The background: Choosing an architect is usually the first step in your construction project. Construction is expensive, and often people think that if they spend less money “up front” that they will be able to save for “stuff” that they will be able to buy later during construction. This is a mistake. Architecture is a professional skill, much like medicine. Would you go to the doctor that has the lowest fees for your surgery? Of course not! You want the most skilled, and the most experienced, because that person will give you the best outcome on something that is critical to your well-being. It is the same when choosing an architect. You don’t want the cheapest. You want someone who will give you the best outcome, and may, in fact, save you money on construction, which is the more expensive part of the process.
The proposal: At The Kastrop Group we prepare our proposals and estimates with care, and with understanding of your particular project. We spend time (at no cost to you) in the initial consultation, so that we know what is involved and how simple or complicated your project might be. We then spend 3 to 4 hours of our time reviewing your needs, the requirements for your location, how much time may be needed to complete the scope of work, and preparing our estimate and proposal for your project. We always give a realistic price estimate. If we can get it done in less time than we estimated, then we will charge you less than our estimate.
The risk: It is easy to get tricked into thinking in a “penny-wise, pound-foolish” way. The most typical situation is that the designer provides a low-ball estimate to get the job, but doesn’t have the expertise to design a project that can be built within the client’s budget. When the bids come in, the client gets a shock. The client asks for changes to the design to save money. The designer can then charge the client additional fees for a re-design, costing the client more than the experienced architect with the realistic estimate would have charged in the first place.
Here are some other horror stories we have either heard about or were hired to fix:
- The designer was not a licensed professional and did not design the project in compliance with the building code.
- The designer had no experience with the type of project and got in over his head. More professionals were required in order to complete the project.
- The designer produced such a poor set of plans that the construction costs were much higher because of the deficiencies.
- The designer was not invested in the community, and left town when the project went wrong.
The lowdown: Be sure to compare “apples to apples”. If you get an estimate from an experienced architect and take it to someone else, they will say, “I can beat that”. Instead, keep your initial estimate confidential, and then compare the scope of services provided for the price. Who has the best credentials, experience, talent, track record, and likelihood of success? Who will actually be working on your project—a senior architect or a junior staff member? Check references for similar projects. Trust your instincts. As in other professions, like medical care, cheaper is not necessarily the best choice.
The bottom line: We always strive to provide our clients with a fair price for a professional standard of care. We understand that you may want to compare prices. We only ask that if you like our service, but a lower price is tempting to you, please come back to renegotiate with us. We are always willing to discuss price and your budget. We will work with you to make sure that you are getting a good deal.
Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc.