Architect or Permit Expediter? Who Should Handle Your Permits
Some architecture firms have in-house permit specialists to handle your permitting needs, and yet you may still find yourself wanting to get a permit expediter on your side. In our industry, the question of who should handle your permits normally comes down to whether to go with an architect or a permit expediter. In this article, I will weigh in my thoughts on the matter, which may be surprising to some of you. Let me begin by saying that sometimes it’s better to let your architect handle it in-house rather than call me up. I know, surprising right? Well, let me explain how different situations call for different solutions
The first question to ask yourself is how much should you be paying for permits? Normally I don’t start here, but when weighing between services you need to know what should be your standard. Pricing for permits from either an architect or permit expediter should fit the project. For example, a small tenant improvement shouldn’t require a large sum of money or a long timeline. In this instance, you may need to ask your architect if you can get permits included in the price of their services. Generally, even if they say the service is included, it is not. There will be a nominal fee attached to the line item of getting the permit. But, it could still be worth it if the price is normal or even under the standard for your type of project.
On the other hand, if you have a roll-out of tenant improvements, no matter how small, it would be smarter to get pricing from a permit expediter as the overall cost would be lower. They can get a project management team established and have weekly updates for you. Additionally, they will interface with your architect and ensure that the corrections and plans are being updated as needed. It adds an extra layer of accountability.
The last word on pricing is to find out if they are pricing based on line item or the action taken on your behalf or if the price is based on the project itself. Architecture firms may charge based on the project as they are also drafting plans and working on corrections, while permit expediters could be charging based on line item. My practice is to give you a package price so you can just expect approval within timeframe rather than watch your project get nickeled and dimed to death.
Team vs Person
The next question to ask is who is handling the permits? Both architects and permit expediters could have an entire team ready for you or just a single person. You may not need an entire team for your project, or you maybe you do; in either case, you should know up front who you’re getting and how many of them. Look at the team or person’s background and pedigree. I suggest researching the person on LinkedIn to see if they are only recently hired into the industry or if they’re a seasoned vet. On my team, I set up kick-off calls between my client and the team or person handling the project. Upfront you can ask questions, learn the person, and establish ground rules.
With respect to having one person or entire team work on your project, I’ve also set up programs for clients. I’ve worked on shopping centers with many tenants and each tenant needed multiple permits, and so we tailored a solution specifically for the landlord. This helped the landlord know, at any given moment, where each project was in the timeline. I’ve also had small specialty leasing roll-outs that, while not complicated, had so many locations that a tracking system needed to be implemented. It’s important to know if your team or person has a system so there isn’t a single point of failure.
Last but not least, ask if the firm outsources to local resources. This isn’t a bad practice by any means, but it’s good to know who will be touching your plans. Often architects and permit expediters know areas are especially difficult and find a local expert to handle the projects going to that city. Other times firms will outsource but not tell you about it. As I said, it’s not bad to have a local expert being contracted to help, but it is bad if your architecture or permit expediting firm isn’t being honest about it. It’s bad business not to tell the truth. My advice is to fire the firm on the spot if you find out they were dishonest with you in the least. But, that’s just me. Also, as a permit expediter, you are only as good as your results.
Another aspect of outsourcing is finding out if your architect is outsourcing to a permit expediting firm. If the architect includes permitting services in their fees but then outsources to a permit expediting firm that was competing for your business you could be paying a 10% markup and not know it! For ease of use and the complexity of the project you may not care about this, but if you do make sure you know about outsourcing. Personally, I work with landlords, tenants, and architects all the time and have success with them all. There are some really great folks in our industry and my advice is to find what works for you. But, at least be aware of the choices you’re making.
As I draw this article to a close I hope I shed some perspective on using an architect or permit expediter. My opinion is you should do what makes sense for the specific project in the specific area, and sometimes it’s better to go with your architect. Other times, I absolutely will recommend you give me a call to handle your permits. If you have questions about when to use whom give me a call and I’ll help you figure out the smartest move. My team and I work all over the nation and have successes all over the nation.
About Permit Advisors: Permit Advisors Inc. is a complete permit, entitlement consulting, and expediting firm based out of Beverly Hills, Ca. We go beyond just submitting plans, as you may have experienced with previous permit expediters. We have established strong relationships with officials of many municipalities and have numerous time and cost-saving strategies that we implement to efficiently complete projects. We aim to secure all permits as quickly as possible! We keep track of all the different aspects of the permitting process and make sure that the project is being given full attention by everyone on the team. We responsibly update clients and ensure that lines of communication are open between the Jurisdiction, the consultants and the client at all times. Contact us today for a consultation www.permitadvisors.com.