how much is your architect charging?

farmhousegirlMarch 8, 2012

What should be the going rate for an architect to take our ideas for a 3300 square ft house starting from scratch to plans?


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LA burbs and the going rate here would be $30k+

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 3:04AM
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It tends to run about 10% of budget for a custom project.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 4:56AM
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I think we spent around $7K for the first set of plans that we ended up not being able to use--about 4300 sqft. The second set ran about $4K from a different designer who was much quicker & more knowledgeable about building codes, engineering, etc.--about 2800 sqft.

The more revisions you make the more money you will pay.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 9:18AM
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$10k for 4900sqft., but we live in the middle of nowhere, and delivered a plan as a starting point. The coastal firms were quoting $30-50k for the same project (starting from scratch).

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 9:34AM
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We found a plan that was pretty close to what we wanted. Then we paid a designer to move walls/expand rooms/add a basement for a total of $1550 for 6000 sqft. After that, I did all the revisions (e.g. changed master br/bathroom layout, closets, other bathrooms, kitchen, mudroom, etc). My builder said, that's the cheapest he has seen someone pay for a house plan. lol.

I actually liked doing the revisions myself since I found it frustrating going back and forth with the designer. ;)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 11:30AM
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I'd bet some of the variation here has to do with the professional qualifications of the "architect". How many are actually draftsmen, or simply "designers" with a Professional copy of Sketchup?

In Ontario and other Provinces, we have licencedarchitectural technologists, a genuinely formally trained and recognized profession.

I'm looking at $12,000+ for 5,000 sf from a technologist I've used before. That price has tripled in 20 years.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 11:31AM
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We are at 3300 sq ft our full set will be costing $9000

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 12:04PM
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Passed an architecht's office today & he had a sign out front--custom house plans starting at $1.00 heated sqft.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 6:38PM
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I think you're going to get answers all over the board. It's going to depend on the area you live in as well as the type of firm you go with. A larger metropolitan area will more than likely have higher prices than a lesser populated or rural one.

We live in New Orleans and used a friend who is a fully licensed architect and studied under A. Hays Town. But now he does plans on the side, mostly for people he knows. Between him and the structural engineer, we paid $10,000.

We talked to several friends who built in our same neighborhood who paid almost half. Some larger firms charge a bit more. Again, if we lived in a large metropolitan area we probably would have had to have paid more.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 12:21AM
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mydreamhome - can you share the name and location of this architect :)

Around where I am, Northern California, it runs about 10% the total cost of the project.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 12:35AM
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I hesitated to even chime in but in case anybody else is in the high architect range then maybe I'll make you feel better. :)

Our experience was more in the 8-9% of finished cost range. That cost is less than what he normally charged because we are only using him on a consulting basis during construction as opposed to active role.

Design was custom and the architect is well known. We were living in Louisiana during the design phase and the architect is from there. Happily he is also licensed in Virginia where the house is being built. We had numerous revisions, lots of detail, scale model of the house and very precise plans and elevations. We flew him to the site for an initial visit early in the planning.

I'll admit that it hurt to pay so much but as the house gets farther along I'm amazed at his vision and the ability to see scale in a way that we never could have.

Our previous home was built by us in the mid '80s ( we acted as GC) using a draftsman who charged around 1k to put our sketches and floor plan into blueprint form. That house served us well and we loved every aspect of it for 25 years.

It's interesting to read the responses but it's a bit like asking how much should a wedding dress cost? There are gaudy dresses that cost a fortune and look awful. Bargain ones that look like a million bucks when on the right shape. And haute couture that is awe inspiring yet ever so costly. In the end the dress does a job and your choice relates to your budget and lifestyle.

Good luck to all who are undertaking a this market, building is a bit crazy but when you can't find what you want then building it from the ground up is the only option.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 1:10AM
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My architect was with a firm for years and is now working part time out of her home at $40/hour. We couldn't be more pleased with her work - and our builder highly recommended her.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 9:14AM
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In Texas the rates vary willdy from $0.50 / SF to $3 /SF

What I have seen is that there are 4 categories of "architects"

1. Draftsman or CADD tech - is pretty good at putting the boxes together but really has no design talent, great option if all you are doing is modifying an existing plan or know exactly what you want. This is the cheapest option.

