Dilemma with Architect
We have been working with an architect for about 9 months now. We are building a passive solar house on a 5AC lot. We started the planning process last summer letting the architect know what our budget was and what we wanted to have in the house (hopefully our retirement house). Around Thanksgiving, we had final agreement and the architect then finalized plans to send to multiple builders for bids (we want to go cost plus). Bid packages were sent out to builders in early February with bids due back in early March. Three builders declined to bid, leaving us with two bids.
The day before the bids were due, the architect calls us and tells us that he has estimated the cost of our house to be about 50% higher than what we told him we were able to spend based on his rough estimates of cost/SF to build. I assume he did this because he had at least on of the bids in hands and wanted to let us down easy.
The high bid was more than double our budget of about $400,000. The low bid was 70% higher than our budget and came from a builder that the architect says he has used before. Talk about taking the wind out of our sails.
We are at a loss as to what direction to turn on this. We love the design. We don't think that we have anything outrageous in the design (2400 SF ranch with full, partially finished walkout basement) or finish (brick exterior, tile/hardwood on the main level and carpet in the basement). We have looked at homes with comparable finishes to what we specified in the plan that were at about our budget level.
We assumed that our architect should have a good idea of what a house costs to build and should have designed this within our budget or told us up front that what we wanted to build was not within the budget we set. Now we are out quite a bit of money for his time and have nothing of any real value (other than a drawing that maybe another builder could try and get close to within our set budget). We are terminating our contract with him since it appears that what he has designed will take quite a bit of rework to get back to something that is within our set budget and I can't see paying him any more money (he has offered to discount future fees by 20% as a "goodwill" gesture).
Has anyone else run into this issue? Any advice on what direction to turn? We are going to meet one or two additional builders to get another opinion on whether or not we can build this house (or similar) within our budget.
We have not contacted an attorney about this. My re-reading of our contract does not seem to place any legal responsibility on the architect to design something within our budget (though I think that there is a professional responsibility to do so).
Rant mode now off!