Building a new home is a very personal experience. It’s almost unique in its combination of being the most personal project you will work on, in terms of creating something to suit your individual needs and wishes, and the biggest financial investment that you will make.
For this reason, the pressure to ‘get it right’ can be enormous, even overwhelming. It’s critical, therefore, to work with an architect that you feel comfortable with. This generally requires a number of factors to be considered.
There’s no denying that cost is an overriding consideration for every build, so of course you must find a professional who can design your new home within your budget. You will know how much you want to spend on the overall project, from initial design to the final lick of paint being applied, so with that figure in mind you can fairly accurately estimate the figure you should allow for architectural services.
Typically, these fees will be between 5% and 15% of the total cost of the project, depending on the level of service you require. If you want the house plans only (design, development application and approval for construction) you can expect to pay around 5% of the cost of the project for the architect’s fees (around $50,000 on a million-dollar project, for example). You would then need to enlist the services of other professionals to produce detailed tender and construction documents, and to administer the contract. If you opt for your architect to provide all of these services, you can expect the cost to be around 15% of the total cost of the project.
While there are obviously costs involved in the design and project management of your new home, the right architect will be able to save you money and help you make the very most of your budget, which brings us to the next requirement of the ‘right’ architect: experience.
If you plan to develop an urban duplex as an investment property, look for a professional with a reputation for designing such buildings. If you want to build your dream home on the NSW east coast, find an architect with considerable experience in designing coastal homes. If you also require the ongoing full project management services of the architect, then you will also need to ensure that they are based within a manageable distance of the development, rather than in a different state. After finding an architect with relevant experience, it’s prudent to explore examples of their previous projects – and, if possible, to arrange to visit one, even if just to view externally.
The next aspect to consider when choosing an architect is communication and engagement. This really is important, as you’ll be working closely to turn the ideas in your head into concrete plans. You need to collaborate with someone who is invested in your dream and who has the time and resources to dedicate to achieving the best possible outcome.
When you have your initial meeting, ask a number of questions to gauge whether they are excited by your project or whether it will be just another job they are taking on. Enquire how many other projects they will be working on concurrently, and ask them specifically if they actually want to do your project.
During this time, it’s also wise to establish precisely what’s covered by their fees, including the number of meetings you will be able to have, and the process of making changes to designs. Ask whether you will be dealing with the same person throughout the process, i.e. them, or whether they will delegate meetings to other team members.
No two people – and certainly no two families – live identical lives. We all have different needs and preferences in terms of the space we call home. For some a windowless and soundproofed music room is a must, while others dream of an East-facing recreation area overlooking the ocean. Your new home will be a unique expression of you and your family’s way of living.
By taking the above factors into consideration, you will be able to find an architect that is the right fit for you and your project, and who you are confident will be able to design the home you have envisaged.