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Completely London

London property market blog

Property: inside and out

/ by Ben West

How to choose an architect

Whether you’re after a bold, original house design or simply a modest extension, chances are you will need an architect. Care needs to be taken when choosing one however as the success of the project can be made or broken by the design.

You’re looking for an architect who will inject some artistic flair, unhurriedly discuss your needs in detail, transform your ideas and mood boards into something workable and in keeping with your current property if applicable, and advise whether your aspirations match your budget.

So, for the best results, keep the following tips in mind when making your choice.

  • Where to start

Personal recommendation is perhaps the best way to find an architect, but if that is not an option the online ‘Find an architect’ service at offered by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) can help you search more than 3,000 UK RIBA Chartered Practices throughout the UK by name, location, area of expertise and services offered. The Architects Registration Board (ARB,, the UK’s statutory regulator of architects, also has a searchable online register of architects.

  • Arrange a meeting

Invite a few to give you a free face-to-face consultation so you can get a good handle on their ideas, fees and ways of working. It is surprising how different their approaches and designs can be.

  • Look at their history

Check out an architect’s past work and ask previous clients whether they were happy and if the job came in at the cost quoted and within the agreed timeframe. Check their track record of planning approvals, including those for controversial or difficult schemes. If your property is Victorian or Georgian, seek out an architect with a background in working with period buildings, the opposite for a modern one.

  • Good connections

An ideal architect isn’t just savvy with good design: they will be able to circumvent difficulties with planning and building regulations that for a novice could drag on for many months. Good architects are able to recommend good builders.

  • Draw up a schedule

Your architect should efficiently draw up a contract for the schedule of building works and you will have the option to engage them also as professional inspector, visiting the construction site regularly and certifying that the works are to the required standard.

  • Ask for evidence

Confirm that the architect has recently been working on projects. If there has been a sizeable gap since their last one, this could cause problems. You don’t want a situation where your architect has seriously underestimated the current cost of construction and where, when the job goes out for tender, builders’ quotes are unfeasibly high.

  • Get it in writing

Be sure to agree in writing any fees your architect quotes, and ensure that you obtain a strict schedule of deadlines for the work in writing. Without a timetable in place, building projects can have a habit of drifting on for months.

  • In the event of a dispute

It is reassuring that if things go wrong, and differences cannot be settled by amicable discussion, RIBA can arrange for a mediator to examine the facts in an attempt to sort things out before you resort to going to court. The ARB can also deal with complaints.

*This article is an extension of one which originally appeared in issue 17 of Completely London magazine. Completely London is our award winning customer magazine which we produce several times a year. Alongside exclusive features about living in the Capital and the London property market, we showcase a number of properties for sale and to let.

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About our expert View all posts by this expert

Ben West
Ben West Freelance journalist
Ben West is a freelance property journalist who has written several books on property, has had property columns in the Financial Times and Daily Express, and has written on property and many other subjects for publications including The Times, Guardian, Telegraph and Independent.

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