and visual needs rather than just provides them an exact replica or poor imitation of another architect’s designs. Many of the best examples from today’s masters—who’ve won the Pritzker or Driehaus prizes or other architectural awards—can lead the way.

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

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