2. Designer: Usually a draftsman with some design ability and creativity. This is a mixed bag because you often are drawn in by the cheap price and the but you don't know if what you are getting is worth it until you get a couple of revisions into the process. We started with this option and then quickly cut the cord when we realized we were not going to get what we wanted.

3. Architect: has a degree and/or training in formal architecture. Has a portfolio of projects other than just sticks and bricks work. Knows how to think outside the box. This person listens to what you want and brings it to life and often presents a great plan to you that you may have never thought about before.

4. Registered Architect: same as #3 but with an actual license to practice Architecture it your state. This is the most expensive option. we also pursued this option and paid a hefty sum for design sketches on a lot that we ultimately decided not to close the deal on.

I think 3 is the best bang for the buck.

Also price depends on what services you want them to offer. Most offer a base price of just COnstruction Drawings and assistance with paperwork on permitting issues. Some offer construction oversight, detailed framing plans, assistance in selecting finishes and fixtures, etc....

We paid $0.80 /sf for a 4500 SF (AUR) single story. Just construction drawings form a plan we brought to him but heavily modified. Truth be told he fixed everything we didn't like about the original plan on his own. Then THS forum helped us fix the smaller details.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Good summary. Except in Canada, where you have the option of a licenced architectural technologist. One that I used often was, in fact, a partner in a major architectural firm. So he had the "vision" thing too.

Just checked in with my engineer. Prestige architects here are getting up to 13.6% of project costs.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:22PM
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My architect is around Atlanta and for 4500 sq ft plus 2200 sq foot unfinished basement it is running me $6700. He is very talented and I found him because of a planned neighborhood he developed. It is actually my dream neighborhood, but too far from the town I want to live in.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 12:23PM
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We pay ours $85/hr. We are currently in the process of working with him, so I don't know what that will end up being. My father is building our house, so we only need basic plans - no builtins or cabinets on the blueprints or ceiling details. I will chime back in in a few weeks when we have our set finalized and have to pay for them. :)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:14PM
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We paid a licensed architect 4k to design a detached garage--2 stalls and a motor home stall, with finished space above for office space for small company, which could be converted to guest apt after retirement.

He did a beautiful job. I thought that was very reasonable.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 2:13PM
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In the US, all architects are state licensed just like lawyers, doctors, and engineers. No amount of training, degrees, or experience can give a person the right to use these professional titles. If you were never licensed or your license has been suspended/expired, you can no longer use the title "architect" or any form of it (like "architectural designer", "architectural technologist", etc.) to describe yourself or the services you offer to the public.

Violations of these laws are punished differently in different states. Some states treat it as fraud and others treat it like a traffic ticket. In all states anyone who has falsely used such professional titles or descriptions usually cannot use the courts to enforce a contract for the services so it's a pretty foolish thing to do.

The practice of architecture is a profession; there can be former architects, dead architects, architecture students, architectural interns, etc. but no unlicensed architects.

As for fees, if someone works for $40/hour for a 40 hour week out of their home, in a good year they might make $60,000 or $70,000 a year but in this slow economy they would probably make $50,000 or less. That's not much for someone who spent 6 to 8 years getting a graduate degree and passed a registration exam after a 3 year internship.

On top of that, if a house design fee was $3,500 to $7,000, that architect might need to design 10 to 20 houses a year and possibly deal with 6 to 10 projects at any one time with no assistance or backup. An architect might be able to competently manage that many projects in an office but he/she would have job captains, drafters and an office support staff.

I took the registration exam 41 years ago after studying art and architecture for 8 years, working for an architectural firm for $4 to $5/hr. for 3 years and passing a 32 hour exam over 4 days. It has proved to be a profession that combines a high level of personal liability and a low level of compensation with long hours and impossible deadlines requiring many all-night efforts with people at the very top of their profession binding specifications like madmen in time for a FEDEX pickup. I was told in my early years to only be an architect if I couldn't do anything else and I have passed that excellent advice on to many others who ignored it as I did.

