How To Work With An Architect On Your Home Renovation

With home values across the nation rising this year, many homeowners have seen their equity increase to a level which can now make it more affordable to finance a home renovation or remodel.

Before you start removing walls to open up your living spaces, expanding your kitchen, adding a bedroom or converting your attic into a master suite, you will first need to obtain a construction permit, and submit your architectural plans to the Department of Planning in your city. One of the most common ways to have architectural plans created is to hire an architect.

If this is your first time hiring an architect, spending time on the front end of the project educating yourself on the process can save you considerable time, money, and confusion later on. Here are our tips to find, hire and work with an architect, so you’ll end up with a design that works for your home and family, and the building contractor receives completed drawings to submit with your residential building permit application and begin the building process.

Do you really need to hire an architect?

While you can use a design-builder contractor to create your architectural drawings, they typically provide a logical solution, but not necessarily the most innovative or aesthetically pleasing approach. Whereas an architect typically proposes solutions that add visual appeal and consider how the remodeled room(s) connects to and flows into the rest of the house

It’s probably easier to see the value of working with an architect when undertaking a major remodel, such as converting an attic to a master suite that requires stair access from one of the first floor rooms and could even require a new roof line.

However, it’s often difficult for homeowners to see the impact a minor renovation can have on the entire home. If you only want to update the kitchen, it’s still important to obtain an overall plan that considers the flow into and out of the room. If you go to a kitchen company, it’s likely that they’ll only look at the kitchen cabinets, counter top and backsplash.

How to find a good architect

To find a good architect, ask friends and neighbors for recommendations, ask at your Homeowner’s Association, search through home improvement magazines, or head online – most architects have a portfolio website where you can view their past work – on websites such as Houzz, Angie’s List. The American Institute of Architects is also a good place to start. Look for an architect that specializes in your home style, such as contemporary, craftsman, midcentury modern, so they know how to continue the same aesthetic in the remodel, particularly when you are adding new rooms or a second floor.

What are all the services an architect offers?

Architects can handle a range of renovation responsibilities. Depending on your needs and budget, an architect could manage your remodeling project from the initial design through to recommending fixtures and fittings. However, not all architects provide all of these services. Decide which services you need them to provide, which you are confident about managing, and which could be delegated to the contractor.
•    Drafting technical drawings – This is the main service provided by architects and will provide the basis for your building permit. 
•    Getting Creative – Architects have the skills to add special elements, including adding more light to brighten rooms and adding secret storage areas to hide the clutter of children’s toys in the living room.
•    Advising on Fixtures and Finishes – If the idea of making each decision regarding paint, tile, flooring, countertops, kitchen cabinets, faucets, lighting, door knobs, and appliances seems overwhelming, you should probably hire an interior designer. However, some architects can provide this service, too.
•    Recommending Building Contractors – Architects often maintain relationships with various reputable contractors which they can recommend to their clients. Contractors should be interviewed separately to the architect. 
•    Managing the Project – Contractors often manage the permit process – the sooner the house permit application is submitted and approved, the sooner they can start the project. But if you need a point person to manage all of the moving parts as the build progresses, be clear with your architect before hiring that you need them to provide this service. 
•    Staying on Budget – Architects can suggest appealing, cheaper alternatives to pricey finishes to save money. Their advice can come in handy if your builder uncovers unexpected problems, such as a load-bearing wall dividing your living room and kitchen when you were remodeling to create open plan living area.

Cost of Hiring an Architect

Depending on the services you require in addition to the technical drawings, an architect could charge a flat fee, which is often based on a percentage of the overall project cost, an hourly rate, or a hybrid of these.

Before hiring, ask for a detailed explanation of their fee structure, with an estimate for a similar size remodeling project. If the fees are based on a percentage of the overall project, get a list ahead of time about what will be included in that final tally. If the architect, designer or contractor purchases the “fixtures and fittings” they will most likely be marked up (20% mark up is typical) from what you would be purchasing in the store. However, if they are often able to obtain trade discounts (average 15-20%) then the time you save by having them make the purchases could be well worth it.

Questions to Ask an Architect Before Hiring

•    What services do you provide? Technical drawings only? Manage the permitting process? Manage the entire project?
•    Which responsibilities will you handle? Which will I?
•    What role will you play in choosing and buying fixtures and finishes? What role will I play?
•    What is your strategy for bringing a project of this size in on time?
•    What are some unexpected issues that have risen on previous similar projects and how were they solved?
•    Can we meet every week on site with the contractor? Will you stop by the site unannounced occasionally to spot check the build?
•    What is your fee structure? What have you charged for similar design projects?
•    How do you handle conflict? What happens if I don’t agree with your design, or I select a contractor that you don’t get along with?
•    Do you have references for completed projects I can contact?

Speak with a Certainty Home Loans mortgage professional today about our renovation loan programs and the amount you may qualify to borrow to finance your home renovation or remodel.
- Oct 01, 2018