Most homeowners choose to work with some type of design professional to plan their ADU and help throughout the process. Bringing on a professional early in the process is often key to getting your ADU approved quickly, managed efficiently and built cost-effectively. Relevant experience and fit will be critical.
There are a variety of types of designer, and they may be an architect, builder, “designer,” design/build, or a modular/prefab company. If you’re hiring a local individual or team, they’ll likely start the process by visiting your home and talking to you about your ideas and goals. If it seems like a good match, they will prepare a proposal detailing their services and fee. Professionals typically charge for an initial consultation or proposal.
When evaluating a professional, you’ll want to consider their experience and interpersonal skills. There are unique challenges to designing ADUs and a major portion of their job is explaining the process and design choices to you. You will want someone who has the experience as well as a personality and communication style that fits with yours. The American Institute of Architects recommends you meet with three to five firms before making a hiring decision. Consider also talking with neighbors or friends who have done additions or renovations and ask if they know any professionals they’d recommend.
Consider hiring someone you know from your community (e.g., church, work, or a neighbor). Because these firms are often very busy, sometimes the personal connection helps. Also, if there is a problem, you have a strong incentive to find a solution that you can both live with.
If you’re looking for a certified architect, the American Institute of Architects provides helpful information for homeowners and maintains a local chapter website where you can find professionals accepting new work. Visit at https://aiare.org/homeowner-resources/
See our Interactive Exercises for a list of questions to ask a potential designer, our Glossary to be clear on terms, and our Guidebook for more details.