The Highs and Lows of Choosing an Architect and a Contractor


The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten - Benjamin Franklin

Regardless of what you are paying for, the lowest price is always what calls our name. Whether you are interviewing architects or contractors, or simply purchasing furniture or fixtures, understanding what each product or service offers compared to the next is crucial to finding the sweet spot of great value for a great price.

Service Fees

Architects, engineers, and other professional services are some of the first costs you’ll come across when planning and designing your home. Typically, our fees are billed hourly, as a set fee, or as a percentage of the cost of construction of the project. In any case, it’s important to take a minute to focus less on the numbers and more on the actual service being proposed.

If two architects quoted you two vastly different numbers, the most likely difference is in what you are getting with their fees, not that one firm is price gauging or simply that much more efficient than the other. A lower fee is typically indicative of a more basic service, with less support and less work done by the architect. Be sure to review with the architect the deliverables and services covered under their proposed fee. If you want or need more, then it’s usually more expensive to add services later in the project than being more up front on the fee.

Construction Bids

If you are bidding out your project to multiple contractors, a large factor in the accuracy of their bids is the drawing set provided to them. A more complete and clear drawing package from the design team will help communicate what you are looking for. However, it’s important to realize that the contractors cannot be expected to have a complete and total understanding of the project in the two weeks or so that they are bidding on the job.

When reviewing their numbers, any large discrepancies likely indicate that either someone missed something, or they have misinterpreted the goals. If someone is considerably lower than the rest, proceed with caution.

In lieu of bidding work, I typically recommend that you interview and select a contractor in the early stages of the project, rather than once the entire thing is designed and detailed. They will be able to provide helpful feedback on pricing and construction throughout the design process, and also be far more in tune with the goals of the project when it comes time to start construction. If you’re looking to get the best value for your investment, this is often the way to go.

Be sure to subscribe below and stay tuned for my upcoming guide on key ways to reduce the construction cost of your project. In the meantime, check out my Project Planning Pack for a step by step guide to help you avoid going over time and over budget.

Sloan SpringerComment