“How much?” is the wrong first question.
While it may sometimes be the simplest way to think about options, asking how much it will cost isn’t necessarily the best way to start thinking about designers.
Design isn’t an object purchase. It’s not a finished fixed product. It’s a personalized service that’s catered to your particular needs and requirements.
When you hire a designer you’re taking on a partner to hold your hand through the programming, walk you through generating schemes, advise you on material selection, create your working drawings, and to represent your interests on site as your house is getting built. You have to know who they are, how they work, and what they stand for.
It’s about getting an accurate impression of the kinds and levels of service the different designers are offering. Just as your requirements will be unique, so too is each design process. It’s not a standard product on the shelf to be compared to its neighbors based on price tag alone.
Each designer will have their system as it’s evolved from experience, and shaped by their skills and strengths. When taking on a designer, instead of inquiring how much their fee is first off, ask instead about their design process and what it might include.
What is their pre-design phase like? How does he determine what you’ll need in your house? How will you be able to communicate your dreams and hopes for the project?
What is their design process? Will they present schemes? What is their standard for work?
How will she present? Will it just be sketches to start or will it have floor plans from the beginning? Will 3d renderings be part of presentations? 3d walk throughs? Virtual reality shots? How many photos, boards, meetings will be covered?
How much time will you be given to review and think about options? How many times will you be meeting through each of the phases? How will you be able to voice out your worries and concerns?
How involved will they be during construction? How often will she be on site? How will they handle revisions and change orders?
There are a hundred different ways to skin a cat. Selecting any of a multitude of designers may all end with building a house. Different systems, of course, will yield different results Quality may vary, and not all methods may be a good fit for your unique needs.
You may find several professionals whose process and services you do like. Make sure you compare your shortlist apples to apples. Make a checklist of what you like and what you’re looking for and ask other designers what adjustments they’d be willing to make to fit that set.
If you’re really looking to fit a certain budget, let your designers know. Ask them what they can modify from their original proposal to get as close as possible to that number.
Putting things in perspective, your architect is a relatively small cost considering the value that they bring to the table. He’s an investment in maximizing and making the best use of the space you have. She’s an investment in the performance of the designed systems and the selected materials. They’re an investment in the feeling of well being you get from a space that flows and just works.
You wouldn’t buy a car just based on how much it costs. Heck, even your meals aren’t decided based on the price tag alone. Instead of just asking your architect how much they’ll cost to design your house, look instead to find out how they’ll bring value to the project.
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