April 30, 2022

How to find a reliable German architect

You’ve found a great plot or building somewhere in Germany and you want to start your construction project as soon as possible. One of the first things that will come to your mind is finding an architect. But how do you go about doing this?

Maybe your network isn’t quite there yet, or you’re already working with an architect but the relationship is not really working out for you.

In this post I’ll explain how to find an architect who’s a great fit for you.


  • Strategize first
  • Understanding the German HOAI system
  • Create your search criteria
  • Ask the right questions

Strategize before your pick up the phone

Your first reaction might be to start searching online and calling architects that are located in the city in which you’re building, but that would be a mistake. First of all you need to make sure that you know what you’re looking for. Are you looking for an architect to do solely the permit drawings, or should they also include the detailed design? Will they need to find all the specialist engineers, or will you outsource that yourself? Maybe you’re even contemplating even giving them the construction management part. That way you’ll have everything in one place right? Well not quite, but I’ll explain that in a different blog post.

Understanding the German HOAI system is a must

In Germany, architects work with a scope of works that is defined by the so-called “Honorarordnung für Architekten und Ingenieure” (HOAI). This is a set of guidelines on each construction phase, the scope of works for the architects in those phases, and even for their fees.

Here is a basic translation of the nine stages:

Design Phase

1. basic evaluation

2. preliminary planning

3. draft planning

4. permit planning

5. detailed design

Tender Phase

6. preparation of award of contracts

7. participation in the award of contracts

Construction Phase

8. construction monitoring

Aftercare Phase

9. object supervision

Many companies tell me they have had some really bad experiences with the HOAI system and they are not at all happy with it, as they feel it strongly favours the architects and engineers.

Although the HOAI system has been implemented to protect both clients and architects, real life often shows that without a proper contract and some in-depth knowledge of the HOAI, clients are often taken advantage of, meaning they need to pay additional funds during the construction phase.

How you can avoid being taken advantage of will be described later on in the series.

So either start learning about the HOAI, or ask an independent engineer, architect or project manager to help you determine the stages you actually need, and the scope of works that should be included.

Creating your search criteria

You wouldn’t go looking for random doctors when you’ve got toothache. It’s the same with looking for an architect; most architects specialise in certain building types or certain styles.

Therefore it is important to create a small form stating the type of building that you want to construct. It would be even better to have some form of building standards; this is a small booklet describing the features that the building should have.

After you’ve written down your needs, you automatically know the kind of architect that you need. Are you looking for renovation projects for your next retail idea? Or maybe you want to convert an old building to self-storage buildings, or build new high-end residential houses?

Whatever you’re looking for, it’s crucial that your architect has some experience with these kinds of buildings. Let him show you his portfolio with similar buildings, so you can determine if his style and expertise is a good fit for you.

Pick up the phone and start sending emails

You know the scope of works you need, you know what the corresponding HOAI stages are called, you’ve finetuned your search criteria. Now you can start looking for architects and start asking them the right questions.

Questions You should ask

Here are some questions to get to know the company a bit better

  • What is their annual revenue?
  • How many employees do they have?
  • Do they work with freelancers?
  • Who will be handling your project? (It’s nice to have a renowned company, but if they put the intern on your project, then you’re still going to have a bad experience).
  • What’s their experience in the various stages?
  • Can they give you some referrals?