What To Know Before Hiring an Architect

What To Know Before Hiring an Architect

Rendering courtesy of Hereabout

Written by Holly Mumford

About the Author: Holly Mumford is the founder of Hereabout. An architect by trade, she designs bespoke home plans that are either ready-to-build or can be fully customizable. With more than a decade of experience in residential design, she started Hereabout to bridge the gap between working with an architect and staying on budget, all while getting your dream home. With a passion for design and a dedication to sustainability, she’s focused on making quality design attainable. Creating warm, livable spaces is at the root of her design philosophy, and she believes that homes are truly a space to belong and connect.

Laying Out Priorities

Whenever I start a project with a new client, the first step is to define their priorities and values for their home build. Before the nitty-gritty details, big-picture thinking is key. I suggest doing this house profile exercise for all of my clients. A house profile will narrow down top properties like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as values such as budget and sustainability, ultimately leading to an overall mission statement for your home. It will help you stay on track when planning and may lead to less frustration or difficulties down the line. 

After you know your goals for your home, you can start thinking about the actual design of the home and who you’d like to (or should) hire. Each project and homeowner is different, so your route will likely differ from someone else’s. 

A brownstone breakfast nook with a marble fireplace and white oak flooring

Design: Brownstone Boys | Photo: Christian Torres | Floor: Greta

Do You Go Pre-Designed or Custom?

Generally speaking, if you want more of a personalized, full-service experience and have the time, hiring an architect to design a custom home is the way to go. If you need a more budget-friendly design option, you can look into a pre-designed plan, although working with a company where an architect has designed the home is suggested. For an in-between, most companies offering stock plans will also provide customization services. 

Fully Custom - This is usually a full-service experience with an architect or architecture firm to design a custom home. The architect will lead you through every phase of design and into construction. You work together until the project is completed/built.

Stock Plan - Some architects or companies host ready-to-build home plans that you can purchase. Some companies offer different ways to customize their home plans. 

Drafter/DIY - Some folks work one-on-one with a drafter to draw their ideas out. I don't necessarily recommend this, as it typically leaves a lot of decisions to be made in the field, which can be costly.

A modern bathroom with white oak hardwood flooring

Design: Brownstone Boys | Photo: Christian Torres | Floor: Greta

How to Choose a Plan

Some of the first questions to ask are, “How much help do I want through this process?” and “How much money am I willing to invest?”

You’ll also need to consider time investment (Spoiler alert: building a custom home or using a stock plan will take time). How much money can you put into the design and support for your project? Investing now can save down the road. You're not just paying for the design of a home, you're paying for an architect's experience, building knowledge, and ability to solve problems.

Do you want the experience of a custom design? Do you have the means and time to support this desire? When do you need your home designed? 

Holly’s Best Advice 

You're an architect. Why do you offer ready-to-build (stock) plans?

After a career in high-end residential, I wanted to create a solution for folks that bridged the gap between budget and designwhere they could still build a home they truly loved without the (sometimes) unattainable cost of hiring an architect. Pre-designed home plans weren’t something new, but I saw a gap in the market for extremely thoughtfully designed and sustainable home plans with blueprints that include the detailed information you’d see from an architect’s office, rather than a typical stock plan.  

How do you see someone having a successful building project using a stock plan?

As with any building project, set yourself up with the right expectations for the timeline. You and your builder are on the same team, so nurturing a good relationship will go far. Get organized and stay organized. This helps when picking out finishes and fixtures before they’re requested by your contractor. 

After your career in high-end residential, what factors do you try to bring into the stock plan world?

I was lucky enough to work closely with builders, makers, and clients very closely. I’ve tried to bring a professional level of detail and information to our plans from structural engineering to cabinetry design and flooring suggestions. 

What do you think is the biggest advantage of hiring an architect?

The biggest advantage is the level of coordination of all trades that you get from hiring an architect, as well as the customization and focus on your overall design. 

Do you still do custom projects?

Yes, I do on a case-by-case basis.

Quiz to find out whether you should hire an architect or use stock house plans

More reading: