Has the thought of how to hire an architect come to your mind with your next construction project? And for what exactly should you hire an architect for as you can find many architects available.

To answer these questions, you must first understand what services architects provide and how they make financial sense for most projects.

You may think that most houses are designed projects by architects. But you will quickly realize it is not the case. The truth is that only a small percentage of homes are designed by architects. The residential architects are limited compared to complex projects like commercial and business buildings.

Another misconception is that once an architect completes the existing plans, they hand it over to you and your builders. Yes, it is an option, but most projects can be seen through to the end when you hire an architect.

Check our American Female Architects article if you’re looking for a female architect to design your modern home.

So, let’s start answering all your questions about how and when to hire an architect.

What Does an Architectural Firm Do?

When hiring an architect, what do they do? An experienced architectural designer provides a comprehensive service broken down into different phases.

Each architectural design firm has different steps with names, but residential projects fall into six main categories.

You may find that the firm can hire a specialist like an energy consultant or structural engineer for specific projects. Here are some reasons to hire specialists that comprise several architects:

Schematic Design

House Plan l MODLUST

Schematic design with the right architect visits and analyzes a building site to gather information from you about your design ideas, housing needs, and budget.

The architectural designers will provide rough sketches to show you the general layout and size of the appearance of your construction to fit the building site.

It would be best to communicate what is important to you in your design, or you will waste much money and time. These are the early stages of your project and help you set a realistic budget.

Design Development

Once you accept the preliminary design, rough hand-drawn sketches are turned into a building design with roof design, floor plans, exterior trims, and details with interior designers to give our home character and style. These are detailed drawings that can include the following:

  • Scale Drawings

  • A basic structural plan

  • Some basic specifications for your main building components as per the building codes

So, you can see the architectural drawings or conceptual design in 3D displayed on the computer screen, enabling you to walk around and through the house.

Construction Documents

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The construction documents are part of the construction process, and the residential design blueprints with written specifications are detailed to present to three contractors to bid on building your home. The construction documents are used to obtain the building permit.

Depending on the design contract with the architecture firms, they can assist you with the permitting. To learn more about construction plans and specs, read Plan and Spec Explained. You will find that an architect with a structural engineering background provides highly detailed plans to save you money.

Bidding Construction Cost

With the proposed design, the architect helps you get bids from a list of contractors that the architect feels handled other projects similar to yours.

You can bring in your contractor to bid as well. The architect will negotiate with them to revise the architect’s work from the plans to the specs. The contractors will then make recommendations to meet your construction costs and the timeframe to complete the project.

The end decision on whom you want as a contractor remains with you. This is from the builder to the interior designers you want to use.

Construction Administration

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Now, during the building administration process, when using the right architect in the construction process, they act as your agent.

They will see the design process through to the completed project. During the construction administration, architectural firms will ensure that the builders and subcontractors follow the construction process and building codes at the site.

Hence, the architect’s office will visit the job site weekly and inspect the work while answering questions that can arise. The construction documents admin process may include:

  • The preparation of added drawings as needed

  • To approve contractors’ requests to help progress payments

  • To approve any plan changes and change orders

  • Architects play the role of negotiating disputed changed orders and who should pay for it

  • A good architect will resolve issues and conflicts in the plans or specs

Hence, an architect plays a crucial part in preventing poorly drawn plans resulting from changes you make, hidden conditions, and other deviations from the original plan bid.

Architect’s Fees

You are hiring an architect from design development for your move-in, which sounds appealing. Yes, especially if you do not have a master’s degree in architecture or have the time and skills to manage a project yourself.

Furthermore, if you find the right architect with a good reputation for previous projects, they can relieve you of many headaches and responsibilities. Still, it can come at a high cost from construction to project completion.

But what do architects charge for an initial consultation according to the architect’s services provided?

  • Most licensed architects charge an hourly or fixed rate based on the percentage of the construction costs or a combination of the two.

  • Hence, most architects can charge a fixed fee structure for portions of predictable work and an hourly rate for the less predictable work, like plan revisions and meetings.

  • Then, a licensed architect can also charge an hourly rate with a maximum guarantee or a fixed cap fee on the hours worked. For instance, an experienced architect will charge several hours after visiting a construction site or meeting with you, and the hourly rate kicks in.

  • Other architecture firms will charge different rates with service packages ranging from a basic design to a full service, including administration and bidding.

Still, a typical fixed fee structure for a full-service contract can range from 5% to 15% of your construction costs for a new construction. Considering more than one designer, you can expect a fixed price of 10% to 20% for remodeling.

Thus, the initial consultation for remodeling is higher as it is time-consuming. Still, an architectural company can charge different rates depending on the company’s size and reputation and the project’s complexity.

Furthermore, potential architects can charge rates a bit more if structural engineers and two or three architects are working on the project. So when hiring an architect, you need to get a clear description of the services offered and need to ask yourself some questions:

  1. Are you receiving the minimum plans required to obtain a building permit?

  2. Or are you getting a high-level detailed drawing plan with specs, bidding, and the construction process administration?

For example, your new construction project costs $300,000, and you will need to spend $30,000 for full services architects charge in the package provided. Alternatively, you can hire a young architect per hour not to exceed your limit to save you money.

Hiring an Architect and Services

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As stated, architecture firms can get involved in remodeling and residential building projects, but they are not always needed. Still, having a good architect can give you a lot to complete your project. Yet, you may not need all the services offered.

You can be happy with a plan you found online with past projects done, or you may want to hire an architect to tweak or modify a plan that is a better fit for you. One thing is for sure: if you have interior design, a valuable asset an architect brings is creativity in designing the building.

