How much did your architect cost you?

topmanMay 2, 2011

Trying to get an idea on how much we should expect to pay for an architect. I have seen prices ranging from $1-$10/sq ft and I have seen some charging by a certain % of the whole construction fee. How much did your architect charge you? Would be helpful if you can provide your sq footage in the case that your architect charges by % of costs and the quality of your architect/however you want to rate them.

Any input is always appreciated!


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I am paying $3/sq ft. We originally wanted about 3000 sq ft and the current plan is a little over 4000. So even though the arch. wasn't unreasonable in his price we are paying more than we thought we would.
My parents are also planning to build right now and they are paying % of construction. I cant remember the exact % but it was around 3 or 4.
They are paying much more than I am but the quality of work and professionalism is much greater on their end.
I am waiting 2 to 3 weeks per change I request and my parents normally see revised plans within a day or 2.
I am sure this issue varies based on your location.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 4:26PM
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Heated square feet @ 6500

Where I live, the lower end of the range and by the square foot, is usually reserved for Residential Designers.

Licensed Architects here, seem to charge flat fee or % of budget. We interviewed some well-known, regional architects and fees began around $25K for design fees, plus client pays all related expenses (i.e. engineer), and more if you kept them on board through the build (hourly fees).

The firms that seem to charge the % of budget here, are the nationally known firms. They are not necessarily better, but they can charge a premium.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 5:31PM
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$6.35/sf of covered space for construction drawings.

He's probably on most people's 'top 5' list of architects in our metro area (of 5 million people). We may have gotten him this relatively inexpensively (not cheap to us)because we engaged him at the bottom of the housing market.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 6:44PM
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Our architect charges an hourly rate (around $100 for him, a little less for an associate) but caps his fee at 8% of construction. Unfortunately the design process has taken us so long that we've already bumped up against that cap!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 7:54PM
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Not sure if mine "counts"

we are remodeling a house putting a full second floor on it, where there was only a partial one, and reconfiguring the existing space.

we gave the architect floor plans and exterior elivations and he drew them and speced the lumber etc.

he really didn't design per se, and we met with him twice for about an hour and dealt with changes over the phone with his staff. we basically paid him to get permits and really nothing else.

total of around $2500 plus permit cost.
and $600 for a change fee, which well shouldn't have happened it was in one of the changes we submitted, but never made it into the plans that went to the town... things happen.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 11:41AM
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Out set was similar to jeff's. It ended up costing around 3% of the build. But our build was quite expensive so it was still alot of money. But in retrospect-well worth it. Our floorplan is one of my favorite things!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 12:22PM
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I wish this question had come up a few months ago! We are in S.Cali and are building a guest house attached to an existing garage that needs to be updated. The total for the architect will be around $20k for not that many hours of work!! He is also preparing/submitting permits. He is well known in the area, but his main value is his long term relationship with the building/zoning departments.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 1:44PM
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I am meeting with one tomorrow. This Architect built a house recently - homeowner didn't hire a general contractor but used this architect as project manager. Home owner found all subs himself and this architect monitored the quality of their work, inspections, permits, soil tests, septic tests and such. I hope to find his charges tomorrow but in the meantime, I wanted to get people's comments on using the Architect as a substitute for general contractor.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 5:08PM
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Good info everyone! Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 10:45PM
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well, honestly they are either an architect or a general with an architect's degree.

If they are an architect and oversee quality, you're still the GC, and it ain't a picnic.... some people have great luck doing it and even that is a task in itself. when things are difficult, its bad.

I'm going through it myself as a homeowner GC with help from my BIL, who does some construction, but not on this scale.

Everything is great, with the subs that answer the phone, come when they say they are and get their jobs done timely. when someone doesn't do that, its a real problem to deal with, and you end up having to manage these problems, which both kill your timeline and kill some goodwill with subs, that you have to now put off from schedule since someone didn't do what they said they would.

