With prices of pre-built homes rising fast in the Lake Chapala area, many are considering purchasing a lot and taking on the task of building themselves. In a previous blog, the Pros And Cons Of Building in Lake Chapala, I discussed both the positives and the dangers of such action.
Often, architects and the builder are one and the same as many architects here have amassed crews and are actively both designing and overseeing the building of their projects. This can have major advantages (if he has good crews) as the same person will be overseeing both the conceptualization and execution of your project and is intimately aware of all your desires and needs from the start to finish.
So, assuming your ready to take the leap, read on and I'll discuss what you might want to look for when hiring an architect/builder in the Lake Chapala area.
Interview several contractors/builders, and schedule time to meet with them
Start by finding some contractors in the area and don't forget that many contractors are from Guadalajara. So how do you find them?
Go around to constructions sites and talk to the workers. There is always a foreman on site and he can give you information on the builder and architect. Call them up and personally interview several candidates before making your choice. Tell them about your design plans, get a feel for how they work, and most importantly, be sure you'll be able to work smoothly with the person you hire. If he rubs you the wrong way during the meeting, move on the next. Be sure to view some of his homes both under construction and already finished. A finished home that's a few years old can tell you lots as to how the foundation was constructed by the number of cracks showing and the amount of salitre showing on the walls.
Facebook and local web boards are a wealth of information. Begin by doing searches for 'architect' and 'builder' and then ask for recommendations from the participants. Build a list of those who come highly recommended and start calling them up and asking for an interview.
Ask your contractor. If you already have a contractor in mind, then ask them for their recommendation as to who to use as an architect and vise versa. Architects and contractors work with each other all the time and have local industry knowledge.
Ask your Realtor. The Realtor that sold you the lot will know people in the business and will be able recommend some architects and architect/builders for you to call and interview.
Ask Friends and Neighbors. If you have already been renting here for a while, ask everyone you know. Most everyone has gone through some renovations projects of various size and although it's not the same as building a whole house from scratch, these recommendations can often lead you to a good builder and or architect.
Assess and Understand the Fee Situation
Once you have decided on an architect then ask how the fees are configured. Depending on whether you hired just a architect or an architect/builder, it may be a fixed fee for the work (in the case of just an architect) or it may be a percentage of the total construction (in the case of an architect/builder). At the conclusion of the architectural drawings, he should be able to price out the project in detail and a good architect/builder will be able to track and show you weekly what he spent and how far over or under budget you are at that moment in time.
Drafting the Plans
Make sure he/she is going to take the time to make real architectural drawings of the project as well as work with you on 3D walk thru viewings of the outside and inside of the project. This makes a huge difference and allows for creativity and a final project that holds little surprises.
Determining the Responsibilities of your Architect
If you are just hiring a architect, where does his/her responsibilities begin and end? This must be determined before hiring. Is the architect going to advise on fixtures and finishes? Is he going going to help in working with the contractor on site? Is he going to help to keep the project on budget with suggestion on different options during the construction process? Will he be obtaining the permits? How much will he be involved in managing the project overall? Can he meet you weekly on the job site to inspect the project as it progresses? Go into as much detail as you can
Ask for References
Contact the references given and ask if they had any conflict with the architect or architect/builder. Ask for instances as to how they helped in reducing the overall cost of the project and if they were able to save time.
Finding and hiring a good architect/builder over just an architect will help reduce the amount of potential problems and conflict. So if you can find one, then do so. If not, then make sure to detail the responsibilities of each of the respective parties and do your due diligence in hiring each party respectively.
For more information about our current house building project, I invite you to contact me and ask questions or follow along as I post on my Facebook Page. I am always here to help. Thanks for reading.