“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.” – Red Adair

You’ve made the decision to start a construction project of your own. Maybe it’s an addition, a custom home, or a large investment property. This project will take a year or possibly five years before you see its completion. Where do you start? Choosing your architect is a great place to start. They are familiar with the entire process, understand the stakes, and are one of the first professionals you will need to engage during this long journey. Hiring the right architect for your project will save you time and money on potential redesigns and change orders. So, what do you look for when you choose an architect? Everyone who chooses to take on a construction project is making a big decision and needs to know they have the right team for the task.

Unlike doctors (approx. 1.1 million in the USA alone) or lawyers (approx. 1.3 million in the USA alone), architects are a small community of just over 150,000 practitioners nationwide. However, similar to doctors and lawyers, we like to get recommendations from people we know and trust because they are handling sensitive and most likely very personal situations. It gets personal real quick working with an architect. But what happens if you don’t have someone in your circle of trusted friends to recommend one for you? Here are a few principles to keep in mind.


In this modern society, people are not afraid to leave reviews or tell the internet what they think. It is important to research your area and find architects who have positive reviews. However, keep in mind that a positive experience only has a 10% chance at getting a review but a negative experience has a 90% chance of getting a review. Which is why it is important to read the reviews rather than look at the average of five stars.


It may seem like something you are looking for from a dating app but feeling relaxed and being able to trust your architect is just as important as the feeling you get on your first date, which makes you want to ask for a second date. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself after your first phone call or meeting: Do they listen? Do they seem interested in your goals for your project? Are they genuine in their responses to your questions? Are their comments in line with your goals? Are they speaking to you with respect? Does it feel like they can handle your type/size of project?


It is completely acceptable to ask for an architect to provide references from other clients, engineers, or vendors they have worked with. This insight will answer questions such as: Do they listen to the client’s needs or push their own agenda? Do they have a track record of keeping to a budget? Do they keep to deadlines? Do they maintain proactive communication through the whole process? Are they self-starters or do they need you to be a squeaky wheel to get the job done?


Architects are designers, managers, technical advisors, problem solvers, counselors, creative thinkers, analytical thinkers, to name a few of their skills. But most of all, they must be excellent at both verbal and graphic communication. This communication is critical for coordinating team members, engineers, etc and for conveying your desires to the construction team so that they become a reality.


Being able to discuss the architect’s fee as well as your budget for the project, as a whole, will provide direction to the architect for the project. Architects don’t ask for these numbers to hike up their fee. They need these numbers to be sure the goal is achievable. An architect that designs a project without knowing your budget goals is like trying to play the drums with one hand tied behind their back. They can do it but it will not be the best possible product and will cause you headaches in the future.


Most design projects, like human beings, are unique. However, as with people, the more experience the architect has, the more they can predict or foresee where challenges will arise and how to best tackle them before they turn into one hundred thousand dollar change orders.


contract is a written way to clearly mark out the expectations of both parties. Contracts do not mean “I don’t trust you” or “I expect this to go bad.” Contracts are a wise way of communication from day one. Carrying professional liability insurance is the least a professional can do to protect themselves and their clients. If an architect is not willing to do this, they are looking out for the interests of their clients. It is also acceptable to ask if they have had any legal claims against them and why.


An architect is usually deadline oriented. Working out a timeline with them at the beginning of the project and knowing what will influence each milestone is important. The architect is coordinating their production schedule along with the schedules of the consultants and vendors on the project. Any changes to the timeline has a ripple effect. Understanding how the architect will handle that is vital to completing your project in conjunction with any financial deadlines you have to adhere to. Quite simply, it could make or break the project.