Author Topic: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)  (Read 936 times)

nereo

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Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« on: September 24, 2018, 07:19:25 AM »
We are at the very, very beginning stages of home building (as in: dreaming, running budgets, selecting an area).  We're probably a year out (if not 2) from actually breaking ground on a project. I have a ton of ideas but would want to use an architect to them together.  We havent' even settled on whether this would be a new construction or a complete down-to-studs renovation on any of the dozens of available homes in our area.

My questions are: at what point do I start talking to an architect, and how exactly do i go about choosing one that we'd like to work with?  Is now too early to come up with some concept ideas? Do I prioritize firms that are located in this county, or do I look for the style and design ethos I like even if its with someone who's office is over an hour away "in the big city"?

Anyone gone down this road?  ADvice/stories/pitfalls?

Better Change

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #1 on: September 24, 2018, 07:40:48 AM »
What harm is there in starting to make some phone calls and appointments?  It seems pretty important to find an architect who jives with your style and whom you trust.

My dad's an architect.  He's nearly retired at this point and only takes the jobs he wants to work on.  Would you prefer someone like that (lots of specialized attention, deep connections in the community) versus some big city guy?  It's entirely your preference, and there's no "right" choice.  It's probably a lot like picking out a hair dresser or a therapist.  But he doesn't have some flashy website, so if you do want someone like that, you'll have to ask around.

Jon Bon

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2018, 07:42:47 AM »
Yes hire one, totally worth it.

Ask around, friends, neighbors coworkers. Lots of them do work big projects but moonlight doing some home add-ons type deal.

Whats good about hiring one IMO is they think of usage of space way better then you do. WE might build something awkwardly or have things laid out poorly. They also can head off major building snafus when it comes to structural/mechanical issues. You might be called out to put in a big beam after you have finished your framing requiring a bunch of rework. Or you might have forgot to make space for a HVAC run and now you get to add a large bulkhead to your formally clean room.

IMO it is one of the first steps you take.

Step one is have about 2-3x of the amount of money that you think you need.
Step two is hire an architect
Step three; Profit!

Sorry could not resist.

Getting your plans will probably help push you along. So if your having trouble knowing how/when to get started having the plans will foster a lot of activity and thought on the process on your end. Having plans "makes it real" if you will. Before that it is just an idea you have in your brain.


nereo

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #3 on: September 24, 2018, 07:50:45 AM »
What harm is there in starting to make some phone calls and appointments?  It seems pretty important to find an architect who jives with your style and whom you trust.

My dad's an architect.  He's nearly retired at this point and only takes the jobs he wants to work on.  Would you prefer someone like that (lots of specialized attention, deep connections in the community) versus some big city guy?  It's entirely your preference, and there's no "right" choice.  It's probably a lot like picking out a hair dresser or a therapist.  But he doesn't have some flashy website, so if you do want someone like that, you'll have to ask around.

Thanks for the input.
I mention "the big city" somewhat jokingly, as it's not that big of a city at all, it's just that we live in a small town in a rural district, and I've only found two local architect firms (with a total of 3 architects).  I guess my question about local v. 'from-away' is that I've heard the architect can also be a great asset in finding and knowing the GC and other sub-contractors, and can often save you some money setting up those contracts and making sure they are on schedule/budget (or at least as much as that can be given the inevitable cost-overruns of a project).  But I imagine (perhaps incorrectly?) that someone 'from away' would not know the GCs here and might not be as useful in that regard.


trollwithamustache

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2018, 08:12:15 AM »
If you are a couple years out, get some books on houses, make your own sketches and lists of wants, needs, deal breakers, must haves ect.

The first thing a good architect will do is ask you about your wants and needs. So the more you have through about that, the better prepared you are to interact with this expensive, but possibly worth it, professional. (3 bedroom? more less, other things onsite like a pool, shop/garage building?)

Note, the architect can't really tell you costs. The Contractor does that. Sure they know that a 2000 sq ft house costs more than a 1500 sq ft one, but don't expect a lot of detailed cost info that you can use to spreadsheet/model cost options.

Finally, if you are happy with a simple box, don't overlook House Planners. There are CAD monkeys out there who can knock out layouts sufficient for the contractor to build your house. As long as you are stick building 2 stories or less, the General Contractor typically doesn't need Arch/Eng drawings.


nereo

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #5 on: September 24, 2018, 09:06:28 AM »
If you are a couple years out, get some books on houses, make your own sketches and lists of wants, needs, deal breakers, must haves ect.

