If you want to remodel, landscape or build a custom home you need to do your homework, even if you're working with an award-winning architect. It's not enough to let the architect do all the work. You may not be happy with the plan, even though it seemed as if you were getting what you wanted.

So, here's a primer on hiring and working with an architect for your remodel, custom home or landscape.-If possible, find a custom, remodeled home or residential landscape you like and ask for the name of the architect.

-Other sources for architects in your area include the Yellow Pages (under "Architects" for residential and commercial, and under "Landscaping"). You'll also find home architects through the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. For landscape architects, call the local chapter of your state landscape contractors association, or look in the Yellow Pages under "Landscape Architects."

-If you have a particular style in mind, look for examples - photos and drawings - in the resumes of the architects you're considering. Of course, even if you don't find an example of your style, it doesn't mean the architect can't work with you to design the house or yard you envision.

-Don't be shy about clipping examples of designs you like from shelter magazines. An architect likes some freedom but also tries to please the client.

-Not all designs fit the neighborhood or environment. Be flexible.

-Be as specific as possible in the contract. It will cut down on arguments.

-Some architects simply design plans and leave it up to the client to hire a contractor or act as the contractor. Others not only design but monitor construction. Still others can recommend a contractor or subcontractors.

-Visit new-home models and existing-home open houses of the styles you like. If you tell an architect that you want something exactly like something you've seen, you may get it, but the architect probably won't be very enthusiastic. Architects enjoy creating their own work.

-In some cases - particularly with custom homes and some landscaping - it may be possible to purchase plans already drawn for someone else. This can save you money if the architect can sell these plans. Such plans can also be slightly altered - at a charge, of course. Still, some architects may have contract constraints placed on them by their client. This is particularly true with custom homes.

-Just because you like a particular design, it doesn't make it appropriate for the property. The type of soil, elevations, climate and many other factors make some designs possible, some not.

The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).

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