10 Questions to Ask Your Architect Before a Renovation

By: , Contributor

Published on: Feb 15, 2020

Planning to hire an architect for a major renovation or addition? Make sure you ask these 10 all-important questions before signing on that dotted line.

If you're putting the cash and resources into a major renovation, then you need to be thorough about who you hire for the job. That means shopping around -- for the architect who will design your project as well as for the contractors who will complete it.

Are you planning an addition or other large-scale renovation on your property? If so, make sure you ask these 10 all-important questions before hiring your architect:

About them

1. What's your experience?

First, ask a few questions about their experience as an architect:

  • What other projects have you worked on?
  • Have you done anything similar to my project before?
  • How long have you been in the business?

You'll also want to see their portfolio and get a feel for their overall design philosophy and style to make sure it aligns with what you're looking for.

2. Can I speak to any references?

Seeing their portfolio is just the first step. If they've really done great work, then they'll be willing to hand over some references, too. Ask for phone numbers for a couple of past clients, and call them up for quick conversation. Ask:

  • How easy was the architect to work with?
  • Was their work high-quality?
  • Did they complete the job on time and under budget?

3. What sets you apart from other local firms?

If you're in a big city, then there are probably dozens of architects you could choose from for your project. Why should you choose this one? What makes them stand out or is special about them? They should be able to articulate their unique value proposition if they want your business.

4. Will you be involved after the design phase?

What happens after the design is done? Do they hand off the blueprints and head on their way, or do they help you manage the contractors and oversee the build? You need to understand what role they'll play from start to finish.

5. Do you have insurance?

Make sure the architect (and their firm) has plenty of liability and indemnity insurance coverage. You should also ask about any claims that clients may have open against the firm, as this can be telling of how their team does business.

About you and your project

6. What challenges might we face?

You should also ask the architect if they anticipate any issues with your project or your ideas for it. Specific questions to ask include:

  • Will you need permits?
  • What might delay the project or cost more than expected?
  • Could weather play a role?

Get an idea of any hiccups you might encounter along the way.

7. Would you change anything about my project?

If you're coming to the architect with specific ideas for your project, ask for their input, too. Try asking:

  • Is there anything you'd change to make it more on-trend?
  • Do you have suggestions for making it more marketable?
  • What might make it better for my home's value?

You can even ask if they have suggestions for making your project more sustainable and eco-friendly.

8. Do you have any contractor recommendations?

Always ask if they have contractors they prefer to work with or ones they would recommend for the project. And go beyond that, too. Find out if they will be involved once the contractors take over. Will they oversee the build and ensure the project goes as planned, or will their role end once the design phase is complete? Keep in mind this answer may impact their fee.

9. How much will it cost, and how long will it take?

Finally, you need to understand the costs you'll incur from the architect, as well as when those fees and charges will be due. You also need to know what the timeline for the project is and if there are any mechanisms to ensure it stays on track (as well as remedies in case it doesn't).

10. What do you need from me?

Before signing on that dotted line with an architect, understand what they expect from you during the process. Good questions to ask at this stage include:

  • Is there something I can do to help the process go more smoothly?
  • Do I need to check in regularly?
  • Do I need to prep my property or hire any additional help?

Get the full breakdown of your role once the architect takes over.

The bottom line

You should also check online reviews for any architect you consider and verify that they're licensed to operate in your state. And remember: Your renovation will have a direct impact on your property's value -- and your future profits from it. Make sure your architect is up to the task.

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