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ARCHIVED  August 1, 1997

How to choose a residential architect

Building a custom home is not only a pricey proposition, it’s an emotional decision as well. Not only does the architect need to be qualified, but he or she also must be in sync with the homeowner’s wants and needs. Here’s how to determine the architect who will work best for you.

As with anything else, the best way to decide on an architect is by networking. Ask people whose homes you like who designed them. You can also call the Denver-based American Institute of Architects. Many of the state’s architects belong to this referral organization. AIA maintains a list of architectural-firm profiles and a staff that can make suggestions and steer you toward the right architect.

Once you’ve got some candidates, there are specific questions you should ask. First of all, what style does the architect specialize in? Don’t choose a Frank Lloyd Wright disciple if you want a Victorian cottage. Also, make clear to the architect what styles you like and what features you want in your home.Then ask the architect how he or she will approach your project. What does he or she see as important issues or considerations? What are the challenges?
Next, determine the architect’s business style. How does he or she establish priorities and make decisions? How long has the firm been in business? Check with the state licensing board to see if the firm is in good standing and whether it has received any complaints. Also, ask if the architect has references from past clients.
If you’re considering a large firm, ask who in the firm you will be dealing with. Is it the same person who will design the house? If not, who will be the designer? What are the steps in the design process, and how is it organized? What does the architect expect you to provide?
As the project gets under way, what will the architect show you to explain the design? Will you see models, drawings or sketches? When it’s time for construction, how disruptive will it be? How long does the architect think construction will last? What services will he or she provide during construction?
Make sure to nail the architect down on his or her fee schedule, and ask for an estimate for the entire project. Ask for concrete examples of the architect’s experience and track record with cost estimating. A key question is if the scope of the project changes down the road, will there be additional fees? How will the fees be justified?
Finally, consider the intangibles. How interested is the architect in this project? How busy is he or she? And what sets this architect above the rest?

Building a custom home is not only a pricey proposition, it’s an emotional decision as well. Not only does the architect need to be qualified, but he or she also must be in sync with the homeowner’s wants and needs. Here’s how to determine the architect who will work best for you.

As with anything else, the best way to decide on an architect is by networking. Ask people whose homes you like who designed them. You can also call the Denver-based American Institute of Architects. Many of the state’s architects belong to this referral organization. AIA maintains a list of…

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