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Tips when hiring a landscape architect

A well-maintained landscape is important to many homeowners. In addition to adding to a home's aesthetic appeal, a lush landscape can also help increase a home's resale value. Oftentimes, homeowners without much experience tending to lawns and gardens hire a landscape architect to do the job for them. First-time homeowners on the lookout for a landscape architect should consider the following tips to make the most of that process.

* Find a professional who will work with you. Though you might not plan to do any of the landscaping or gardening, that doesn't mean you won't have a vision of what you want the property to look like. A landscape architect should be receptive to your ideas and willing to work with your vision while keeping the channels of communication open throughout the project.

* Look for a professional with some experience. A landscape architect should be ready and willing to discuss his or her previous work experience. Ask to see photos of previous work or even local addresses where work was done so you can see the finished product in person. Landscape architects without extensive work histories aren't necessarily unqualified, but homeowners should weigh the projects such architects have completed considerably.

* Discuss subcontractors. Some landscape architects will handle the project entirely on their own, while others might subcontract part of the project. Determine who will be performing the project and how the hiring of subcontractors might affect the cost of the project.

* Discuss fees and get a fee schedule. How the project will be paid for is an important thing to discuss when interviewing landscape architects. Each contractor might have a different fee structure, so you will want the one that's best suited to you. If a series of payments will be made, get a fee schedule so there's no confusion down the road.

* Get references. A professional landscape architect should have a list of references at the ready for potential customers. When contacting references, be sure to ask how satisfied they are with the finished product and how the project went with regards to scheduling and fees. When talking to a previous customer, also ask how amenable the landscape architect was to their ideas and how much he or she involved the homeowner in the project.

* Make sure the contractor is licensed. In many communities, landscape architects must be licensed. This information is public, so always verify if a landscape architect is licensed prior to making any final decisions or signing a contract.