I'm not saying don't do it, but fully understand who is lining up the subs, scheduling the subs, making sure the material is there for the subs etc

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 11:07AM
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Ok, we've gone this route twice in last 3 years:

First one was a "Residential Designer" who ran us approx $7,000 for 4623 sqft house plan with 2700 sq ft basement foundation (unfin).

Second one was a "Custom Home Designer" (with significantly more education in home design & construction both classroom & hands-on) who ran us approx $2200 for 2575 sqft with crawlspace foundation. They had 2 rates--a standard rate based on square footage ranges or $95 hr whichever was greater. So we made out great here at ~$0.85 sq ft.

We were referred to another designer in our area who advertises "$1.00 per sq ft under roof" for home plans.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 9:52PM
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There's a big difference between a 'designer', a 'draftsman', an 'architect', and a *Licensed Architect*. A person with a degree in architecture will put in many years of monitored experience and sit many exams before he is licensed. Most municipalities will not even consider a building permit until they see plans stamped by a licensed architect. (This is sometimes circumvented by having a licensed architect check plans for structural soundness, but that's not the same as having his creativity involved.)

I would also run any plans past an interior designer before proceeding.

Further, as any GC or lead carpenter can tell you, architects' plans sometimes need 'on the site tweaking' for them to work in the real world.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 3:19PM
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We paid $5k for our plans.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 6:48PM
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Let me preface this by saying I'm in Northern California and the prices here run on the more expensive side.

In the early planning stages I was quoted at least 10% of the cost to build by local architect firms. This was not in our budget as it would have put uswell over $50,000.

We then picked the cheapest residential designers/drafters we could find... Bad idea there! She charged $1.25 per sq ft for heated space and $0.75 for unheated, plus some initial design costs around $700. After two months of running around in circles with NO progress we realized we needed someone with more skill/experience/common sense and cut our loses and move on. However, if it had worked out all the costs combined would have around $9,000.

We have since found a GREAT design/drafting firm who we are thrilled with. We are still finalizing the floor plan and elevation but we are close and it is exactly what we wanted. Their fees are $4.50 per heated sq ft.

In addition there are other fees; Structural Engineering at $1.00 sq ft (heated and unheated) and California title 24/Green build consultant that is another $1,800. All costs combined will be about $21,000.

The designer will also be submitting the plans to the county for review, and they have a long history with the county so that is a huge relief for us. Especially since the lost time with the first drafter means we will be submitting plans at about the same time our baby is due!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2012 at 7:01PM
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Our builder served as our design liaison with his architect.
So we never got to meet the architect & in a way, we missed out on that experience.

But our costs are:

$5K Design Fee
$5K Construction planning fee
$10K Permitting

about 4% of final price of house+land

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 12:53PM
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The reason architects rarely provide construction phase services for owner-builders is that in the case of a lawsuit against the owner, the architect will almost certainly be accused of having acted as the general contractor responsible for quality control and safety on the site. In this arrangement the architect's training, experience, and license can be a huge liability. Experienced architects will not do it.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2012 at 9:24AM
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Wasn't there another similar post about this within the last few months? I was trying to find it and haven't had any luck.

I swear there were a lot of people discussing the 10-15% of build cost...

    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 1:26AM
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You folks crack me up. You seem to think that all architects do their own drafting and design. May I suggest that you stop in un-announced to your architect's office. Ask to see the entire office and find out if he has drafters or intern architects doing the drafting either by hand or by CAD.

Did you know that only architects can hire architects as employees? Keep in mind that No one who has not taken and passed the Architects Registration Exam is permitted to use the title of architect.

Further, an architect isn't required to be an A.I.A. member.

Did you know that Frank Lloyd Wright never completed any formal degree and never took any nationally recognized test to determine his licensure? He was a draftsman who "became" an architect simply by experience and because he could. And, he was never a member of the American Institute of Architects.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 1:01AM
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willmay15367, it is extremely rare for a state or municipality to require a home designer to be licensed and I don't know why you would think anyone here would think membership in the AIA has any legal standing anywhere, however, it does indicate the person is licensed in some state as does the use of "RA" after a name. An engineering license is often required for certain kinds of structural design but even that is not required in some states if reasonable evidence of good design can be shown.

