How to Select an Architect for a Custom Home Build in Maryland

How to Select an Architect for a Custom Home Build in Maryland

The process of building a luxury custom home begins with the architectural concepts.  These initial ideas will form the foundation for your budget discussions, your selections, and your lifestyle choices.  You’ll have to live with these decisions for years to come and you want to have a great experience.  In this article, we provide some tips to help you select the right architect for your project.  In addition, we’ll discuss what you need to know before you select an architect in Maryland and how to ensure a collaborative custom home building process.

Types of Architectural Design Service

There are a variety of professionals who provide architectural design services, but not all are considered architects.  Here is a brief overview of the types of architectural design services that you may encounter:

  • Architect – An architect is a licensed professional that has earned a degree in architecture from an accredited architectural program.  Architects are often members of professional associations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
  • Architectural Designers – An architectural designer has studied architecture or design, but has not taken or passed the registration exam required for licensure. These professionals may work on their own or they may provide assistance to architects as interns. In the residential sector, not all jurisdictions require drawings to be done by a licensed architect.
  • Draftsperson – A draftsperson can produce the drawings you need to build but will need to work alongside an architect or designer to develop the initial designs.

Should I Select An Independent Architect or Large Firm?

The answer to this question is kind of like, “Which is better – chocolate or vanilla?”  It’s all really a matter of opinion and preference.  Every project is different and so are your requirements.  When it comes to choosing an architect, there are a variety of considerations including costs, breadth of experience and staffing, and unique differences between an independent architect, a small firm, and a larger architectural firm.  Here is a comparison that can help you understand those nuances and assist you in selecting the type of architect you want to work with your custom home building project.


Sole Practioner Small Architectural Firm

(2-10 Employees)

Large Architectural Firm

(10+ Employees)

$ $$$ $$$$
May be an architectural designer or a licensed architect. Often has 1 or more licensed architects. Often has multiple licensed architects and additional support team members.
Provides 1-on-1 Service but may not be able to effectively juggle multiple projects at one time. Typically has adequate bandwidth to handle multiple projects. Typically staffed to handle multiple projects by multiple team members.
May focus solely on architectural design and may not be able to able to provide a consultative approach for engineering, detailed specifications, or long-term project management. Can often provide assistance in helping create detailed specifications.  May provide project management or other consultative services, on an as needed basis. Typically creates bid packages to be sent to multiple builders.  Often provides project management or consulting services as part of their fee.
One point of contact who knows your project inside and out. Everyone will typically have an understanding and general knowledge of every project so you are more likely to reach someone who can help, even if your primary contact is unavailable. Typically organized with multiple teams, each with responsibility for their own projects.  Some members of the team may not know you personally or the intricacies of your project.
The breadth of experience is limited to one individual. Additional professionals bring more experience to the table. Typically offer the greatest most diversified experience.
Will likely have limited resources and may require outsourcing of services such as engineering and permitting. Often assists, as necessary, with engineering and permitting processes. Often assists, as necessary, with engineering and permitting processes. Likely to have a wider breadth of contacts and experiences to draw from for these services.
May focus on one genre of design or architecture. May specialize in specific architecture styles but often has varied experience, depending on the experience of the team. Team often has diversified experience with different styles of architecture.
No turnover risk but also no redundancy. Lower turnover as team members are often intimately involved with the firm’s success and growth. Turnover may be higher in a larger firm but multiple team members are available to provide redundancy.
Typically limits service offerings to their area of expertise and may not be able to provide a full-service experience. Often provides a wide array of service offerings and a personalized level of service. Typically provides a full suite of services which can include construction management, interior design, etc. which can be advantageous if you want to have a single source. These services may not be necessary for all projects so it’s important to consider the role you want your architect to play and which services you require.
Typically provides a personalized experience and can be a good option if you are limited by budget and have confidence that your builder has the capabilities to handhold the project from start to finish. Provides a very personalized experience, with lower overhead and thereby, lower cost structure for your project.  Excellent choice for collaborating with your builder for the best experience. Typically provides a full-service concierge approach which often comes with a premium price structure.  Large firms may also have standard protocols, processes, or nuances that need to be evaluated for collaboration with your builder.


Interview Before You Select an Architect

Looking at an architect’s website is not always the best indicator of whether or not you and the architect see eye to eye.  Unfortunately, architects have an eye for architectural design, but not always an eye for website design.  Some of the best architects do not have the best websites.  It’s an unfortunate fact, but true.  Your architect’s personality, style, and business model will also set the tone for how you will work together over the coming months.  If you don’t see eye to eye, this could set the stage for a challenging process.

Since you’ll be investing a lot of time and money into the custom home building process, be sure you interview several architects so that you can select an architect that will support your vision, design a project that is within your budget, and can work collaboratively with your builder.  Download the free checklist of Questions to Ask an Architect.

Assembling the Team

In addition to selecting an architect, you’ll want to interview your custom home builder, interior designer, and/or landscape architect for your project.  Ideally, these trades will have experience working together and collaborating on similar projects.   Your builder or architect can often be a great resource for recommendations.  We discuss the importance of collaboration in further detail, in this article.

Get the Builder On-Board Before You Make Your Final Selection

Unfortunately, some clients rely on their architect to design a home that is within their budget and not every architect has up-to-date knowledge of construction industry trends and pricing.  To ensure that the home your architect designs is properly aligned with your budgetary requirements, it’s important to include your builder in the process, early on.  For these reasons, we strongly advise you to connect with your preferred builder before committing to an architecture firm.  The builder can help keep the project design on track with your budget and work collaboratively to help you and the architect meet your goals.

A similar article was featured in What’s Up Magazine.   If you are ready to get started with the architectural design process, download our free ebook or contact us to schedule a consultation!

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