Matthew James Taylor
Do Architects Charge For Consultations?
(Questions To Ask)
2 Jan 2022 — Updated 12 Mar 2023
Table of contents
Finding an architect for your new project is something that is going to take time, research, and footwork on your end. In order to find the right person for the job, you are going to have to talk to multiple firms and interview multiple architects. Do they charge fees for consultations and interviews? Are you going to be bled dry before you even decide?
It's not standard practice for an architect to charge for a consultation. Interviewing an architect about your project and their skills to learn if they're suitable should cost nothing. If you ask for brainstorming, sketches, or designs, that's more than a consultation and you should expect fees.
With all that goes into a project, finding the right architect can be paramount. It could make or break the whole thing if you chose poorly. So, you should take the time and not rush into things. So, if the fear of exorbitant fees is keeping you from making multiple interviews, worry not. It is not as cut and dry as that.
What If An Architect Has A Consultation Fee?
If you find the fee unreasonable, keep looking if you can’t afford it. There are more architects. However, popular, successful architectural firms and their architects may charge fees solely because they are in such high demand. This might seem sour, but it can be a sign that they're worth it. So, if you have your eyes set on a star player, someone that you think would be perfect for your project, it might be worth the fee.
You might also be able to skirt the fee. It can never hurt just to make a phone call or send an email. Maybe they can carve out fifteen minutes to hear you out, feel out your project and tell you what they think. It never hurts to ask.
What To Ask In A Consultation, Sans Fees
Since most architects aren’t going to charge you for the consultation, you can kick that worry from your mind. Consultation fees should be the least of your worries when it comes to picking out which architect or firm you want to work with. In respect of their time, which they are giving you in good grace, you need to get to the point. The more ducks you have in a row, the less likely you are to run into any unforeseen consultation fees. Here are some key pointers when you go in for your round of interviews.
Set your expectations
What do you need your architect to handle for this project? Make sure that you have at least a rough outline of what you want to achieve. It could be your own rough design sketches or plans. Examples you’ve taken from the internet. You want to lay out your expectations as clearly as possible as early as possible, especially if you are getting their time for free.
- What Do You Need Their Responsibilities To Be? — This is an important expectation to set straight away. What do you need an architect for? Is it that you only need the architectural designs drafted? Or do you need someone to organize and guide your project from start to finish? It is important that whoever you hire is on the same page as you on this point or you could find yourself hiring subcontractors and making a lot more trips, yourself, to the hardware store as pieces of the project begin to slip through the cracks.
- Who Has Creative Control? — Do you want the architect to choose the finishes themselves? Or do you want to be in charge of this aspect? How hands-on, or off do you want to be? Making this known can help you figure out if this is the right person for your job. Discovering their level of comfort with the job is important before bringing them onboard.
- Find Out How They’ll Be Involved — Will they meet you on-site daily, weekly? Will they check in regularly with their contractors and subs? Setting this expectation early on can help tremendously in keeping the project on track and keeping your sanity altogether. Nothing is worse than showing up to the project site to find no one there and no work being done as the money flows out of your account into oblivion.
- Find Out Their Fee Structure — This is important. If the idea of consultation fees can get you in a tizzy, then just wait until you see an unexpected invoice that is positively riddled with fees. See what they think the fees for your type of project will look like. It could save a lot of money in the long run if you can work around those or have your architect enlist you to do some footwork. If you can pick up supplies, you might save some money on fees. Again, it never hurts to ask.
Who's on their team?
An architect can be in control of most aspects of your project - or not. By laying out your expectations and what you wish to achieve up front, you can figure out what it is that your architect is capable of.
Maybe they work with a designer, maybe they don’t. If they have a contractor that they think will be right for the job, see if you can’t dig up some information on them as well. If you can make sure your architect will have all the right people for the job, you can have more assurance that you will stay on time and on budget.
Is this project worth their time?
For both parties, it needs to be a value. Before you begin interviewing architects you should know what it is that you're looking for, what the budget looks like, and your time frames. The right architect needs to be interested enough in your mission, so they need to know the size, and the impact of the project.
If the job is small potatoes compared to the projects they would normally work on, or it doesn’t sway with their design philosophy, it might not be worth their time. And that means it isn’t worth yours to pursue them further.
Have they worked on something like this before?
If you are less risk-averse it might benefit you, and your budget, to work with an architect who is working on a project like yours for the first time. They may have the skills, and the resources to do it right and maybe save you some money.
If taking risks is not your style, then you may need to go with an architect that is more accustomed to your type of project. Their experience and knowledge might cost more but can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
So, keep a note of those architects that don’t have the experience, but do have the motivation. Maybe don’t pull the trigger right away, but don’t lose their number either.
Understanding The First Meeting With Your Architect
If you’ve managed to avoid a consultation fee, do your best to make it worth your time and not waste theirs. Remember, a consultation fee doesn’t mean that that architect is off-limits. It never hurts to ask.
And, set your expectations upfront as clearly as possible during this free meeting. It can go a long way to help you pick the right architect and get your project on track, on time, and on budget.
Should you use an architect or a draftsman/woman? See my article for the answer: Architect vs Draftsman: Which One Should You Hire?
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