The use of drafters in architectural offices will not be a surprise to anyone here, however, it is very common for a residential architect to be a sole-practitioner.

I know of no state where "only architects can hire architects as employees"; you seem to have misunderstood that relationship. Usually an employee cannot stamp a drawing for an employer; only the employer can act as the architect of record and some percentage of owners must be architects but anyone can hire an architect as an employee.

I don't know why Frank Lloyd Wright's practice would be relevant to anything on this forum; he was born 146 years ago. Andrea Palladio would be more relevant IMO.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:07AM
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We're paying 10% of construction cost. As far as I could tell, the going rate around our area (Washington DC) was anywhere from 8-12%. I never say found anyone that was even close to the cost mentioned here.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 7:15AM
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Here are those previous threads y'all were looking for:
1 and 2 (Suddenly, I'm Oprah.)

Simplest advice: 1)You usually get what you pay for; 2) look at what other homes your designer/technologist/architect has designed or built.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 8:03AM
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Nothing. My dad was a draftsman for over 30 years, but retired a couple of years ago. He drew our plans for us, and took care of all of the ordering and managing of materials. My sister in law is a kitchen and bath designer, so she did that work for us. We got lucky in that respect!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:23AM
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Good for you "myhappyspace"! I am wondering if all these people realize that even if you don't have family connections you don't HAVE to hire an architect. There are hundreds of thousands of "house plan" books and magazines, not to mention all the websites online. You pick one out, order it for maybe $1000 or so and find a GC or builder in your area and you are all ready to go! Wow! I do understand that some people have the money to hire an architect and that is great, I just wondered if some think it is required.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 2:37PM
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If you read the earlier comments you will see that the issue of an architect being required has been settled.

The OP asked about the cost of an architect. If you want to argue against the use of an architect you should start another thread.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 3:10PM
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Thank you 'renovator8'. I was only trying to be helpful, I would in NO WAY want to "argue" with anyone here.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 3:51PM
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"You pick one out, order it for maybe $1000 or so and find a GC or builder in your area and you are all ready to go! Wow!"

I can't imagine a worse way to design and build a house.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 5:06PM
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Momma-mia! Wow!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 5:58PM
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it is extremely rare for a state or municipality to require a home designer to be licensed

Designers of virtually every building in Ontario, Canada (population 12.9 million) must be qualified and at least pass an extensive examination in the Ontario Building Code; and the firms they work in must be registered.

This post was edited by worthy on Thu, Feb 7, 13 at 21:06

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:03PM
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Are you this rude to everyone? We had a very successful build thank you very much!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:25PM
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I apologize 'topman' for messing up your thread, I didn't mean to!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 9:32PM
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If you wish to discredit the work of architects you should start your own thread and post evidence of good inexpensive amateur design.

You were kinder and more appreciative of the help of architects when I left the forum in 2007.

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Fri, Feb 8, 13 at 7:33

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 6:32AM
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I NEVER said it was bad or wrong to hire an architect; I NEVER said an architect should be "discredited". My only reason for suggesting the house plan mags and websites was for people who couldn't afford an architect. " I do understand that some people have the money to hire an architect and that is great, I just wondered if some think it is required." YOU were kinder in '07 and I DID very much appreciate your input!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 12:23PM
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If there was something in Topman's original request that suggested a need to discuss alternative ways of designing a house, I missed it.

Hijacking a thread is rude and inconsiderate no matter how you spin it or how many others made off-topic comments. Start a thread like, "You Don't Need an Architect to Design a House" and make your case. I don't care who designs anyone's house; I'm just trying to help by answering their questions. Is that unreasonable?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 1:40PM
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I was also trying to help....can we call a truce? I will offer my apologies to you, I already apologized to topman.
I know you are a decent, intelligent person...please accept my apology?

