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Tips for Working with an Architect

Customizing a home, whether from the ground up or simply adding a room, can be an exciting adventure for a homeowner. Just imagine it: your home is custom-tailored to your lifestyle. To achieve this, homeowners turn to architects to design their dream. Some may think of it as a luxury, but many see it as a necessity.

Sea Girt-based architect Christopher Rice says, “In this economy, working with what you already

by Christopher Rice

have in your home is all the more reason to be well-informed. ”

Designing for green living is another consideration for  long-term investment. LEED-certified architects Derk Garlick of Hoboken-based Derk Garlick Architects and Mary Hearn of Belmar-based M.B. Hearn Architecture, LLC are one of a growing number of architects skilled at designing homes that capture the essence of the homeowner while helping to reduce cost and waste.

Here are some words of advice that these experts share when working with an architect:

1. Choose a firm that works with your price range, level of service and style Once you determine your budget, search for a local architect whose portfolio works with your price range and type of service you’re looking for, which can range from a bare bones schematic drawing to managing the builder and choosing the bathroom fixtures and tile color. Research the architect’s online portfolio to see if you like their style of work. If sustainable living is important, approach a LEED-certified architect. They have expertise in designing homes that maximize design while keeping long-term costs low.

2. Make sure personalities click Working with an architect is a cooperative approach and it’s important that you and your architect have a good rapport. For about six months to one year, depending on the project, architects work closely with their clients to design homes that are uniquely suited for them. With that being the case, might as well share the time with someone you like!

by Derk Galick

3. Be up front with the overall budget Don’t hold back on the project, scope and budget. If you know that you want to spend no more than $5k or $150k, being up front with the budget will give your architect a good sense of what can be accomplished within your parameters. It’s the architect’s job to help you understand cost implications, but keep in mind that it’s not their job to maintain your budget. It’s rare that an architect will say “no.” A 1000-square foot addition based on $200 per square foot would run approximately $200k, give or take. To help determine your budget for an architect’s fees, a good rule of thumb is to estimate 10% of the overall costs.

4. Get an initial consultation Once you narrow down your list of architects that fit your budget and style, schedule an initial consultation, which is typically free. At this phase, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what’s included in the project and what’s not. The architects will deliver a proposal for the scope of work, which includes the general conditions of the contract. Compare proposals and select one. Keep in mind that most architects charge a retainer, anywhere from 10-25% of the overall fee. When embarking on a building project, Garlick gives the same advice that most wedding planners give: “Enjoy the process. The most successful clients and projects are those that keep that perspective in mind.” He adds, “Stay involved in the project, work with a professional, and enjoy the experience.”

Christopher Rice’s blueprints stem from the thought that it’s all about the flow of your home. “The layout of your house shapes your lives and your brightest rooms are used more often,” Rice notes.

Some tips Rice provides to homeowners include:

by M.B. Hearn Architecture

— Making a one page wish list. Do you desire a chef’s kitchen or an extra room where you can monitor your children?

— Realize that whatever money you spend on an architect, you’ll save more than that on construction. An architect can use your space more efficiently than some builders.

— Ask yourself how long you plan on living in your house, and how many years until your children go away to college? Maybe you don’t need to build as large as you thought.

— Understand that any room right next to the kitchen tends to be used a lot.

Ready to work with an architect? Give yourself about 6 months before the date of construction to begin working with an architect. For a fully custom-home project, plan on at least 3-6 months in the design-process alone. As with any design project, assemble article clippings, images and textures that represent your thoughts, dreams and visions for your new endeavor. Enjoy the ride!

Companies mentioned in this article:

Derk Garlick Architects LLC, Hoboken 201.330.8182

M.B. Hearn Architecture LLC, Belmar 732.556.9055

Christopher Rice Architecture, Sea Girt 732.449.9055


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