In a word: Always!
I recently sat down with a residential and retail architect in Baltimore to discuss his thoughts on whether the average homeowner (or prospective homeowner) should utilize an architect during a renovation project. Here are the highlights of my interview:
Q: When do you think it’s necessary to use an architect for a renovation project, big or small?
A: Always. I know that your readers will assume that answer is born out of my basic need to stay busy but if we set that notion aside, here’s why an architect is essential to any renovation project: spatial understanding. Architects spend a minimum of four years at a university studying how to best use a given space, understanding how we as humans use space, both in the past and present. While a contractor understands how to build the vision created by the architect, the architect understands how to implement the vision… both are completely different things.
Q: What is the common misconception about architects?
A: Nearly everyone that is not in that mythical “1%” category of wealth has been led to believe that an architect is too expensive, is only for the rich, and most unfortunately, just isn’t necessary… aka: it’s just another cost. In reality, not using an architect is similar to not using a realtor to purchase a home or a commercial leasing agent to lease space: you may think you are saving money, but more often than not, you end up paying double in the end.
Q: So why is an architect essential to a renovation project in your eyes?
A: The architect interviews the prospective client about so many little details that one might think are innocuous, but they are essential to understand the vision of the client and how to implement that vision in the manner that will be most effective for how the clients live, how they move, how they breath. The architect controls the project as well. The flow of control goes from the client to the architect to the contractor. Without an architect you are left leaving everything up to your contractor to decide. This is your home, the place that you can call your own, that you live in, raise your family in, and relax for the better part of your life. Treat it as such and use an architect to maximize its potential.
Q: An architect is an added cost, but you feel as though it’s a cost savings, can you explain?
A: It’s simple: the architect helps you control all of the costs from the materials, to the labor, and everything in between. If you want top of the line products, that’s your decision, but we can also find you appliances and materials that are equally functional and beautiful, at a fraction of the price. Without an architect, your contractor will naturally build a profit into each material cost and that is where you can start to see a project’s scope spiral downward.
Note: FHA 203k‘s allow for up to 3% of your total renovation costs to be allotted towards architectural fees and are included in the total loan amount (it is not an out of pocket expense).