6 Tips for Choosing the Perfect Architect for Your Custom Build or Renovation

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 jeff@jeffcodev.com. We’re here to help.


Jeff Robins

President, JEFFCO Development


JEFFCO receives Maryland Industry Association 2016 Custom Builder Honors

JEFFCO De11405 Luxmanor Rd-7velopment  is proud to have been honored during the Maryland Industry Association 2016 Custom Builder Awards of Excellence event held June 3, 2016 at the Pooks Hill Marriott in Bethesda.

Our Luxmanor Road project received praise in the “Speculative Transitional Home” category.  The project featured a 7,578 square feet six-bedroom residence, with 5 full baths and 3 half-baths. It is located in North Bethesda.

Designed by GTM Architects, this new residence has sweeping, dramatic contemporary interiors. Rena Robins selected materials and finishes in collaboration with the Jeffco Development team. The interior design consultation was expertly provided by Zoe Feldman Design Associates.

We thank all of our partners on this project and the 11405Luxmanor_Jeffco-48Association for their acknowledgement.

View more Luxmanor photos here.

JEFFCO Leadership: Jeffrey B. Robins

It’s been a great year so far at JEFFCO Development. We’re honored to work with great clients and partners as we complete projects in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Our team is also excited to expand into luxury residential home construction at the Delaware shore.RobbinsFam

This time of year, I love that I have the ability to look back on what we’ve been able to accomplish. As president of JEFFCO Development Corp., and managing member of the JEFFCO Remodeling, I can say that I am committed to accomplishing the impossible every day, which is complete and total perfection.

As a lifelong Washington DC native, I have had the pleasure of being a part of the transformation in residential and commercial development in the region. I’ve always been enamored with the concept of building and developing a client’s dream into reality.

In high school and college I loved being outdoors and was interested in construction. I held summer carpentry internships with local building firms and really enjoyed myself. Our family moved to Bethesda where I attended Walt Whitman High School (Go Vikings!), then set off to Vanderbilt University.  After college I went to work for Blake Construction Company in the property management division and then to Richmarr Construction Co. where I learned the skills for effective project management.

It was great coming home to Bethesda and I marvel at the stories of the families for whom I do work. The first projects for JEFFCO Development were two single family homes in Bethesda.  Constructed in less than a year, I still marvel even now at the architecture and solid foundation they rest on. It makes me so proud to see many families that have lived in each. Being a part – even a small part – of a family’s story is humbling.

Since then we’ve been able to work in collaboration with top architects and designers on truly inspiring custom builds and renovations, like the Canal Mule House in Georgetown, Luxmanor Road, and a gorgeous luxury spaces at Split Creek.  This time frame spans some 35 plus years.

IMG_0814When I’m not helping families create their legacies, I spend my non business life  with my family who I cherish in so many ways, my wife Rena and my two sons Jared and Joshua and

I’ve found work-life balance in training as an Ironman triathlete , as triathlon has been a huge part of my life for the past 6 years. Planning and training starts my days off in such a positive and clean, healthy way – it makes me stay focused and present for my clients. I am training at present for the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii in October as part of a fundraiser for the Crohns and Colitis, a charity we care about and support. I earned this honor as achieving the number 1 fundraiser in the entire US for this charity. My eldest son and brother have the disease and I’ve taken it upon myself to be an ambassador for this cause, working one day for a cure.

I’m pleased that our team has been able to maintain the high standards and quality in our work since 1985. I’m excited about what the rest of the year brings.

If you have a construction or remodeling project you’d like to talk to our team about, contact us at jeff@jeffcodev.com


Jeffrey B. Robins

President of JEFFCO Development Corp

Managing Member of JEFFCO Remodeling LLC

Jeffco Development Completes Renovation of Historic Canal Street Mule House

We’re extremely excited that the renovation of the historic Canal Street “Mule House” is complete – with stunning results.

We started this amazing project last summer when approached by Mule House LLC.  The owner Alex Alperstein who bought the property in 2014 wanted the existing structure gutted and completely renovated. That included a tear down of the dilapidated addition on the back of the house and the addition of a new, two-story addition on the rear of the row house.

The Mu3069_CanalStreet_NW028_le House has been a historic mainstay in the Washington, D.C., area since in the mid-1800s.  As the story goes, the C&O Canal barge would haul limestone, coal, whiskey, wood, sand and flours and even munitions between Ohio and Washington, D.C. Mules would pull the barge up and down the canal. The house was where the mules apparently lived. The National Park Service had been maintaining the barge and used it as a tourist attraction until a few years ago. The so-called Mule House fell into disrepair.

It was important to find ways to artfully blend the old sensibilities of the Georgetown structure with the new design. We worked in collaboration with Christian ZAPATKA architects who took the lead in designing the space. We held weekly meetings with the owners to review design and construction details.

We knew a home like this has to be a well thought out project. Once we took out what we needed to, we evaluated 3069_CanalStreet_NW006_the materials we had and wanted to see how we could reincorporate them into the Mule house renovation.

The front facade needed to be cleaned up. We did this without ruining the style, charm and grace of Canal Street. The interiors were in extremely bad shape. We preserved what we could of the existing structure and used as much of the materials – wood, brick, stone- to keep let people know the age of the house, but still gave a modern and fresh feel to the home.

All of the wood beams you see come from the house. The oak hewn beams were taken out of various parts of the house during demolition. We were able to clean them up by sanding and wire brushing them.

3069_CanalStreet_NW014_The windows on the front of the home were refurbished. We also took the necessary steps to make sure all of the mechanical electrical plumbing (MEP) of the house were new and installed properly. We want people to feel the history and age of the structure without sacrificing the functionality and efficiency of a new home.

One of the most interesting design features is the exposed granite wall that transitions to brick. You don’t see this very often. We installed lights in the floor that accent this feature, making for a very dramatic entrance.

A key aspect of renovating properties with historical significance is trying to maintain the beauty and historical value of the neighborhood. The neighbors were a great part of this project. They were so happy this property was being redeveloped. It was in such bad shape and poorly maintained.3069_CanalStreet_NW005_

By us coming in and cleaning Mule House up not only made the neighbors happy but will also be a beginning step to revitalize the canal. The homeowner sought out every neighbor to keep them informed on our project and progress. Jeffco was always happy to walk them through to see the progress. The neighbors are happy to see the property enjoyed by someone and not left in disarray.

This property was featured in Curbed DC. Click here to view the article.

Interested in learning more about the Canal Street project? Read Urban Turf’s article.

Visit our Facebook and Houzz pages for more photos.

For more on Jeffco Development projects, visit our website at www.jeffcodev.com