Frequently Asked Questions

If you haven't worked with an architect before, these answers should help with some of your most pressing questions.

What kind of services do architects provide to its clients?

For homeowners or soon to be homeowners, consultations with an architect may be the difference between a wonderful, intense and sometimes challenging experience working with a professional to remodel or build your house and the likely stress, panic and maybe even nightmare to remodel or build your house without a professional at your side.

At what stage in my project is it appropriate to involve an architect?

Building a new home or remodeling an existing structure will be an intense, inspired, rewarding and sometimes challenging process. Not having an architect on the project dramatically increases the probability of cost overruns and an overall bad design. With this being said, the ideal approach is to retain an architect at the very beginning of your project. As your professional representative on the project, an architect will be your closest ally.

How do I go about finding the right architect for my project?

Word of mouth is one of the best sources for finding an architect that will suit your needs. Friends, family members or a contractor you have chosen may be able to recommend architects who will be a good fit for your project. If searching online, seek architects from reputable sites. It's important to search for an architect that is local, reliable, experienced, licensed and insured. Ask for references and to see their work with your own eyes. You'll also want to visit their office for an introductory meeting in order to gauge the level of communication. At the end of the day, select the one with whom you feel that you have the best chemistry.

Will hiring an architect increase the overall cost of my project?

Hiring an architect for your project always saves money...no exceptions...

Unless you are in the construction industry, a majority of people do not have the background, experience, knowledge, and the "know how" to create a quality, functional and economical design for their residence. A majority of times and for various reasons, working directly and only with contractors, the final product lacks design appeal, correct functionality and is way over budget...many time we were asked to help homeowners in such critical predicaments...

If you want to do it right, get an architect and a qualified team to help and represent you. Cutting corners with a contractor is a guarantee to cost overruns and bad design.

How are architects compensated?

Compensation to the architect could be in an hourly or percentage basis or both, based on the project program, complexity, and budget. Negotiate what is fair for both parties and you will have a wonderful experience building or remodeling your home. Remember, the "big money" is in the construction of the house and not in the project consultants.

How can I, the client, be helpful during the design process? What is my role?

As translators of the client goals and dreams, the architect should guide the homeowner through the creative design process. Design and layout options, photos, recommendations, and material samples should be shared, reviewed and discussed. For better understanding, sometimes the project should be presented in 3D and color. It should also be noted that some projects are more technical, some more functionality related, some are only interior remodeling, some are additions to an existing building, some are pure design and some are all of the above. Each project is unique in its own way and should be considered with respect and attention.

How much house can I build?

The local jurisdiction will control the size of the ADU based on the size of the property and special zoning conditions. Please visit our Accessory Dwelling Units page for more information.

Can I build a 2 story in-law unit?

Yes, if the local zoning will allow it.

How many bedrooms are allowed for an in-law unit?

Usually, an ADU will have one or two bedrooms. It can not become the main building on the lot.

Can I build it over the garage?

Yes, the option to build over the garage is a viable one. By analyzing the local conditions and zoning restrictions, if any, we can outline the best option for your project.

Do I need to build a kitchen too?

Yes, as part of the ADU a kitchen and a bathroom are required.

Can I connect the in-law unit with the existing house?

Yes, some people prefer the connectivity, and others will want to have a clear separation between the main residence and the ADU. Both are acceptable options.

How close to the fence can I build an ADU?

Usually, there is a setback that shall be met between the property line and any construction on the site. This can be determined by referencing county rules and regulations.

Can I use HELOC to pay for construction?

Your tax adviser is the right person to answer this question.

Will my property tax increase with the addition of an ADU?

The value of the property will go up by adding an ADU, and thus raising your taxes. The amount your property taxes will rise depends on the county in which you live.

Do I need planning department approval before getting the building permit?

Yes, the planning department will have to approve the new construction (shape, finishes, location on the site, etc.) before a building department package can be submitted for the actual building permit.