Finding an architect can be a long process. Below is a checklist for the selection process:
1. Make sure the person is a licensed architect. A licensed professional will provide services that meet the criteria of the California Architectural Board (State government agency). Many designers claim as an architect but not licensed, so checking the State Board is essential. Most of them are uninsured, with limited knowledge regarding city zoning and structural system, and do not have the adequate construction experience. They provide designs that are not completed for construction. A licensed architect is trained at a professional institution, completed a rigorous exam process until licensed by the State Board. The licensed architect must be insured to protect the homeowner.
2. Find a great local pro: Some people recommend architects with a strong portfolio regardless of his/her office location. Many renounced architects will defer most design and communications to his/her junior staff. A local architect knows the city policy and staff very well, so the permitting process will be easier than a company 30 miles away. Also during construction, it is easier for a local architect to resolve construction issues and answer questions.
3. What is the architect's experience and expertise? Architect is a board profession. Similar to a doctor, you might need to know his/her specialty before consulting. Within the residential sector, there are still many special focus: multi-family, custom houses, hillside, urban house design, cluster houses, suburban remodeling, rebuild, and ADUs. Note there are interior designer who claims to be an architect, but his/her expertise is limited to interior space or kitchen design, lacking experience from the exterior.
4. Is the architect a good listener? An architect can be a great designer but only care about his/her own taste or design theosophy. It will result in many disagreements and an unsatisfied design.
5. Is he a generous teacher? This is a quality that most people overlooked. A great design is a combination of competency and cooperation between the architect and the homeowner. An informed homeowner can make timely decisions and respond to an architect's design with knowledge and consideration. A great architect is very patient. He/she knows the importance to educate homeowners through the different phases of design and construction, to prevent pitfalls and make wise decisions.
6. Recommendations from all areas: Besides recommendations from social media, it is important to research an architect's background, his licenses status, his reputation in the community, and  talk to homeowners from his/her previous projects.
7. Integrity: an architect with strong ethic will not be afraid to answer tough questions or even apologizes from mistakes. Architecture is a life-learning subject, and a great architect will keep on learning and guide his/her clients to avoid hurdles.

Other information and Resources:
Define your project budget. 
You can start this process right away with a Spreadsheet sample provided. Bear in mind that your total project budget is in addition to the contractor's price. An informed homeowner needs to be aware that there will be other costs, including design consultants (architect, structural engineer, geotechnical engineer, civil engineer, envelope title-24/energy consultants, green building consultants, landscape architect, tree arborist, construction manager), permit fees, school fees, park fees, sewage fees, recycling fees and other city tax, and so on. Please note that many residential contractors do not include finishes in their construction bid, so be sure to account for those costs as well. You might also consider other costs such as new furniture, appliances (if not provided by the contractor), window treatment and so on. It is wise to lay out all of the cost items early to avoid going over your budget.
Even with a clear project budget, it is still very hard to confirm if the budget is realistic, especially the price range of a reasonable contractor and his service area. An experienced architect can provide detailed guidance.

 Choose the right contractor
This is a very broad topic, but to summarize, below are the four basic questions you may ask:

1. What is the contractor's experience with projects of  similar type?
2. Is the contractor licensed in California, fully insured, and bonded?
3. How old is the contractor's company? Are there any defaults and lawsuits in the past?
4. Can you find this contractor's previous clients who is not referred by the contractor (through social media)? Usually they provide the most honest opinion and the contractor's client list.
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