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How to Find and Select an Architect from your Locality

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Buying a home is about making your dreams and visions come to life, and sometimes what’s for sale just isn’t a match. If that’s your predicament, you might want to consider bringing an architect on board to bring your homeownership dreams to life.
However, hiring an architect might seem a daunting proposition, especially if you’re not even certain what you perfect home would look like or cost. “People have the fear that the architect might overwhelm them and push them into something they’re not comfortable with. There is still the anxiety around whether or not this person can give them what they want, or is this person going to be Frank Lloyd Wright and give them what he wants based on what he [or she] thinks they want,” says Wayne Visbeen, principal of Visbeen Architects in Grand Rapids, Mich.
In reality, quite the opposite is true. Architects are skilled at helping clients discover and realize their individual vision while also taking into consideration site requirements, zoning restrictions, budgets, and functionality. “Architects see the big picture when it comes to your project. They help you explore what appeals to you aesthetically and what you require functionally. They coordinate teams of design, engineering and construction professionals; they sort through the maze of building codes and zoning requirements,” explained South Carolina architect Charles Hultstrand, speaking behalf of the American Institute of Architects.
Research all your options
A careful search for prospects, interviews with three or more candidates and knowledge of services typically offered will help allay most initial concerns. Not understanding the breadth of services that can be contracted is not uncommon, says Elissa Morgante, a principal of Morgante Wilson Architects in Chicago.
Residential architects work with clients in several different ways from just designing a basic enclosure or slightly more defined interior layouts to including all the built-in components in a plan and helping clients determine what materials would work best within budget. Beyond that, services often extend to working with clients to select a builder, assessing competitive bids, and supervising construction as it progresses to ensure the home is built to specifications and the work is done properly. A number of architectural firms will also offer interior design services.
Interview potential candidates
Look for an architect early on in the process, especially if you are searching for a lot or land. A professional can evaluate a site and help explore options you may not have considered.
Online platforms such as Houzz make the task of finding an architect and getting a sense of their work much easier. Connect with friends or family members who have worked with architects as well as the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Experts typically recommend interviewing several candidates for the job. Often, Morgante says, consumers will only interview two architects. If they both happen to work in the same way, they assume all architects work that way. That’s not always the case
Know who you are dealing with, advises Visbeen. “Many people come to us saying they interviewed three architects in town, and I find out I am the only architect among the three.” In addition to an undergraduate degree in architecture, many licensed architects also have advanced degrees. They will have completed an internship and passed a rigorous licensing exam. AIA also offers an associate level of membership for individuals without a license but who meet the organization’s education or employment requirements.

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