Though most see architects' services as exotic, homes designed by architects are less susceptible to market fluctuations. Aside from making for a reliable real estate investment, such homes are less prone to remodelling thereby saving you from expenditure in the over $150b home remodeling market. Other benefits afforded by a professional architecture include curb appeal, efficient space planning, energy efficiency, creative material selections, lower construction costs, and a sustainable design that considers factors like your health, your budget, and the environment. Hence, leaving your home design to an architect near you is not only an investment in aesthetics but with returns in perpetuity. When hiring an architect nearby ensure you get relevant answers to the following questions:
Are You a Licensed Architect?
All practicing architects in the United States are required to have a government-issued license. Architecture licensing generally involves documenting a total of at least 3,740 hours of work experience through internship programs like the Architectural Experience Program and passing the Architect Registration Examination prepared by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. However, some states may have additional licensing requirements. For example, California requires architects to pass both the Architect Registration Examination and a California Supplemental Exam. In Alaska, architects are required to successfully complete an arctic course administered by the state's Board of Registration for Architects, Engineers, and Land Surveyors in addition to the Architect Registration Examination. States like Florida, Illinois, and Michigan do not require any additional examinations.
Always make sure that the architect you intend to hire is licensed to practice in your state of residence. Note that architects are typically required to renew their licenses every two years, and so you should also make sure that your architect's license is valid. You can do this through the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards' architect license lookup webpage. You can also contact your local architectural licensing board to find out the specific licensing requirements for your state of residence.
Are You a Bonded and Insured Architect?
Even though architecture is not traditionally known as a hazardous occupation, there is always the possibility of a work-related injury occurring. In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded four fatal occupational injuries and 60 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses amongst architects. As such, it is advisable to make sure that any architect near you being considered is insured and bonded, especially if this architect will be present during any construction. Insurance and bonding protect you from financial liabilities if a work-related injury occurs and also ensure that you are adequately compensated if your architect defaults on the job.
You can contact either your local architectural licensing board or your local consumer protection agency to find out whether there are any mandatory insurance and bonding requirements for architects in your state of residence. Architects are generally required to have a professional liability insurance plan. It is also a good idea for your architect to be covered by general liability and workers' compensation insurance plans. Request copies of your architect's insurance and bonding certificates and ensure that these documents are valid and up to date. You can do this by contacting the organization that issued them.
What Kind of Work Are You Specialized In?
Architecture generally refers to the process of designing physical structures, usually with regard to a positive aesthetic effect. These physical structures include new buildings, already existing structures, open areas, and large developmental schemes.
Architects can be grouped according to the type of designs and structures that they focus on:
- Residential Architects: these types of architects focus on designing homes. Residential architects work directly with their clients to design and customize new homes or adjust already existing ones. They generally draw out plans with proper measurements and can even provide cost estimates for the materials and labor that will be required for any actual construction. Depending on the scale of work, they may also work with developers and home builders. Residential architects are the most common types of architects.
- Commercial Architects: commercial architects focus on designing buildings that have a commercial purpose like hotels, government buildings, office buildings, skyscrapers, museums, schools, and multi-unit residential buildings.
- Industrial Architects: these architects focus on designing industrial facilities in ways that ensure that these facilities run as efficiently as possible.
- Landscape Architects: these types of architects focus on creating and designing outdoor structures and spaces that are typically used for relaxation. Examples include parks and garden areas. Designs created by landscape architects generally focus on aesthetics and an unhindered flow of movement. Landscape architecture also requires a good knowledge of plants.
- Urban Design Architects: urban design architects focus on designing entire areas and ensuring that these areas are as beautiful as possible. This includes designing the layout of an entire block or neighborhood. Urban design architecture is generally considered a complex type of architecture.
- Interior Design Architects: these architects focus on the interior elements of a building and how to get the most out of it while making sure that it looks as good as possible.
- Green Design Architects: these types of architects are specifically trained to focus on designing environmentally-friendly buildings.
You should always hire an architect near you that is qualified and experienced enough to create your preferred home design. Always find out whether the architect you intend to hire has an area of specialization and make sure that this area is in line with the vision you have for your home.
Who Will Do the Work?
Even though one architect is usually enough to design a house, it is always a good idea to find out if more than one architect will be involved in creating designs for your project. Architects generally gain real-world work experience by working directly with already licensed architects. As such, an unlicensed architect may be involved in the creation of your house's design. Always make sure that any designs you pay for have been approved and stamped by the licensed architect that you hired for the job. You should also ensure this licensed architect's insurance and bonding covers any trainee or unlicensed architects that may be involved in the project.
Do You Offer a Warranty?
Warranties are guarantees issued to individuals that purchase products and services by the providers of these products and services. Warranties can be written, oral, or implied.
Architects do not typically provide written warranties. However, they implicitly guarantee that they will properly create the required plans and designs with the proper judgment, diligence, competence, and skill that is required by their profession.
Note that even though architects near you do not offer written warranties, it is a good idea to request a written contract from your architect. This contract should clearly state your requirements for the project and the architect's obligations regarding it. You can view various sample contracts via the American Institute of Architect's contract documents webpage.
Will This Job Require a Permit?
Permits are government-issued documents that authorize you to carry out some types of home improvement projects. These are usually projects that will result in a serious alteration of your home's structure. Technically, you do not need a permit to get designs or drawings from an architect. However, you may need a permit to carry out any actual construction or remodeling that may arise from these designs.