The architect’s time spent on a design can bring you a new perspective with solutions in your home designs. When implemented in the early design phase, the cost implications might not be the best, and the work done in the preliminary design stage is done by an architect.

Hence, this is all you may need if your contractor can take that design to turn it into a built structure. If you decide to go this way, ensure you can use the initial plans any way you like once completed. The same applies to how far you want architects to take the design, as it will turn into a 3D vision compared to basic drawings, as you will then get detailed drawings and plans.

You can also find contractors more than happy to bid on your initial design and provide their specs or produce blueprints. Still, with multiple bids, you need to take extra care to compare the specs, as each contractor might be doing things differently.

Lastly, you must keep an eye on the work process from the local building codes and more, as no architect is following up on plans. Hence, you will need to hire a reputable contractor to achieve this.

Architecture Firm Legal Issues

architectural firm

While you may understand the three-way relationship between the architect, contractor, and you, there are common misunderstandings that still take place, as explained here:

Who Owns The Design Plans?

The truth is that homeowners believe that when they pay thousands of dollars to an architect to create a custom home design, it is their plan.

Still, in a standard AIA contract, the copyright to the plans owned by the architect, you only have a one-time right to use it as the firm can sell those plans to another person. Thus, if you want access to the CAD files, specify it in your agreement.

So, you must determine if you have the right to modify and use the plans beforehand, and needs to be in writing.

Is The Architecture Firm Liable For Design Errors?


Well, here, you cannot find a clear answer as there are times when errors and omissions are discovered in the plan during the construction process, resulting in changed orders. So, who is liable for those costs?

Well, most of the time, the architect’s services use the full package. They work through these issues as they negotiate with the contractor, owner, and designers. So, hiring a competent team of people who can work together is best.

Ensure that the people you hire are insured and have them reviewed by lawyers. One mistake in measurements on the plan can cost you a lot of money.

Who is Responsible For Construction Defects?

Even when paying for architectural design services to inspect the project until it is completed, they are not liable for construction defects. The architects are not there to supervise the construction phase the entire time. If problems arise due to poor artistry, it is not the architect’s responsibility to check on the work process, even if hired.

How to Find The Right Architect?

When it comes to the design philosophy of an architect, they do it as love and not riches, as they are artists by nature drawn to the field of building designs.

The architect plays an essential role as they keep up to date with innovative designs regarding energy efficiency and creating green construction. You find different types of architects; some focus on the structural to technical side, and others are organizational whizzes.

modern home

While others are excellent in business or winning high-profile contracts from the government and corporations, finding all those strengths in one architect is rare. So, what should you look for when hiring an architect?

The rule is to look for an architect that fits your project needs as a small firm or a sole practitioner that handles residential construction. You do not want to walk into a large architectural firm, not knowing who will design your home.

Find a Good Architect That Fits Your Needs

If you have your design concept wrapped up and only need someone to draw the design and specs, choose a practical architect with much construction experience.

But if you want them to handle the design, contract, and administration, choose an organized person with past projects and proven management skills. Still, if you want an inspired design, you need a creative architect to give you the aesthetics and style you need.

So, first, check the architect’s portfolio and visit past projects to see what they offer.

Discuss The Costs

Always communicate your concerns with any costs upfront, as it is not always the architect’s priority. For a limited budget, you can find an architect who can design your plans, keeping cost in mind. Also, ask what happens when the bids are too high and whether you need to pay extra for revisions.

Give a Good Report

With your first meeting, ensure you take photos of magazine clippings and draw sketches of work you like. Express what you desire and observe the architect’s reaction. Have you presented them with an excellent report, and do they listen?

Or do they seem receptive to your input or participate in the project process? Ask the architect how they prefer collaborating with clients and find someone you feel comfortable working with. Most importantly, ask for references and talk to the people to see how their projects went and if they are happy with the work.

How to Find an Architect?


When it comes to how to find an architect, there are a few questions you can keep in mind to ask them:

  • Who will I be working within the office, and how much experience does the person have with residential homes or renovations?

  • Does your firm have experience with energy efficiency, affordable design, and green buildings?

  • What average square foot construction price do you charge?

  • Can you design for me on a budget, and is my budget realistic enough?

  • What architect services do you offer, and how do you prefer to collaborate?

  • What are your thoughts about my project?

When you want to employ an architect, you need to find an experienced one who can work with what you have in mind and choose one with a portfolio you like. Furthermore, communication is critical as you want someone who can meet your needs.

Lastly, do they present you with a la carte service from scratch to meticulous plans and see it through until a project is completed to move in? Ensure to see several architects and samples of the work before you decide on one.


Frequently Asked Questions

There are many advantages to hiring an architect, as follows:

  • You have a person keeping an eye on the entire project until it is completed.

  • Architects produce a better design that is interesting and creative to provide you with a functional floor plan, natural lighting, and outstanding integration in a building site.

  • You received clear plans with specs and a clear guide to contractors from the bidding phase to the end.

  • Architects will recommend qualified contractors and interior designers to work with.

For starters, hiring architects can be expensive as the fees drive up the costs of custom products and materials. Furthermore, it depends on your construction as you may end up with an architect that is not practical in the designs. The architect is not liable for omissions or errors in a plan and is unreliable regarding construction defects.

On average, you can expect to pay $2,500 to $300,000 to hire an architect, depending on your planned construction.

When you visit your local hardware store, you can find a list of contractors that can provide information on architects to use. Alternatively, you can search for architects near me or talk to family and friends.

In most cases, a contractor can provide you with plans, but it will not be as innovative or attractive as what architects can come up with.

If you need to remove walls, add on additions to moving windows, or need a newly built home, then it is best to consult an architect to make changes to any plans.


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