How to choose an architect

Like any new relationship, choosing the right architect is a combination of well-matched chemistry and due diligence to reassure yourself that all boxes have been checked and ticked. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Choice magazine’s check list

Australian consumer advocate Choice published an excellent article in the November 2017 edition of Choice magazine, titled ‘Five steps to house plans that won’t blow your budget: How to make sure your architect delivers design plans that you can afford to build’.

You can read the full text on their website: https://www.choice.com.au/home-improvement/building-and-renovating/design-and-trades/articles/architects-designing-to-build-budget

Narrowing down a budget

Settling on a budget – and sticking to it – is usually top of mind for anyone about to build or renovate.

One way to ‘test’ how much to spend on your renovation is to look around property websites such as www.domain.com.au and www.realestate.com.au and compare the current value of your home with an existing property in the same suburb that more or less matches what you want to achieve.

Say, for example, you currently live in a one-bathroom post-war cottage and you’d like to add a master suite, a family room and a deck. Find as many recent sales of a comparable property as you can. Then subtract the value of that from the current value of your home. The outcome should give you a rough idea of your maximum spend on the renovation. Any more than that and you’re over-capitalising.

Decide your comfortable spending limit

Think about what you can afford to spend – the sources of finance available and how you will support them. These are personal decisions that only you can make but they are important nevertheless and will help to inform any discussions with your architect.

If you only have a fixed amount to spend your architect needs to know that upfront and early so they can speak frankly about what can be achieved. Equally, you need to know what it will buy for you.

Online calculators

Archicentreaustralia.com.au, formerly owned by the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) and now in private hands, aims to guide and educate home buyers, builders, renovators, business owners and property investors, amongst others “about the benefits architects bring to any building matter”.

Archicentre’s free cost guide is regularly updated and is available to download at https://www.archicentreaustralia.com.au/resources/cost-guide/

Property website House Ace has a renovation calculator at https://www.houseace.com.au/calculator/

While both are general in nature and aim for guidance rather than accuracy, each will at least provide some starting figures for discussion

Get the conversation underway

It costs nothing to get an initial conversation started and it’s the most obvious first step to take.

Are they listening?

You should feel reassured that all your questions are answered honestly and openly. Full transparency that what you want is achievable within your budget and your time frame, for example, is more valuable than getting the answers you want to hear.

Evidence of completed work

Always ask to see examples of an architect’s past work. Most will include completed projects on their websites. Even better, ask if it would be possible to meet with owners.

Consider whether the scale, scope or standard of their past work meets your own needs. Were they finished on time and on budget?

Ask about their networks

Check that your architect has a full network of all the builders, trades and industry people that will be required to complete the job, for example, engineers, town planners or quantity surveyors.

More importantly, check that you’re not paying a premium for access to that network.