Good Quality Architecture Adds Value to Your Home

Building a new home or remodeling an existing one should be an exciting and rewarding process. In most cases, hiring an Architect to help you realize your vision will add value that far exceeds their costs, in addition to simplifying the design, approval and construction process.

An architect designed custom front entry.

An architect designed custom front entry.

It is well recognized in the Real Estate community that homes designed by Architects have a value up to 50% higher than similarly sized and located homes that come from builder/ designers, draftsmen, or catalog plans. This number is much higher when compared to production homes. Since Architect fees are typically anywhere from 5% -15% of construction costs (depending on the level of service provided), any value added to a project that exceeds this fee is a direct benefit to the homeowner. An important point to remember is that value is not necessarily measured only in dollars. Value is also realized though long term enjoyment of a home with improved functionality that is designed to meet your specific needs.

If you look closely in any city or town, usually the oldest (and often the nicest) homes are almost exclusively Architect designs. The perceived value of a well designed home makes it worthy of continued maintenance and preservation, and the careful thought Architects put into their home designs tends to greatly increase their longevity. While many Builders are conscientious and build homes to last, they often choose materials & methods that make building easier and less costly, especially when they are building homes speculatively. Architects typically design homes to maximize owner value through better aesthetics, quality, livability, and longevity while trying to minimize long term life cycle cost.

An architect custom designed interior.

An architect custom designed interior.

Most people can pick out a home that was designed by a good Architect, and a quick comparative study would confirm that well designed homes command significantly higher resale values. It is important to note that an Architect designed home doesn’t necessarily cost more to build. In addition, careful site consideration, curb appeal, efficient space planning, thoughtful construction details, energy efficiency, and creative, well informed material selections can add value that will far exceed that of a comparable builder grade home.

Aesthetic value is difficult to quantify, but most home buyers would agree that if they could afford it, they would pay more for the visual and spatial qualities an Architect can add. Homes designed by Architects also tend to be less susceptible to market fluctuations, which makes them a reliable real estate investment. Similar to other designer products, homes by well known and especially talented Architects have an “association value” that increases the price people are willing to pay for them.

An architect designed waterfront home

Depending on where you live, there may be city, county, and state regulatory agencies that govern any building project. The process of securing approval and permitting for construction projects can be daunting, and having an Architect who is familiar with the requirements can save you valuable time, money, and help streamline the process. It is not uncommon in areas with lax building regulation for homes to be built that don’t meet code requirements, that exceed setback limits, or that are occasionally even over property lines. Architects are required by law to design buildings that comply with all applicable building, zoning, and accessibility codes, giving you the assurance that your home meets the requirements of accepted life safety and land use standards.

An Architect can help you get the best value for your construction dollar. One of the most important decisions in the homebuilding process is locating and orienting the building on the site to optimize views, solar exposure, excavation costs, and aesthetic appeal. The long term energy savings realized by a well sited home with windows properly sized and located can be substantial. Architects stay current on the latest construction materials and technologies, and can select materials and systems that enhance your home without breaking the budget.

Quality custom home builders agree that an Architect’s careful planning, accurate drawings/ specifications and availability to answer questions while the home is being built speeds up construction time and helps avoid costly delays. This ultimately saves the homeowner money and assures they end up with a better final product. A well thought out home design can save the homeowner a lot of money by avoiding change orders, mistakes, and time wasted on the jobsite solving unforeseen conflicts. Value added during construction can also include less stress for the homeowners, more free time to devote to your family or career, and the assurance that crucial safety measures are being addressed.

Most Architects have a carefully selected group of builders they recommend, builders who have a proven record of quality work delivered on time at a fair price. An Architect can help you select a reputable builder who understands your goals and expectations. As an advocate for you, an Architect will assist you in negotiating with the builder during the contracting process, and ensure that you have a fair contract that protects your interests. While your home is being built the Architect can help you determine if proposed changes are fairly priced, review and approve contractor pay requests, make regular visits to the site to monitor progress, and make sure it is built according to the plans & specifications.

