Peter Sachs, Newton Architect, Mother in Law addition,

Top 10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing an Architect

Peter Sachs, Newton Architect, Mother in Law addition,

Peter Sachs’ Newton Historical Society Award Winning Renovation

If you look around Newton, there seems to be orange building permits on a house on every street, sometimes even more! With this renovation and building boom, it’s more important than ever to find the right architect for your project. I asked Newton architect Peter Sachs to come up with 10 critical questions to ask when interviewing a prospective architect.

What questions do you think are critical? What have your experiences been, good or bad, when renovating or building a house? Thanks for sharing!

1. Are you licensed in Massachusetts?

Although many people call themselves Architects, it is the law that you must have passed an exam and have a stamp.

2. How many years of experience in residential design?

Many offices an really commercial and fill in with residential to stay busy.

3. Are you insured for professional liability?

An important part of having a real office. A follow up question would also be how many people are in the office?

4. Design philosophy?

Are you eclectic or modern only. What experience do you have with historic homes or traditional?

5. What is your knowledge of Zoning laws?

There are many suburbs. Does your architect have experience with your building department of zoning ordinance?

6. Tell me about a time you needed to get a special permit for a variance for a client.

If you require special permits or variances what is their experience? This can be a critical question. Special permits can take a long time to obtain and can mean costly delays.

7. Very important! What is the architects experience with designing within a budget?

You want to get a sense of if this is important to them and what is the emphasis when they design? Roof line, for example, may be important to the architect but not to you.

8. Do your use the same builders?

This is particularly important questions during a building boom when an architect is taking on more work than usual. What is their history with their builder? Ask for contact information and get references on the builder too. You also want the builder to sign off on the budget; after all, they are the ones who have to deliver!

9. How do you communicate the proposed project so that I, a layman who can’t read blueprints, can understand? 

Find out if your architect can provide 3D or hand sketches that will give you a sense of the final results.

10. May I get a complete lists of clients with phone numbers?

You will want to see a hefty list of clients with examples of projects that might match. I am often asked to take clients on a mini tour and to edit my references to similar projects.

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