In some cases, you may also need an architect's drawing or design plan to obtain a building permit. For example, the City of Chicago, Illinois, requires the submission of an architectural plan to obtain building permits for the construction, alteration, and repair of buildings like apartments, single-family homes, condominiums, offices, restaurants, bars, and retail stores. To obtain building permits for single-family residences in the City of Kirkwood, Missouri, you must submit full construction plans that have been signed and sealed by a state licensed architect. In the City of Ithaca, New York, architectural drawings are required to obtain a permit if the project affects public safety, structural safety, costs more than $20,000, or is a new residential building that is more than 1,500 square feet.
Note that submitting an architectural plan is not the only requirement for obtaining a building permit. You should always contact your local building department to find out the specific permit requirements for the type of home improvement project you wish to undertake. Failure to obtain these permits can lead to serious penalties.
Will You Provide References?
Before you hire an architect, you should ask the architect to provide you with pictures of completed jobs and also the contact details of at least three served clients near you. Reach out to these past clients and get their opinions on the architect. If your architect cannot provide you with these contact details or pictures of completed jobs, then you should consider hiring a different architect.
You can also independently get past clients' opinions on your architect through third-party review websites like Better Business Bureau, Google Review, and Yelp.
Do You Have a Business License?
Before you hire any architect near you, you should always ask for proof of business registration. This is usually in the form of a mandatory government-issued business license that is issued to business entities that wish to conduct business in a particular area. It is estimated that there are currently more than 30.7 million registered small business entities in the United States. You can confirm the validity of your architect's business license by contacting your local Office of the Secretary of State.
What Are Common Architecture Problems?
Some common problems that you can face when dealing with an unprofessional and inexperienced architect are:
- Poor communication
- Deadline and budget problems
- Lack of innovative ideas and designs
- Wrong calculations
- Outdated design software and hardware
To avoid these problems, you should always hire a professional licensed architect to help you design your home.
How Much Does Architecture Cost?
Architects typically charge an average of 5% - 20% of the total cost of a project. However, some architects may charge you an hourly rate of $150 - $350 per hour or $2 - $10 per square foot for residential projects. Finally, some architects charge using a combination of all these payment structures. When this happens, the project is usually divided into stages. During the initial schematic and draft designs stage, the architect charges an hourly rate. Once a particular design has finally been settled on and the scope of the project is clearer, then the architect may charge either a percentage fee or per square foot.
What Are the Factors That Affect the Cost of Architecture?
The total amount of money that you will pay an architect is affected by the type of project, the size of the project, and the fee structure that the architect uses. For example, remodeling projects tend to cost more than new construction projects. This is because they usually have unforeseen construction problems like the presence of asbestos, mold, and old pipes that show up after the project begins, thereby requiring multiple design revisions. Likewise, it will cost you less if your architect comes up with just plans and designs than if your architect also includes construction documents or is involved in any administrative capacities during the project.
What Qualifications Should Architects Have?
According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, there are more than 116,000 licensed architects in the United States. Individuals interested in becoming architects are required to complete a five-year degree program and earn a bachelor's degree in architecture. They may also decide to earn a voluntary master's degree. Once an architecture degree has been obtained, these individuals are required to complete an internship training period of about three years during which they gain on-the-job experience. After the training period, these trainee architects must sit for, and pass, the Architect Registration Examination before they can become licensed architects. Licensed architects can also obtain professional certification from the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.
Do You Need a Draftsperson or an Architect?
It is always a good idea to hire an architect instead of a draftsperson near you to come up with plans and designs for your house. Architects generally have more years of training and experience than draftspersons and they focus on the technical, artistic, and holistic aspects of a design while draftspersons typically focus on only the technical aspects. As such, an architect nearby is better equipped to create an overall design that meets all the needs of your project. This includes accounting for the size of your home's space, its functionality, and the unhindered flow of movement within it.
What Are the Common Post Architecture Expenses?
After your architect has come up with a suitable building or remodeling design for your home, you will have to employ contractors to perform the actual construction work required for the project. This usually includes carpenters, HVAC installers, bricklayers, roofers, and plumbers. The cost of hiring any of these contractors typically depends on the size of work that they will be required to do. Note, employing the services of contractors near you may help reduce certain costs due to proximity.
Does Homeowner Insurance Cover Architecture Expenses?
If you have to employ the services of an architect to rectify a sudden and unexpected damage to your home or property, then your homeowner's insurance policy will probably cover this expense. A standard homeowner's insurance policy typically covers damages caused by water, wind, hail, fire, lightning, and even theft. For example, if your home is destroyed by a fire, your insurance company will cover the cost of rebuilding it, including the cost of hiring an architect. It is estimated that 32.7% of the claims filed in 2018 by homeowners that had a homeowners' insurance policy were caused by fire and lightning.
Note that if your insurance company determines that the damage to your home was caused by lack of maintenance, negligence, or normal wear and tear, it will probably not cover any replacement or rebuilding costs. You should always request and study a written copy of an insurance policy's terms and conditions before committing to it.
Can I Use Digital Payment to Pay My Architect?
Yes, you can. Many architects accept digital payments. However, you should confirm this with your architect. This is because, even though digital payments are considered more convenient, faster, and more secure, some architects may still prefer regular cash, money order, or check payments. If your architect belongs to this category, you should always collect a receipt for any payments you make, especially if this payment is made via cash.