Though some clients choose to not involve the Architect during the construction phase to save money, they fail to realize the value of having an important advocate and advisor working for them to insure that the final product meets their expectations and is delivered at a fair price. Construction projects can be challenging, and while an Architect may not be able to eliminate all of the issues involved, they can streamline the process to minimize headaches and additional costs for the homeowner.

The design aesthetic is perhaps the most obvious area where an Architect adds value to your home. A good design always creates enduring value in excess of cost, and a bad design is often painfully obvious and will be regretted far longer than the savings are enjoyed. An Architect will help you create a visually appealing home with character and style that is designed specifically for you, not an imaginary generic buyer.

It is not difficult to understand how your appreciation of a well designed home will be equally valued by a discriminating buyer in the future. Ultimately, the resale value of your home is going to be increased when an Architect is utilized to add tasteful design, improved functionality, thoughtful detailing, and quality construction that will last for generations.

Log Accent Mountain Home

John Hendricks, AIA Architect, NCARB

Tom Russell, Project Manager, LEED AP

Hendricks Architecture, Architects in Sandpoint, Idaho

A Log Accent Mountain Home, one of many different types of Mountain Home Architecture.

Last Post: Coeur d’Alene Residence Featured in Cowboys & Indians Magazine

Coeur d’Alene Residence Featured in Cowboys & Indians Magazine

This mountain lodge residence in Coeur d’Alene is the subject of a feature article in the January 2009 issue of Cowboys & Indians Magazine. The Idaho mountain home is a great example of the nature themed mountain style designs of Hendricks Architecture and a showpiece for the design talent of Jane Scott Interiors.


This “not so big” house on a big site was also featured in the March 2008 issue of Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living. Natural elements of wood, stone, and natural light flow from the rugged exterior into the interior, adding a sense of connection with nature. Natural and local materials that could be recycled were of importance to the owners, as well as having a “Japanese mountain lodge” feel, while also staying northwestern. Western red cedar of various grades on ceilings and walls hint at the Northwest vernacular, along with some maritime and Indian influences on the interiors.

Mountain Lodge Home Hendricks Architecture Hendricks Architecture Wood Cedar Interior

The house is perched on the top of a nob, yet the profile is kept low to blend into the site. All of the main rooms are situated to have great views of Lake Coeur d’Alene and the surrounding mountains. For those unfamiliar, Coeur d’Alene (often called CDA) is a resort town in North Idaho, 35 minutes east of Spokane and 35 minutes south of Sandpoint. Our clients have generously offered their plan to us to sell as a stock cabin plan for those interested.

John Hendricks, AIA Architect, NCARB
Hendricks Architecture, Idaho mountain architects

Last Post: Your first meeting with an architect

Your first meeting with an architect

Once you have made the decision to build a new home or remodel your existing residence, you will want to select an Architect to assist you with the design and construction of your home. Choosing an Architect is a very important decision and should occur very early in the process. In some cases, it is helpful to have an Architect on board to consult with when you are choosing a piece of property for your home.

A good place to start is by asking people you know who have built homes in the past, or by talking to some custom home builders in your area. Typically, they will have worked with some local Architects and may be willing to make a referral. If you already have a contractor in mind, they may know Architects that they have worked well with in the past. If you are new to an area, or need another source for referrals, try the AIA (American Institute of Architects). It is the governing body for professional licensure and will have listings of licensed Architects that practice near you.

Often a brief call can help you determine if an architect’s expertise is appropriate for your project, and if they have a well established practice with projects built for you to look at. Most Architects have areas of specialization or styles that they prefer which can help narrow down the choice as well.

Similar to conducting a job interview, it is important to go to the first meeting prepared to ask the right questions, and with answers to the questions the Architect will likely ask you. One of the most important things to consider is the chemistry between you and the Architect – you should feel comfortable with each other because you will be working closely together and will get to know each other well. Your architect should be a good listener, answer your calls or emails promptly, communicate clearly, and be genuinely interested in your needs.

