Many homeowners fantasize about hiring an architect to design a dream house for them, but few people ever get that chance. Even if you can’t do that, maybe you’ve wondered about hiring an architect to design an addition to your house or some other remodel. Why not do that? What are the advantages and what does it cost?
We talked to architect Chauncey Meyer, who has been working in Tucson since the 1980s, about these questions and here is what we found out:
1 | An architect can create a plan that will save money in the long run
Many people decline to hire an architect out of the concern that it will be too expensive. “I had clients who wanted to add a kitchen onto their house and had previously decided that because of what they wanted, they needed an 840 square-foot addition,” he says. “But when we went over their ideas, we determined that they only needed an addition of about 20-feet by 24-feet and that meant a considerable reduction in what they spent.”
That kind of solution is one of the skills architects have – the ability to come up with ideas that are more efficient than yours might be in saving time and money.
2 | An architect should be a seasoned professional
Architects are often trained in college and have advanced post-graduate degrees. In Arizona, you do not need a degree to become an architect, but you do need to work under an architect first for a minimum of eight years. After five years’ experience or a five-year professional degree, you take an architect training exam. After three more years working under an architect, you take the professional exam.
3 | An architect can tell when you don’t need his or her services and when you do
Meyer had some potential clients who wanted to build a guest house on their property and had very strong ideas about what they wanted. “In a case like that — in which they were not looking for any changes in their plans — they really needed a good drafting service, not an architect,” he says. “I know when I can’t provide any value to a project.”
Many remodels don’t require the kind of design help that an architect can give. But other projects may mean knocking out walls and changing the layout of the house – a task that most homeowners don’t want to plan themselves. In one project Meyer designed an addition to a 1930s ranch house that made use of one of the house’s historic walls inside the new contemporary looking addition.
4 | An architect can “explore” your lifestyle and create a design you will love that also fits the structure of a house
Meyer recalled working with one couple and asking them what they liked to do when they got up in the morning. They started talking about how they liked to enjoy their morning coffee on a patio in the summer. Their discussion ended with Meyer changing the layout of the house to enhance those private morning moments outside. He also added a wet bar plus coffeemaker to the master bedroom. “An architect can use a client’s life experiences to generate new design features in a home,” he says.
5 | An architect can help get you smoothly through the inevitable red tape
If your project is complicated, an experienced architect will know what the steps to take with the city and county to get your design approved and what codes to follow. If it’s a remodel in a subdivision, an architect might even have worked before in a house just like yours.
6 | Good architecture is a good investment for the future
The better the design of your project, the more your home will be worth at resale.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE RIGHT ARCHITECT?
Ask your friends and neighbors for references just as you would do with contractors. Most clients come to Chauncey Meyer because of word-of-mouth recommendations.
Interview more than one architect to ensure you’re getting what you want. Give the architect a budget range for your project.
Fees can be hourly for small projects or can be a fixed fee. Full services, including design, drawings, bidding and construction, start at about 4 percent of what the total project will cost.
“An architect can give you a place to live where you really want to be,” Meyer says.
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