How to Choose An Architect to Build Your Dream Home: 7 Tips

Building that home or home remodel that is perfect for you includes choosing the right quality builder, but also the right architect. We continually work with many independent architects and designers and so we offer our advice on how to find the right residential architect for you.

This article focuses on how to find your architect whether it’s for a new custom home or a remodeling project. If you are interested in knowing more about how to choose an architect vs. designer vs. buying pre-made plans, read our previous blog here.

TIP 1: Know what style you want for your new custom home or remodeling project

If you immediately start shopping for a residential architect it may be easy to get impressed by every architect portfolio available online. We suggest that you first identify your tastes before you get started.

Do you like Mid-century modern, modern, traditional, or many other types of architectural styles? Within these styles, you may prefer a subdued color palette or enjoy bright colors with mixed textures. Or, if you are doing a remodel, you may need to work within the confines of an existing home style. Regardless, taking the time to identify your tastes and preferences will help you find the architect that is closely aligned with you. Although most architects are flexible with their design abilities, they often have a particular signature style they most enjoy.

remodeled bathroom with a seat in the corner and shelves to put shampoo and conditioner
remodeled bathroom with colorful light blue, navy, turquoise, and black tiles with a seat in the corner
For a home remodel or new home construction, consider the design styles as well as the color palette and textures within these styles you gravitate toward so your architect has a clear understanding of your design tastes and can put together the best plan for you.

TIP 2: Local architects are ideal

You may not need to hire the next Frank Lloyd Wright architect to get the best architect for you. In fact, many high-caliber architects live in the Pacific Northwest.

How do you find the right architect for your family? At Hamish Murray Construction Inc., we can provide you with a list of architects that we have worked with and recommend if you are interested. Or you can easily search online for architects.

There is a strong advantage to choosing a local architect. For one, collaborating in person is ideal for any project, and second, your architect should have a good understanding of the latest building codes in your area in order to get the plans right the first time for the permitting process.

TIP 3: Do your research on architect services before you interview

new zealand kiwi bird looking at a home construction blueprint
“Inspector Kiwi” reviewing design plans from an architect for a home remodel in progress.

Phases of architect services When you understand a typical architect’s services and architect fees, you’ll be better prepared for asking questions. For example, the phases of an architect’s services are Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents, Bidding, and Construction Administration. Sometimes there will be a Pre-Design phase for house plans, or feasibility study done, depending on your requests and the nature of the project.

Architect fees Architects vary in their fees, depending on the size of the project, demand for their services, or what they include within their services. For example, in the Schematic Design, you may want to know about how many design options they will draw up for you. Some offer services just for the Schematic Design phase, and once you approve the drawings, you can hire them for the remaining work.

Some architects will provide a lot of detail in the Design Development phase so that when it’s time to ask a Builder about a high level budget, the details will make the cost estimate accurate. Some architects will invite a builder  early in the Schematic Design phase; others like to wait until later.

Here are some interview questions for architects:

  • How do you charge for your services?
    • What does it include?
    • How many schematic designs or changes?
  • How often will you be at the site to check?
  • How often will you talk to the builder? How will you work with the builder to get the best results?
  • When do you like involving a builder and why?
    • If it’s during the Design phase, how close does the builder usually get to the final number?
  • Tell me about your favorite kinds of clients and projects?
  • How many similar projects have you done to our project?
  • To what degree do you choose the materials and products for the house?
  • How do you keep up with the latest building science? And what’s exciting about the latest innovations for you?
  • How do you build a house for inclement weather?
  • When would you be available to start our project?
  • How well do you know building codes and the permitting processes in our county/city?

TIP 4: Don’t forget to ask for references

Once you have identified your best architect, talk to some of their former clients. Specifically ask about  how well the architect listened to them, including hearing their requests, how well the architect kept the homeowner updated, and how well the architect worked as a team player with the builder. Finally, ask for any other words of advice on how to work with this architect or anything about a project itself, if they are willing.

TIP 5: We think it’s important that they work well with the builder

There are very few architects who include every last detail on a set of drawings. This leaves many details up to the builder to interpret “between the lines”. Because a construction project is so complex, there’s also going to be problem-solving and collaboration. We believe a good builder will respect the creative genius of the architect. Similarly, it’s beneficial when the architect values a builder’s expertise and enjoys collaborating with the builder. When your architect and builder work well together, you’ll benefit.

home in portland, oregon going through construction
construction for new home construction with wooden beams
It’s important that your architect and builder work well together and communicate to ensure the construction process goes smoothly and adheres to the architect’s design plans. Project progress of a whole home remodel at the Oregon Coast. Architect: Howells Architecture + Design

TIP 6: It’s important that they work well with you

You are going to spend a lot of time with your architect. Make sure that the conversation flows for you, and that you feel like your architect listens to you. If you and your life partner or spouse have different ideas on the project, pay attention to the architect’s ability to navigate and facilitate solutions that work for both of you.

TIP 7: Trust an architect’s abilities

Architects have a five year undergraduate degree followed by three years of internship time before they can apply for their final license examination – which is not easy to pass! They are highly qualified to visualize a wonderful home for you. Trust their abilities and enjoy the process.

Tell us about what’s important to you.

We seek to build each project on schedule and on budget, and always with top-notch quality results. We solely work with independent architects and designers, and we build long-term lasting relationships. If you are planning on home construction and are wondering about where to start, we would be happy to be interviewed, answer your questions or refer you to one of our architect or designer partners.

Contact us

We’d love to meet you. Contact us or call us at (503) 460-7203 with questions you have, or ask us about our philosophy, experience, or any other question that is on your mind.