The following criteria should be considered in selecting an architect:

  • The Architect should be licensed to practice in your state. This can be verified by contacting the local chapter of the A.I.A. If an individual you are considering is not registered in your state but is licensed elsewhere, it is usually an easy process for them to become licensed in your state as well if they are NCARB certified.
  • They should have experience in work similar to your project.
  • Firm size and structure are important considerations. Smaller firms tend to offer the best personalized service, but may take longer to complete the design during busy periods. You will want a senior staff member at minimum managing your project from start to finish.
  • The level of service Architects provide varies. Some firms will do the design but don’t provide oversight during construction. Make your expectations clear, and be sure you understand what services the Architect offers.
  • The Architect’s design philosophy and style should be compatible with what the vision is for your home. If an Architect favors modern design, they may not be the best choice if you want a more traditional style home, and vice versa.
  • Design fees should not be the primary factor in making your selection. Fees vary with the services provided, so make sure when comparing fees that the proposed services are equivalent. It will be easier to compare if you ask the Architect to provide line items for different phases of the project. It is worth noting that money saved by requesting a less detailed construction drawing package may result in higher construction costs.

During your first meeting with an Architect, some questions you may want to ask –

  1. Why should I use you to design my home (or remodel)?
  2. How long have you been in business?
  3. How interested are you in this project?
  4. How busy are you? When will you be able to start on my project?
  5. Who at your firm will I be dealing with directly? Who will do the design? Who will manage the project during construction?
  6. How do you gather information about a client’s goals, needs, and wishes?
  7. What is the owner expected to provide?
  8. Do you have a style that you prefer? Ask to see some examples of built projects.
  9. Do you have a list of references? It is a good idea to talk to homeowners and contractors.
  10. What is your process? How will the design be communicated (i.e. sketches, model, 3-D computer drawings)?
  11. What do you anticipate your fee will be? How is the fee tied to the phases of the project? When are fees payable? Do you require a retainer?
  12. Do you do cost estimating? Is it included in the fee?
  13. Do you provide supervision during the construction phase? Is it included in the fee?

The Architect will likely ask you a number of questions about you and your project. It is a good idea to have answers to common questions in mind, and also to bring sketches, pictures, magazines or other visuals to convey ideas of what you like. If you have a site map or plat of the property, and existing home plans for remodels it is good to bring those as well. If the site is close by, the Architect may want to visit it with you to start formulating ideas. Some of the commonly asked questions are listed below –

  1. What are you looking for in an Architect?
  2. Describe your current home. What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it? What do you want in your next home that your current home lacks?
  3. Describe your family. Who lives at home? What are the ages of children (if any)?
  4. Describe your lifestyle. What activities does your family participate in?
  5. Do you work at home?
  6. Do you entertain often?
  7. How much time will you spend at home? What rooms are the most important to you?
  8. What are specifics of spaces that you need? How many bedrooms, bathrooms, etc? Are there any special rooms or spaces you would like (i.e. theater, game room, office, etc.)? Do any of the residents have special needs?
  9. What size home do you think you need?
  10. How much would you like to spend on your home or remodel?
  11. What is your schedule? When would you like the project to be completed?
  12. How much time (or money) are you willing to spend on maintenance?
  13. What styles do you prefer?
  14. If this is a new home, have you selected a site?
  15. How much do you want to be involved in the design? Construction? Product selections?
  16. Will you do any of the Construction work yourself?
  17. Do you have any preferences for materials?
  18. Are you interested in doing a “green” home?
  19. Do you want to use an interior designer?
  20. Do you have a contractor in mind? Would you like help in selecting one?

Following your initial meeting with an Architect, you should have a sense for whether they will be a good fit for your project. Review their fee proposal and make sure they have included all aspects of your project, and check references. While cost is an important consideration, remember that it should not be the only basis for your decision. Quality of work, level of service, and experience are also important. As with most things, you get what you pay for.

John Hendricks, AIA Architect, NCARB

Tom Russell, Project Manager, LEED AP

Hendricks Architecture is a mountain architecture firm located in Sandpoint, Idaho. Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog.