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Finding the Right Person for the Job: Interviewing Candidates to Remodel Your Home

So you're not the perfect blend of Martha Stewart and Bob Vila. That's all right. Your home can still look the way you imagine with a little help from your area architects or designers.

The first step to remodeling your home is to determine whether you will need an architect or a designer. Generally speaking, you need an architect if you plan to tear down or move walls. Some research on the Internet or at your local library should provide you with a good sense of which one is the right person for your job. Once this is determined, contact several architects or designers the area and begin the interview process. Interview several candidates to get some perspective on the different options available to you.

During the interview, find out what credentials your candidates hold in their fields, but don't stop there. Once you have learned the credentials, ask what organizations monitor these credentials, and find out what the candidates did to earn these credentials.

Find out how long the candidate has worked in your area. Generally, the longer the person has worked in one area, the better. It is difficult to do business in one locale for a long time with a bad reputation hovering in the background.

Ask your candidates if they have any completed projects you could tour to learn more about their ability and style. This may also give you an opportunity to talk to former clients face to face. Be sure to ask for references, and, of course, be wary if your candidate is reluctant to give names.

While "how much will this cost" is an important question, also ask how your candidate will be paid. What up front fees must you pay and what amount will be charged throughout the process? Find out if you will be charged to make changes to the plans while in the floor-plan stage. And, asking what would happen if the project goes over budget will help you determine who will be responsible to pay for any changes necessary to scale back the project.

Be clear about the kind of services your candidate will provide. You will find a range of responses to this question. Some candidates will only draw up the plans and then turn them over to you to implement. Others will draw the plans and work on the project to the end by overseeing the contractors. In the same vein, ask the person you are interviewing what they can do to "show" you how certain changes will look in your home. This can be done through drawings depicting your remodeled home (called interior elevations), scale models, or virtual reality computer programs that allow you to "walk through" your remodeled home.

And remember, during this interview you shouldn't be doing all of the talking. A competent candidate should be initiating questions about your house, your family's lifestyle, and your tastes to gain a sense of your wants and needs. These types of conversations generate new ideas that expand the possibilities for your remodeled home.

Sources: Kathy M. Kristof, The Los Angeles Times