Yeah, this is pretty much what we've been doing. We've got some pretty detailed lists and sketch-up drawings of our previous residences, including lots of notes about what we liked and didn't like. On houzz (catnip for home-design folks) we've got a bunch of ideabooks with things and styles we like.  I've come up with mock-layouts for several rooms but can't quit connect it all together myself.

Finally, if you are happy with a simple box, don't overlook House Planners. There are CAD monkeys out there who can knock out layouts sufficient for the contractor to build your house. As long as you are stick building 2 stories or less, the General Contractor typically doesn't need Arch/Eng drawings.
What's started us down this road is that we're generally very unhappy with the basic designs out there and find they don't fit terribly well in our lifestyle. Our previous home was designed by a recent architect-grad and was by far the best laid-out place we've ever lived in, while simultaneously being the smallest in square footage. Hence why I'm leaning towards having an architect on this next project. But I'm not overlooking your suggestion for a House Planner (never really considered it - I'll have to look into it).  I've also got a growing list of things I'd want incorporated that often get shaved out when houses are built on spec.

FWIW I'm also keen on doing some of the non-structural work myself. I've tiled bathrooms and hung cabinets and enjoy that sort of thing - I'd just want a set of plans to follow along.

Thanks for the input

thd7t

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2018, 09:16:48 AM »
Architect here.  The sooner you hire an architect the better.  The earlier you make decisions, the less those decisions cost you.  An architect will help lay those out.  They also understand the ramifications of potential decisions.  Architects with experience will do their utmost to design to your budget and will know good ways to reduce cost with the least impact on design.  Many architects will have good relationships with a number of contractors and can help with the selection process as well.

Jon Bon

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2018, 10:07:21 AM »
Architect here.  The sooner you hire an architect the better.  The earlier you make decisions, the less those decisions cost you.  An architect will help lay those out.  They also understand the ramifications of potential decisions.  Architects with experience will do their utmost to design to your budget and will know good ways to reduce cost with the least impact on design.  Many architects will have good relationships with a number of contractors and can help with the selection process as well.

+1000

Plus its not like you have to start right away. You can hang onto those plans for a year or 2 before you submit to the building department.

bluebelle

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2018, 11:38:47 AM »
I echo the comments about starting now.....we're a little less than 2 years off FIRE, and our plan is to move out of the big smoke (toronto).  We started seriously two years ago.....we wanted lakefront.  We wanted a place we could age in place (bungalow, no steps, gentle slope down to the lake).  We looked at lots of places, and everything in our price range (and double our price range) was a tear down.....we decided early last year to buy and build.  Our experience was that no one really wanted to talk to us before we had land.  (many design options depend on the land configuration)
What we've learned
1) everything costs more than you'd think
2) everyting takes longer than you think
3) having lots of time to look at early plans and really think about it is wonderful.....to look, mull it over, realize that something isn't quite what you want and change it.   As others have said, changing it then doesn't cost $$$.  Once the plans go through the municipality and engineers, it's costs to change things
4) you're the one that knows how you want to live in your house, you have to be your own advocate
5) it'll all be worth it in the end

nereo

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #9 on: September 24, 2018, 11:51:43 AM »
I echo the comments about starting now.....we're a little less than 2 years off FIRE, and our plan is to move out of the big smoke (toronto).  We started seriously two years ago.....we wanted lakefront.  We wanted a place we could age in place (bungalow, no steps, gentle slope down to the lake).  We looked at lots of places, and everything in our price range (and double our price range) was a tear down.....we decided early last year to buy and build.  Our experience was that no one really wanted to talk to us before we had land.  (many design options depend on the land configuration)
What we've learned
1) everything costs more than you'd think
2) everyting takes longer than you think
3) having lots of time to look at early plans and really think about it is wonderful.....to look, mull it over, realize that something isn't quite what you want and change it.   As others have said, changing it then doesn't cost $$$.  Once the plans go through the municipality and engineers, it's costs to change things
4) you're the one that knows how you want to live in your house, you have to be your own advocate
5) it'll all be worth it in the end