An architect's % of construction cost fee for a school, a hotel, or an office building is usually two to three times the fee for a single-family house - a 10 to 15% fee for a $5 million project vs a 5% fee for a home. The reason it's so difficult to find a good architect for your one of a kind custom home is that it is usually only those who can't design large buildings who design small ones. Why would an architect be willing to work out of their home for $40/hour if they could get paid twice that amount with a firm for the same effort surrounded by professional level associates willing to help when things get tough? It's not that much more fun to design houses even for those who like to do it.

So, to judge the appropriateness of a house design fee you must first avoid looking at it as a commodity - like something you might buy at a store - you must assess how much sophistication and support you want and find someone who can deliver it for a reasonable price. It's not like a great pair of shoes you can buy at a great discount at the right store - someone needs to have the necessary talent, experience, training, and ability and also needs to be able to make a living doing it.

I suspect the biggest pitfall with single family home design is that so many homeowners think it's easy, perhaps because they see it done on TV everyday, but I don't really know. I do know that for me, in half a lifetime, I've gotten much better at it but it's still too difficult and dangerous to do as a sole practitioner for $40 /hour no matter how much work is available. Of course, if you are not licensed, you can always say you didn't know what you were doing.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 7:53PM
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Great post R8--very interesting.

In il it has only been in the last yrs, some areas of nursing were regulated. Many yrs ago the university of Illinois health service was staffed by "nurse practitioners" that were iin no way certified or for the job, because il had no such rules or regulations. Really ticked off those of us that had graduated from ms prepared and accredited programs.

So I get you. If you are not licensed you are not an architect.

In my neck of the woods, it's not that easy to find a good architect. Hmm. Now I can see why.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 10:27AM
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We used a designer from Atlanta (he is actually not an architect but is a residential designer - very very prominent though so commands a large fee). He charges by the heated square foot, so we knew where we were going to end up. Our basement plan was not included - it was right from the get go and the walls followed the upstairs for the most part so there was not much moving around. We paid 10.00 a square foot and it is a big house so that was a bunch to us! I am sure we could have found an architect for less or more but we liked his work.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 2:42PM
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We just got an estimate of approximately $9200 to design an house of approximately 2,500 sq.ft. through framing with the option of adding additional services for $100 an hour. It seemed reasonable enough to me, especially because I really like what I've seen of this guy's work. We aren't signing a contract yet, though, because we need to get our finances in order and sell our current house first.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2012 at 8:42PM
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Brad Edwards

free 2900 SF :) nothing like family

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 2:50AM
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Renovator, we're paying $40 an hour for our architect who works out of her home. But you made some assumptions that aren't true. I've used women who charge less - twice - because they wanted to stay home with their kids AFTER ESTABLISHING THEMSELVES FOR YEARS IN BIG FIRMS. These women have great experience and are recommended and used by top contractors in both areas. They want part-time work now, not full.

I am a huge advocate of using architects. I think you get every penny back in some way. My other architect is actually an architectural engineer by education and training. She's recommended by the builder because she designs with structure and form in mind. She's done a fantastic job on some of the most expensive homes ($ million plus).

As I'm sure you'll agree, there's lots of ways to skin a cat.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 6:51AM
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Your desire that architecture should not be seen as a commodity is noble yet far from reality. The reality is that people want talent not a designation from a state board. Not all licensed professionals have talent and not all talented designers are licenced.

Show me someone with talent and I'll gladly pay more, but I can tell you from working in the commercial construction industry that there are many licensed architects and engineers that are worthless regardless of the license or designation they carry. Yes the exception is also there and in my work I lose the worthless ones as fast as I can and keep the good ones for years.

The difference for a house from commercial work is that I might have a series of projects to build a relationship with an architect for years even decades. On my house I plan to not build another one for 10 - 20 years. The value proposition is very different.

But in all things I will agree that you do often get what you pay for. You just have to be discerning enough to know the fakes from the real professionals.

Good luck in your practice.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 3:06PM
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