by Renovating an old home or building a new one can be a very exciting time in your life. And hiring an architect is an invaluable part of seeing your dream home become a reality. Some simple research will quickly tell you that you need to first clarify your needs, determine your budget, and ask around for referrals before finding an architect to work with. Research will also show that it’s a good rule of thumb to interview several architects before making a decision.
As you review each proposal and as the expenses add-up, most people are tempted to go for the architect offering the most easy-on-the-pocketbook deal, and who can blame them? But remember, cheap does not mean cost-effective.
Carol Cioppa, an award-winning architect with over 40 years of experience, admits that there are architects who will low-ball a proposal because they want to get it. “They’re desperate and they have no work. They need to support their family,” says Cioppa, “But in the back of their mind, they know that there will be changes along the way and they will probably get back quite a bit.”
What does she mean? When meeting with an architect, it is unlikely that they will walk you through what happens when something changes or goes off-plan. Yet this is inevitable. For example, let’s say that in the proposal the architect has figured in two meetings about the kitchen, but after two meetings, you are still indecisive. You keep consulting your friends who give you advice, and you are still unsure about what you want. Now there’s been six meetings about the kitchen instead of two, with each meeting lasting up to three hours. “Instead of eating the changes,” says Cioppa, “the architect will bill the client extra.”
Then, let’s say the proposal outlines a very specific scope of work. You have decided you want a new bathroom, a master bedroom, a master bath and a new front entrance. Then in the middle of the design phase you tell your architect, “You know what, let’s make the addition bigger and add an exercise room off of the master bedroom.” That’s a legitimate extra; another room is being added and the addition is bigger and the architect charges you extra for the change order.
Next, the contractor is told that they are building a storage room above the garage, but it turns out to be a bedroom, a bathroom, and a storage room. Well that’s a big difference and a lot more construction than originally planned. Theoretically, these little change orders can add-up to thousands and thousands of dollars extra.
“Of course, some extra fees are legitimate,” admits Cioppa, “but there are architects who go in to the project hoping and knowing there will be some minor changes that they will be able to increase the bill for. They low-ball the fee knowing the client will end-up making changes.” This is what happens and in the end, cheap is costing you more. “If you’re paying less, you’re going to get less,” says Cioppa. Sometimes the more expensive proposal is the one that will end up costing you less money.