Choosing an architect who can accurately and cost-effectively translate the vision for your custom residential or commercial build or renovation project is essential for ensuring the work stays on track and yields the stunning results you desire.

Whether you are doing a kitchen remodel, or building your custom dream home, having an architect that understands your project, vision and budget is vital.

As the president of JEFFCO Development, I have worked with many great architects in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. As a Bethesda, Md.,-based custom home builder, I know the importance of a good relationship between the client and architect. A good fit makes all the difference  in having a construction project run smoothly.

Here are six tips for ensuring that you hire the right person for your job:

Review past work to get a sense of their style.

Don’t be afraid to ask for their portfolio. Look for quality and variety but make certain that the work they do aligns with the vision you have for your construction project. If their previous work is primarily on town homes or kitchen renovations and you’re looking to build a six-bedroom luxury residence, then they may not be a good fit.

Ask what types of design projects they like to work on. Get a sense for how they work. Will your opinions and input be valued as part of the process? And ask how you will see their work. Will it be via blueprints or 3D models? How will that impact price?

Inquire about how the day-to-day operations will be handled. Will you working regularly with a senior architect or a junior associate? Having an idea of the workflow process will keep anxiety levels low.

Ask for references

Just like hiring a financial planner or an attorney, get references. It is helpful to hear what others’ experiences have been – the good, the bad and the ugly. Ask for a few addresses with similar style, curb appeal, size of project. Drive by to get a better sense of their work. Set up an appointment and go view their work in person. You may see something that you really like or don’t care for  that may not have come across in photos.

Clearly communicate what you want.

Take the time to create a database of photos and clippings to help explain what styles and materials you would like. It helps to clearly communicate what you want and expect.

Devil is in the details

A good set of construction plans always helps a job go smoothly. Discuss the level of detail you would like and how it will impact your budget.

Be upfront about your budget.

Ask the architect candidate how he charges for his time and his plans. Some architects charge by the hour while others charge by square-footage, according to Home Advisor. Others may charge a percentage based on construction costs. So be clear about how the architect charges and that the fees are in line with your budget.

When asked “How much does a job cost” it’s important to know there is a high level of detail that goes into pricing a job, even on smaller scales for renovations. The more detail/selections that are made will help to accurately estimate the cost of your project.  In early stages, square footage is taken into account to give rough estimates. When plans and selections are made, this can be translated into a more definitive number.

When considering the cost of a remodel or custom build, remember that there are two types of costs. Soft costs include items such as land, taxes, carrying cost, architectural plans, designers, and insurance. Hard costs which include items such as floors, doors, windows, hardware, cabinetry, counter tops, bathroom tile, fireplaces, lighting, exterior face, trim detail, stairs, kitchen appliances, elevator, pool, and any other types of bonus rooms like attic space.

What’s the timetable?

Certain architects can turn projects around faster than others. But the complexity and size of the project also plays a role in how long it takes for an architect to develop the plans. An exterior design plan could take a shorter amount of time than the blueprints for an intricate interior.

Keeping these simple guidelines in mind as you start looking for the person who will design your new space will help make your entire project run smoothly.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the JEFFCO Development team at We’re here to help.


Jeff Robins

President, JEFFCO Development