How to Choose the Best Architect for Your Project

Every architect has an individual approach to designing custom homes and managing the planning and construction process. Some firms offer preconstruction planning, budgeting and construction management services that give homeowners a leg up when it comes to timelines, building costs and getting more accurate estimates from building contractors. Others offer design services only. Southern Draw offers design, planning, budgeting and construction for clients who seek a full range of services within a single firm.

First things first. When you set out to retain a professional architect to design a new home or renovate an existing one, follow the helpful tips below from the AIA to assist in finding the best person or firm to manage your project. The right architect for you will ultimately be one who comes recommended, has the right references and credentials and someone whose style and skill set are compatible with the scale and type of project you are undertaking.

Tips for Hiring the Best Architect

1. Match the Architect to the Project. Ask for referrals from neighbors and friends who have used architects for similar projects to generate a list of individuals or firms within a designated radius of your ZIP code (up to 50 miles). Think about the scope of services you want and what services the architects you consider are able to offer.

2. Check credentials. Go to work searching the web and checking with accredited agencies like AIA, Angie’s List,, Better Business Bureau and others to ensure the person you choose is reliable and does high quality work. Although architects in the United States are not required to be members of the AIA, membership in the AIA means that the architect subscribes to the AIA Code of Ethics, complies with the AIA’s rigorous continuing education requirements, and is committed to high standards of practice and service.

3. Conduct a phone interview. During the phone interview, describe your project and ask if the firm is available to accomplish it within your desired time frame. Request literature outlining the firm’s qualifications and experience, planning process and project management methodology to ensure you are kept in the loop through every phase of the design and construction planning phase. The interview allows you to meet the people who will manage your project and to learn if the chemistry is right; you may be working with them for a long time. Some architects charge a small fee for initial interviews or meetings. Southern Draw offers a free design consultation as part of upfront project review

4. Ask questions. How busy is the firm? Does it have the capacity to take on your project? Who in the firm will be primarily responsible for your project? What other staff or team members will help facilitate your project? What is the fee structure? What is the firm’s track record for completing jobs on time and on budget?

5. Inspect completed work. If possible, ask each firm to show you at least one complete or substantially complete project or samples of completed work that resembles the scope of your residential or commercial design project.

6. Check references. Ask for references from both past clients and vendors or contractors with whom the architect has worked, and check them thoroughly. Ask clients the same questions you asked the architect: Was the project completed on time and within budget? Was the client satisfied with the completed project? Check the architect’s or firm credentials such as licenses, certifications, professional affiliations and accreditations.

7. Choose an Architect. The right architect will be the one who has demonstrates technical expertise, design talent, and the type of planning and communication skills that suit you needs. Ask for a written agreement outlining the terms of the relationship, timing and payment.

To speak with a licensed, accredited design professional at Southern Draw Design+Build or to arrange for a free design consultation, please call us at 866-930-9660. We have offices in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Knoxville, Tennessee and Highlands, North Carolina. We are here to help bring your dreams to life!

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