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How to Choose an Architect

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When it costs so much to buy and sell property, it's little wonder we've become a nation of renovators. If you're planning major renovation work, you'll need an architect, but how do you find the right one?

  1. Know what you want. Before you meet an architect, be sure you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. If your planned renovations are a short-term investment, you may just concentrate on a new bathroom or kitchen. If you're planning to stay in the home for 10 to 20 years and need to accommodate a growing family, consider the bigger picture.
  2. Do some research. If you've seen a home you like, ask who designed it. Browse magazines for ideas and photos you can show your architect to help describe what you want. It's important that you communicate clearly so the architect can help your realise your dream home.
  3. Talk to several architects. Choose an architect who specialises in the work you want to undertake. It doesn't make sense to employ an architect with commercial high-rise experience on a residential project. Ask to see previous projects the architect has worked on and follow up client references.
  4. Check to see that your architect is appropriately licensed and has the necessary insurances.
  5. Know your budget. In setting a brief for your architect think about exactly what you want to achieve. You might have to compromise on your wish list, but a good architect will be able to offer you solutions. Be prepared to listen to their advice. But don't be tempted to overcapitalise on your site.
  6. Use their experience. An architect can advise on all aspects of building - from designing and planning, selecting a site, managing the building budget etc. If your budget doesn't extend to an all-encompassing service, engage your architect for the concept and detailed plans stage.
  7. Check fees. Some architects will charge an initial fee for preparing detailed plans and an hourly rate for any subsequent work. A full service can cost between 10 and 15% of the total cost of the job.
  8. Get it in writing. Document exactly what you want your architect to do as part of your renovation project and what the cost will be before the work commences.
  9. Only approve the design when you are 100% satisfied. This is the stage of the project that determines the final look and feel of your home.

Tips: Do your homework. The RAIA's home advisory service Archicentre at www.archicentre.com.au is a useful resource. Or visit www.raia.com.au for more information.

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