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 5:52PM
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Gracious apology accepted with no hard feelings. Fighting the desire of members to expand a topic is a failing of mine, as if human nature could be denied.

Your house is interesting. "Folk Style" houses became very popular when the railroads started bringing bulk materials to more people in the 1850's. Twenty years later these simple house forms began to have simplified Victorian features from the hugely popular Italiante and Queen Anne styles mostly in the detailing of their porches, eaves and rakes and these houses were therefore called "Folk Victorians". The Queen Anne porch posts and strong cross gabled bay make your house of this style.

However, it is unusual that the porch posts and bay are the only Queen Anne elements. You can accept that as a Neo-Folk Victorian adaptation or you could wrap the posts so they are larger and square or you could add Queen Anne post brackets or ladder trim between the post heads or add brackets to the eaves and rakes.

I realize the history of architecture is generally considered irrelevant to most people in this country and by the internet pre-designed house sites but to me designing a traditional house without acknowledging where the elements of that style came from would be like watching a football game without knowing anything about the rules or the teams. I realize the design of a house is not as entertaining as a football game but it does last a lot longer and coat a lot more.

Here is a link that might be useful: Folk Victorian style

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Sat, Feb 9, 13 at 14:10

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 2:07PM
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Thank you reno8 :) I love that video and what beautiful homes! Thank you for adding it! I guess I never really knew what type of house I had. Those dormers you see are just for looks (and lets light in of course) and it was my DH who thought of putting stone on the front. There is another bay on the back of the house, the dining area. As always, thanks for your insight and knowledge!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 2:43PM
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We met with a local guy...very professional and nice and builds beautiful homes. He was , however, quite out of our price range at 12%. I lucked out completely and my house was designed by a poster on this very board. :) My builder, who is quite old school, did not even know what a forum was and was totally confused as to how my house was designed. lol.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 3:49PM
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My builder, who is quite old school, did not even know what a forum was

I wonder how many "builders" even have a copy of the Building Code.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 6:24PM
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"it does indicate the person is licensed in some state as does the use of "RA" after a name."

The only way a person may use A.I.A after their name is if they are licensed. Just making a point.

"only architects can hire architects as employees"

My bad, I meant to say that a business to call itself an architectural firm, the firm must have an owner who is licensed.

I apologize, you're right, I should start a different thread to make these points.

No harm, no fould.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 6:31PM
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Worthy- how is that at all related to my comment? I am not saying he is stupid. I am saying he just not too computer savvy...he is about 65. So he did not know what a FORUM is. He knows building code and has been building for 30 years... are you implying that he is not even a builder since you have quotes around the word? Such a weird comment to make.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 6:44PM
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Hey! I'm over 65 and out of courtesy we don't talk about Worthy's age so he gets to make a non sequitur before he takes his meds. I have always wanted to say what he said but didn't want to take the heat.

Whenever a code issue comes up on a construction site and the code is mentioned, it often becomes clear to me that the contractor does not know what the code says and might not own a copy of it. For a while I carried it in my trunk and on more than one occasion the contractors did not know what it was (and that was before it was online). I stopped doing that in order to avoid a new nickname.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 8:42AM
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Willmay, I just realized you are a Spammer. Commercial use of the forum is forbidden and your ad for your company on another thread has been reported to the moderator.

This post was edited by Renovator8 on Sun, Feb 10, 13 at 12:48

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 10:31AM
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Very interesting thread. I'm a licensed architect and have been practicing for over a quarter century. I arrived at this forum mostly out of curiosity. Allow me some observations.

Licensed architects (also known as Registered architects in certain states or countries), are the only folks allowed to use the title architect or to use the word architecture or architectural in their business cards, advertisements, plans, etc. This law is generally imposed by the section of the government that concerns itself with consumer protection. These are often the same folks that govern other professionals who must meet certain minimum requirements to practice their field of expertise.

Membership in the American Institute of Architects, a professional association, is not required or expected of licensed architects. I have been, but are not currently, a member of the AIA. However often potential clients want to know "are you AIA?", erroneously believing that paying dues to that organization means that one is somehow qualified to practice architecture.

