How Does Springhouse Architects Successfully Work with Out-Of-Town Clients?


While the majority of our project work is right here in the Springboro and greater Dayton area, the percentage of our work that is located further away — across the state and even out of state — is growing. Maybe you’re wondering about how the process of working with an architect long distance actually works? Does it matter if the client is near the architect but the job site is remote? Is it more difficult to manage a project when the client and the job site is a plane ride away? These are all great questions and this article will help to answer them and more. You’ll better understand the process for working with an architect who isn’t in your city.

Why would you hire an architect that isn’t local? 

Choosing your architect is a very personal decision. You may have several options of architects with excellent design skills and wonderful client service however, much like in dating, you need to “click” with the person you’re entrusting with building the home of your dreams. You need to feel that your architect really understands you and your lifestyle and that you communicate effectively. Sometimes, the architect that just “gets you” isn’t located near you. Finding an architect that listens, understands, and works well with you is more important than finding someone in the neighborhood. 

How do you handle the logistics of meetings and site visits? 

Ten years ago I would have said that to have a successful project, the architect must be local to the project.  However, the internet has changed everything. Our job is mostly about communication. Expressing ideas to you, the client, and ultimately communicating how to build your project to your builder.  Springhouse Architects have successfully completed projects in Columbus, OH, South Carolina, and Florida. Communication is essential for a successful build, but it’s even more important when working with remote clients. We are on the phone with voice and text, we use video conferencing software to have virtual “face-to-face” meetings, and clear and precise emails to keep our team and our clients on the same page. 3D visualization and on screen sharing make meetings very efficient and can easily be more productive than sitting down across a table.

There are still a few key times that we must meet face to face.  

  • Initial meeting and site visit.  There is no digital medium that replaces a site visit.  To get a feel for the land, surrounding context, and experiencing sight lines.  Our initial meeting will be held at the same time. Sharing photos, asking lots of questions, getting to the essence of what your home should be for you - this is best done sitting together; possibly at your existing home so we can discuss what works for you and how you are living currently.

  • At the beginning of Design Development Phase for material selection and contractor meetings.  By this time we will have a design that you love and you may have a builder you have committed to working with.  We will make major material selections in a very specific order so we have solid pricing and design direction before we get too far.

  • End of Construction Document Phase for final review and pre construction meeting with Owner, Architect, and Builder.

  • Construction Administration should be negotiated.  There are many variables at this time depending on how complex the construction is, experience of the contractor, and experience of the homeowner.  I recommend four site visits: 1. End of rough framing 2. Before drywall 3. During finishes 4. Substantial completion punch list.

For site visits in-state, we’ll hop in a car and make the long drive or a short flight. For our out-of-state sites, we strategically plan when we make site visits through out the design and construction process. 

What about the zoning and other local ordinance requirements? 

Investigate what the rules are in your state and local jurisdiction.  For residential architecture some places require a registered architect while others do not.  I am registered and in good standing with AIA and NCARB as well as the state of Ohio. Most states recognize reciprocity to architect in good standing.  We have also been successful partnering with local engineers to get the structure and local method of construction just right.

A few examples of Springhouse Architects’ remote projects

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Near Charleston in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Scott has owned this home for over 10 years.  Recently, Cindy moved in and they instantly needed more space. With the original house at only 1000 sq.ft. we doubled the footprint to extend the kitchen, update the laundry, and add on a full, modern, master suite as well as update the exterior curb appeal.

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Liz and Jayson had lived their entire adult life in the northern climate. They were ready to retire somewhere warm! After an unsuccessful attempt with designing their dream home with a builder led designer, they hired Springhouse to work with them through the design and construction process.

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Two amazing projects for us in Columbus, Ohio.  Both of these clients wanted something from us that they couldn’t find locally - someone that would listen and design the home that they wanted.  A more modern aesthetic and help throughout the project with design, decisions, and product selection. One home is finished and the other is just about to break ground. 

As you can see, hiring an architect that isn’t adjacent to you is quite manageable with careful planning and lots of clear communication. Our team finds the challenge of working with remote clients fun! It’s always a great feeling when you’re working with someone that you connect with, it doesn’t matter if they’re down the street or the next state over. Want to know more about our custom home design and build process? 

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Sheri Scott