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Using An Architect: Why, How And When

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Using An Architect: Why, How And When

by Danielle Stewart

Should you spend an extra 11 per cent of your renovation budget employing an architect? Their fee may be a small price to pay for good design and years of cost saving.


There are several obvious ways that an architect can actually save you money and add value to your renovation:

  • External perspective. Your home is your castle. It is an emotional investment and you have grand plans for it. But, thankfully, an architect works with more practical elements: bricks, mortar, resale value and your budget.
  • Design savvy. While you are poring over paint chips, your architect is mentally checking the site conditions, the aspect (where the sun rises and sets) and potential views. Their expertise will ensure your new home is light, comfortable and requires minimal heating and cooling.
  • Advice on latest building materials. If you hate wall tiles, they'll find an alternative. If you plan to use secondhand or recycled materials, they may help source the best pieces.
  • A counselling service. If you love country and your husband loves stainless steel finishes, your architect should be able to create a style to satisfy you both.
  • Building know-how. Can't speak builder? No worries. Your architect can choose a builder, liaise with them onsite and ensure the job is done according the plans and building standards. This could save you a fortune in repairs down the track and will increase resale value.


Spend plenty of time selecting your architect. You will have to work closely with them for a long time. Find someone you can trust, confide in and confront if you don't like their initial designs.

  • Interview as many as you can bear. You will get tips from all of them during the process. Look for a good communicator and listener. If they share a similar lifestyle to you, even better. With personal experience of your situation, they can advise on your needs.
  • Make sure they are a member of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA), the national body which maintains the integrity and standing of the profession. Search the RAIA website for architects near you.
  • Is there a renovated house in your suburb that you really love? Knock on the door and ask for their architect's contact details. Get recommendations from friends and colleagues.


Obtain a quote, often called a fee proposal, from all the architects you like. Ask for them to supply fee proposals in the same format, for easy comparison. For example, if your first choice supplies a fee proposal as a percentage cost per stage, ask others to break their quotes into the same stages. Common stages include:

  • Schematic design (initial, simple drawings)
  • Design development (detailed plans)
  • Contract documentation (accurate drawings and specifications for council approval)
  • Contract administration (including tendering for builders, organising a building contract, inspecting the building, etc).

Most architects charge a percentage of the total renovation cost for each stage. You can hire an architect for any or all of these stages. Many architects will also offer an hourly rate for some stages. This is handy if you want to do some bits yourself, such as submit plans to council or get builders' quotes (see How to Choose a Builder).


Choosing the right architect takes times. Start your search as soon as you have a basic brief, a few pictures of house and room styles you like, and a ballpark figure of your budget. You can refine all these details during the design process.

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