How to find and interview your designer or architect remotely

How do you interview and find your architect or designer remotely? 

And can you begin working with them if you can’t meet in person? Read my tips here.

Are you wanting to get started on your project, but struggling to think about working with a design professional over Zoom?

So, how do you go about finding an architect or designer when you need to interview and select through online interaction only?

Finding the right architect or designer can be a challenging process to navigate when you’re kicking off your project journey. And yet, it’s a really important step to take in starting!

And with the way the world has changed, many homeowners are working out how to find people remotely, connect with them remotely and even start their working relationship remotely. Which, when design, building and renovating feels like such an in-person thing, this can add a whole new dimension to your project experience.

For some, they’re holding off until it can be in-person, and hoping that will be sooner rather than later, and not put their project on hold for too long.

For others, they’re going ahead regardless and doing what they can to manage the challenges in that scenario.

And for many who are in regional locations, and don’t have architects and designers on their doorstep, finding an architect or designer who can work with them remotely is the status quo.

When I provided 1:1 design services for homeowners, I worked remotely, and never met them in person, or saw their house or site in person either.

Many, many of those designs went on to become completed homes, with the design changing very little as it moved through the approval, documentation and construction process with the local draftspeople, designers and builders they used. 

So it definitely is possible to design entire renovations and new builds without ever seeing the site or meeting in person.

How well it goes is dependent on a few factors: 

including the existing information you have available, such as an accurate site survey and (if renovating) measured drawings of the existing home; the skill and experience of the designer; and how involved and invested you are as a client (especially in providing comprehensive information about your site and home).

How do you interview an architect or designer as a good fit for your project if you can only meet them remotely? 

I actually think that having to handle the interview and selection process with an architect or designer remotely can present great opportunities.

For starters, it will prevent you from mining them for free advice as you walk them around your house, discussing what you want to do and what might be possible.

Because many homeowners make the mistake of, in that initial meeting, forgetting they’re trying to find a designer who listens, understands their goals, can communicate well, has shared values and an approach that shows support, education and guidance is key.

And instead, they judge the designer based on the quality of ideas they’re coming up with on the fly, with potentially little context in terms of budget, approvals and buildability.

Being online can mean you will naturally look harder for the connection and communication with your potential designer. Which can be a great way to start your working relationship with them.

I’ve got quite a few resources on how to have that first conversation with your potential designer, and to interview and select them too.

There’s this blog post, which will be helpful if you’re worried about looking foolish during that first conversation.

There’s this podcast episode on how to choose the right designer for you (and there’s also a full transcript of the episode too.

I know homeowners can feel worried that they won’t really know whether their designer is any good until after they’ve committed to pay them some $$$, so this is a great blog for more information on that.

And of course, I highly recommend listening to this podcast, or grabbing the free PDF download, to help you review your designer’s fee proposal, because it will give you a checklist of things to ensure it includes (so you can manage your risk).

Of course, I’ve done two podcast episodes on who you should use (architect, building designer or draftsperson), and whether your budget or project type dictates the best type of professional to work with. You can check out those here >>> Episode 209 is Part 1 and Episode 210 is Part 2

And if you’re planning to go to a design-construct company for that one-stop shop approach, I’d suggest listening to this podcast (or grabbing the PDF transcript) before you do, so you can protect yourself from some of the issues I see homeowners experience.

Can you get started on working together if you’re not able to meet in-person?

You definitely can, however it’s really about the type of service you’re hoping to access, the amount of information you can gather about your property, and how well the designer is used to working with their clients remotely.

To get a project started, you need accurate information about your site, which usually comes in the form of a site survey. You may already have one of these on record, or you’re able to commission one as a starting point.

If you’re renovating and extending, you’ll most likely need accurate measured drawings of your existing home. Again, you may have these on record, or your council may have them. Or you may need to commission them as part of working with your designer, or separately.

If you need to be your designer’s eyes on site, that is totally possible with photographs and videos, and even live walk-arounds.

Is it as good as being in person? Not really.

For some, it may be a short term solution, where amendments can be made when an in-person visit is possible.

For those wanting to use a designer who is not nearby, I find that many homeowners are willing to navigate through this to work with someone they really want to work with, rather than the person who can come to their site in-person.

I’ve always found that, as an architect, I can look at aerial maps, site surveys, house photographs and floor plans and understand a huge amount of information about a site, a house, its construction and other important information necessary to provide design services in a project.

And I’ve found that the clients I’ve worked with are always full of intel about their own homes and sites as well, which is incredibly useful to add to the process.

An experienced designer or architect can do this. But that’s the key – they need to be experienced on how to ‘read’ buildings, ‘read’ sites, and gather intel by looking at your house and land in this way (even being remote to you).

Is it as good as having them there in person? As I said, no. However, if it’s your only option for the person you want to work with, or the timing and situation you’re working in, there are other ways to fill the gap in your working relationship, and an experienced designer can guide you through this as well.​​

Inside my Get Started Guide, I have a 3 page checklist of how to find a designer. It includes a range of questions to ask yourself so you can prioritise what’s important to you in the designer you choose, and also help with what to look out for in your search.

And of course, if you’re choosing a builder, there is LOADS you can do in an online-only interaction to progress that. The Choose Your Builder mini-course includes a checklist of checks to do, and questions to ask, and many of those can be done over Zoom and in online research.

If you’ve put yourself in a holding pattern, waiting until you can meet in person to get your project up and running … or you’re struggling with finding a designer who seems like a good fit, your time can still be spent productively getting ready for your project.

This podcast episode is super helpful if you are itching to kick off, and want to know what information to pull together so you are ready to have productive conversations with potential designers.

And of course, it’s the perfect time to dive into my flagship program, the HOME Method, so you’re able to properly research your project journey, and then access help and support as you do dive in.

Just last night, a member shared that they’ve just had their first meeting design concept with the architect and builder they’ve chosen to work with (using the PAC Process I also teach).

They said …

“All the work and steps we have followed in the HOME Method have paid off. I couldn’t have asked for a more stress-free, enjoyable and financially confident design session … I know we are at the very start, but if the rest of the journey is even remotely like this, we are going to end up with a delightful home, that we can afford to build, and even enjoy the process!”

And that right there is the reason Undercover Architect exists, and why I love working closely with homeowners in educating and supporting them as well.

Because you can enjoy it.

And in fact, you should.

Finding the right designer (and team) to work with is a key step in this.

So get yourself ready, be informed, interview them well (even remotely), and choose them carefully.

Then the rest can be a whole lot of fun, as you see your home dreams become reality.

If you’d like to get started on your renovation or new build project, my Get Started Guide is a fantastic resource to help you do just that. 

It will teach you the first steps any project needs to take, whatever your dreams, location or budget, and whoever you’re working with. Learn more about it here >>> GET STARTED GUIDE

And, if you’d especially like to get started on your home design, then the mini-course ‘Happy Home Design’ will help you. 

You’ll learn more about what decisions really matter in happy home design, and how you can design a home that is functional, fantastic and feel-good >>> HAPPY HOME DESIGN

If you’d like to learn how to choose the right builder, and learn how the specific checks to do, and questions to ask, when interviewing builders for your project >>> CHOOSE YOUR BUILDER

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