For home design, as in single family homes or in some cases small multifamily (duplexes for instance), it is often not a requirement that they be designed by an architect in order to receive a permit for construction. However lets keep in mind that building departments and building codes reflect only the absolute minimum requirements for the protection of life and safety but are not generally concerned with quality design. That is, it's generally safe to say that a house designed by my pal Joe who took some drafting courses, and got approval from the local building department, is probably not going to fall in the next earthquake and will generally meet light, ventilation, and safe exiting requirements. However this does not necessarily mean that the home will be well designed.

Iv'e been called to fix "designs" by non-architects that had weird things like having to go through one bedroom to get to another. I'm currently having to fix a 4,000 sq. ft. hillside home with a construction budget of nearly $1million but only two bathrooms for four bedrooms, and one of those is the master bath. Since the living room in this home was not large enough to accommodate the furniture, the "designer" drew the furniture smaller!!!

A block away from me, a house won the "Ugliest Home" award by the neighbors association about 10 years ago. The designer had a field day mixing bits and pieces of things he saw in Architectural Digest and pieced it all together in the most awkward of ways, and unfortunately the clients were not very adept at reading plans. Poor folks sold it as soon as it was complete and the new owners spent a pretty penny remodeling it. If I'd known about this while it was being "designed" I'd have given free advice to the original owners, if only to save them from embarrassment.

In my office the rule of thumb for custom homes is 5% of the cost of construction for architectural services, or $10 per square foot of construction. From there it can go up or down depending on different factors. A hillside residence with upscale finishes and a high degree of detailing can easily cost twice as much, whereas a simple yet elegant single story home in a flat lot can cost half of that.

The adage is true, one gets what one pays for.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 5:15AM
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"A hillside residence with upscale finishes and a high degree of detailing can easily cost twice as much"

Why would you charge more if someone uses upscale finishes? Because they have more money? What extra work do you as the architect put in if someone chooses high end doors, cabinets and countertops?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 7:54PM
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jrdh wrote: "Why would you charge more if someone uses upscale finishes? Because they have more money? What extra work do you as the architect put in if someone chooses high end doors, cabinets and countertops?"

Very good question, I didn't explain more thoroughly because my post was already too long, however I will now take the opportunity to reply to your query. Certainly it doesn't cost more in terms of my involvement if the owner wishes to apply gold leaf over primer instead of paint, or wool carpeting in lieu of apartment-grade synthetics.

However, I'm working on a place, precisely that hillside home, where among other things the owner wants a bathtub carved out of a solid piece of marble, a very ornate piece that costs about $90k FOB. Until I the piece is complete I can only imagine the weight of such a behemoth. Another of the many expensive elements is an ornate marble fireplace front with lapis lazuli and brass inserts. Indoor garden with a built-in fountain. Custom made casework everywhere. Portions of the lower floor is polished and stained cast-in-place concrete. Portions of the lower floor retaining walls are integrally colored concrete which will remain exposed as the finish material.

All of the above require careful planning, above and beyond what one finds in standard construction. The tub has to be supported by additional structure, and the plumbing is more complicated since the walls of the enclosure will have body sprays coordinated by various diverters. The body sprays are prototype perforated marble pieces instead of the mundane metal strainers. The marble fireplace is a complicated piece where every element is custom designed and fabricated, not a piece one can purchase at the Home Depot, and the lapis lazuli is a semi-precious stone that has to be handled carefully (in design as well as in construction). Since it is a fireplace mantle, provisions have to be made to address expansion and contraction of the various materials. The indoor garden has to address issues of waterproofing and structure since it does have a fountain and it is over habitable space. The polished concrete floors have to be handled detailed very carefully, more so than if they received a finish floor, since mistakes, cracks and such cannot be easily covered up. The retaining walls likewise require special attention since their purpose goes beyond mere structure.