The land thing brings up one question/concern I have.  Currently we do not have the plot on which to build, though there are many (many) options for us in our region. This might be a chicken-or-egg problem, but can an architect help with site selection which might lend itself favorably to the kind of house we want, or does s/he need to know what the plot looks like before going into the preliminary design phase?

thd7t

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2018, 11:57:02 AM »
I echo the comments about starting now.....we're a little less than 2 years off FIRE, and our plan is to move out of the big smoke (toronto).  We started seriously two years ago.....we wanted lakefront.  We wanted a place we could age in place (bungalow, no steps, gentle slope down to the lake).  We looked at lots of places, and everything in our price range (and double our price range) was a tear down.....we decided early last year to buy and build.  Our experience was that no one really wanted to talk to us before we had land.  (many design options depend on the land configuration)
What we've learned
1) everything costs more than you'd think
2) everyting takes longer than you think
3) having lots of time to look at early plans and really think about it is wonderful.....to look, mull it over, realize that something isn't quite what you want and change it.   As others have said, changing it then doesn't cost $$$.  Once the plans go through the municipality and engineers, it's costs to change things
4) you're the one that knows how you want to live in your house, you have to be your own advocate
5) it'll all be worth it in the end

The land thing brings up one question/concern I have.  Currently we do not have the plot on which to build, though there are many (many) options for us in our region. This might be a chicken-or-egg problem, but can an architect help with site selection which might lend itself favorably to the kind of house we want, or does s/he need to know what the plot looks like before going into the preliminary design phase?
It can be really useful to have an architect help with site selection.  They will look at your desires (views, access to roads or natural features), access to utilities and amenities, covenants, easements and other restrictions.  They can help you get a sense of site conditions that could limit construction opportunities or make construction more expensive. 

trollwithamustache

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2018, 12:19:48 PM »

What's started us down this road is that we're generally very unhappy with the basic designs out there and find they don't fit terribly well in our lifestyle. Our previous home was designed by a recent architect-grad and was by far the best laid-out place we've ever lived in, while simultaneously being the smallest in square footage.

[/quote]

Good, you know what and architect can do and want that.

Talk to at least 3 architects, same as any other procurement. The rule of three doesn't come so much from getting market pricing as by the third time you'll be better at saying what you want, and with three responses, you'll  know what to go back to the first two and get clarified so you can compare apples to apples to apples.

thd7t

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2018, 12:43:17 PM »

What's started us down this road is that we're generally very unhappy with the basic designs out there and find they don't fit terribly well in our lifestyle. Our previous home was designed by a recent architect-grad and was by far the best laid-out place we've ever lived in, while simultaneously being the smallest in square footage.


Good, you know what and architect can do and want that.

Talk to at least 3 architects, same as any other procurement. The rule of three doesn't come so much from getting market pricing as by the third time you'll be better at saying what you want, and with three responses, you'll  know what to go back to the first two and get clarified so you can compare apples to apples to apples.
[/quote]
When you go to architects, you can make your life easier by bringing photos of houses and spaces that you like.  It will give them a sense of what you're looking for and let them give you more realistic proposals.  It will also keep them from going down side avenues that don't interest you too much.  If there is something that you don't want, let them know as well. 

Look at their websites.  You'll be able to get an idea of their style from a website.  Most architects will tell you that they can work in many styles.  This is true to a point, but their website shows what they like, what they want to make, and what they are best at. 

Papa bear

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2018, 12:55:25 PM »
I’ve used an architect for a major remodel, layout and use was important, as well as sizing beams, etc. For a new build, we found a local draftsman who drew up plans.

For the draftsman, we were only contracting  out to get the house in the dry, the building is a rectangle, and it’s free span - no internal structural walls.  We designed the layout and mechanicals ourselves. Depending on how involved you are, you could go either route.


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lhamo

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Re: Architects - when and how to hire (residential)
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2018, 06:28:29 PM »
When my sister and I built a house several years ago we picked a basic design out of a plan book and then hired a very reputable local GC to build it for us -- they had built a house for our cousins and were booked out about a year.  They didn't need to advertise -- always had plenty of work based on word of mouth.  The whole process was a dream -- none of the typical headaches you hear about with a build.  They put in some custom bookcases and cabinets for us to make better use of different spaces.  And we still ended up under budget, which they credited back to us. 

It might be worth asking around just to see if there is a similar business in your community.