How I Found An Architect For My New Construction Project
In this blog, I'm going to tell you how I found an Architect for my very first new construction project.
Based on conversations I had with other real estate investors, the most common way people find architects is through referrals.
However, I decided to take a different route.
Keep reading to learn about my 5 step process to finding an architect for your next fix and flip project.
It's December 2021 and I'm about a month or two away from breaking ground on my very first new construction project.
With that said, I've been on the phone with my architect about once a week.
I couldn't be more happy with my experience so far so I thought it might be helpful if I shared my process for finding this architect.
Why Choosing The Right Architect Is So Important
There are 2 reasons choosing the right architect is so important.
First, you need an architect that knows the local zoning ordinances and building codes.
You want to make sure they draw the house according to what's allowed and stay clear of anything that's not allowed.
The architect should know setback requirements, floor area ratio, as well as max allowable height for a dwelling like the back of their hand.
This knowledge is so important because when it comes to real estate investing, the biggest hidden cost is time.
Whenever you submit architectural drawings for approval, it will take anywhere from 30-60 days to hear back from the town.
For reference: my holding cost on this project is starting out at roughly $100 per day.
So if I have to wait an extra month before starting work because of a mistake in the plans, it will cost me an extra $3,000 dollars.
This is why you have to hire an Architect that can get it right the first time around.
The best way to do that is to ask them how many drawings they've submitted for the town or city your property is in.
One of the reasons why I chose the architect I'm working with now is because he had a good track record of getting approvals quickly from the town I'm building in.
The second reason why you need a good architect is that the house is being built from those construction documents.
From the foundation and framing to trim and finishes, all the subcontractors you hire are going to constantly refer back to your architect's drawings as somewhat of an instruction manual.
If the drawings are unclear or incomplete, it's going to be hard for your subcontractors to know what to do. If they don't know what to do, they'll consistently look to you for answers. And then you'll become the bottleneck of your project.
Don't risk sub-par drawings that don't provide clear direction.
The architect I selected wasn't the lowest price I received, but he did provide the most thorough and complete bid.
I'm a firm believe in how you do anything is how you do everything.
So when I saw the robust bid package for the architect I chose vs. the others, it was a sign in the right direction.
Alright, now that we've covered WHY it's so important to find a good architect, let's now get into HOW to find that good architect.
This is a 5-step process so pay close attention.
Step 1: Find Your Comps
The first step is to find your cops.
If you're taking on a new construction project, chances are that market has a few recently sold new construction homes.
If the market you're building in does NOT have a new construction home, you may want to reconsider your strategy.
For this step, you can use a website like Zillow.
I start by typing in the zip code or name of the town.
Then I select Sold Properties.
Then I filter on houses by home type.
Then I open the More dropdown and make the following adjustments:
I put 2020 in the minimum year built field.
I filter on Sold in Last 24 months
And then I also try to filter on the lot size as close as possible to what I'm buying.
I'm looking for at least 5 comps.
So based on these filters, I potentially have 8 different architects to choose from.
Once I write down all of these addresses, I move on to step 2.
Step 2: Submit an OPRA
Step 2 is submitting an OPRA request to the township I'm building in.
If you're unfamiliar with the acronym, OPRA stands for Open Public Records Act.
Submitting an OPRA request facilitates public access to government records which includes architectural drawings for a new construction property.
Finding the OPRA request form should be as simple as googling OPRA Request Form + the City and State you're looking for.
Once you find the ORPA request form, you will fill it out and email it to the township clerk.
Once they receive the request, they'll call you and let you know what to do.
If they require payment for copies, just pay it.
In my case, the township understandably wouldn't send me copies of drawings of other people's homes, but they did say I could come in and take a look.
So I went to the township clerk's office the next day and brought my pen and pad with me to take notes.
Step 3: Analyze the Drawings For Your Comps
Now we move to Step 3, which is analyzing the drawings of your comps.
Here's what you're looking for:
- Lot Dimensions
- Floor Area Calculations
- The Floorplan of each floor
- The Surveyor
- The Architect
- The date plans were submitted
- And Finally, the date plans were approved.
Hopefully, if you see the plans for multiple properties, the same name for an Architect pops up again and again.
If that's the case, I would almost certainly go with the name that popped up the most.
The reason being Architecture is a game of reputation.
If a town sees the same name submitting plans over and over, you're just increasing your odds of getting approved quickly.
Step 4: Request Bids
Once you have this information in hand, you can move on to step 4: requesting bids.
I suggest calling each Architect and getting a feel for their character.
- Are they impatient or generous with their time?
- Are they educational or dismissive?
- Are they interesting or boring?
- Do they get back to you quickly or do they need constant follow up?
All of these behavioral factors are just as important as the price of their bid.
It's always worth a little extra money to pay for someone who you enjoy working with.
Step 5: Select an Architect
Once you have all the bids in hand, move on to the final step: selecting an Architect.
This is probably the hardest part. You don't want to make the wrong decision.
Here's what I can tell you.
Don't make the decision on price alone.
Selecting the cheapest bid without considering any other factors is a sure path to a few white hairs.
Please please please consider the architects experience building the home you're trying to build in the town you're trying to build in.
Then also look for soft attributes like being easy to talk to, respectful, and operating with a sense of urgency.
These attributes are incredibly important when it comes to finding people to partner with in your real estate investing business.