In this particular case most materials and fixtures have been chosen by the owner who is also involved in the design business and is very sure of what he wants. My task is to make sense of it all and to make sure it is well-designed aesthetically, exceeds code requirements, responds to the context and where possible to the environment, and hopefully outlives the owner and his heirs.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 8:30PM
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mine is costing

6800 for plans ( stamped and reviewed by the architect - but I assume much work is done by his "draftsman")

2000 for Engineering ( separate company )

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 3:31PM
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This has been a rather long and, at times, argumentative thread. The OP asked about the costs of architects. The value of information in that regard may have long passed, but it is still valuable and important to understand the various phases of service that an architect provides. These are:

--Schematic design: where various ideas and possibilities are explored concerning and owner's program of needs and wants, site conditions, building code and zoning ordinance restrictions, budget, energy conservation strategies and the like are all considered;
--Design development: once the owner has approved a schematic design, it is developed and finalized for all relevant details which are influential for developing construction documents;
--Construction drawings and specifications: once the owner has approved the design development work, the detailed final drawings and specifications are prepares sufficient for bidding and construction;
--Bidding Assistance: the architect prepares the process and documents (including conditions for construction and the construction contract) for competitive bidding, issues documents, reviews bids and presents responses to the owner, with recommendations for award of the construction contract;
--Construction administration: the architect acts as the owner's agent to review construction progress and accuracy; processes contractor requests for payment and presents these to owner with recommendations; compiles a final punch list for completion and certifies substantial completion for final payment, subject to retainages.

There's so much more to designing and building a home than "preparing plans"! Since the cost of construction of a new home is likely to be the single largest expense the family will incur in their lifetime, it seems that a certain amount of due diligence is warranted--not to mention the enjoyment and support of one's family life style that a custom home will provide (assuming it's properly designed).

No architect can provide the services above for $1-$5/SF or any such SF fee. That's why a fixed fee or percentage of construction cost is the commonly used fee approach for experienced architects.

Many owners are so unsure of what they need and want and/or so indecisive that many architects will only undertake Schematic Design on an hourly basis, since many owners simply cannot (or will not) make up their minds and stick to their decisions. This forum is full of such threads asking for advice about what they and their architect are doing.

An earlier post, above, is worth repeating: When it comes to professional services, one gets what one pays for. Designers and lumber yard drafters who charge by the square foot really simply cannot provide a comparable level of service as described in this thread.

On the other hand, for those simply desiring a "floor plan" to build, the Internet plan factories offer lots to choose from. And the lumber yard drafter is always willing to "push a wall" here or "enlarge a room" there.

Just some thoughts.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 7:18PM
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One more important thing for consideration concerning the cost of architectural services for a single family home.

This morning I met a client and his real estate agent at the site of a tear-down house he just purchased for $249k. It's a lot of work to build even a simple house but located in a great neighborhood and with the right amount of work my client will recover the amount invested even if he decides to sell it.

When the question of my fees came up he and his real estate agent both balked at the "high cost" when I told him my fees start at 5% of the cost of construction for a very simple job, not including engineering or reimbursables, and go up from there, depending on the scope of work. The following exchange ensued:

Carlos (to agent): When you sold Mr. Doe's previous home, how much money did you make? what percent of the value of the house?

Agent (barely audible): 6%

Carlos: And how much liability do you carry from that sale?

Agent: nothing, really [may not be true, but it is minimal]

Carlos: And how many hours did you spend selling the house, including the hours you spent helping Joe purchase this this one?

Agent: About 30 hours

Carlos (to client): So you pay your real estate agent a 6% commission of your previous house and he earns another 3% for helping you purchase this one. Quick math shows about $30k, for 30 hours, so $1,000 per hour. And you balk at spending two thirds of that on a house that you and your family are going to live in for years or decades?

I said my goodbyes and left soon after that.

But imagine that, the real estate agent makes $1k per hour on this particular deal, and he has very little to no liability, nothing but a high-school education, whereas this kind of project, assuming nothing complicated, will require at least five times as many of my hours, at 1/5th of his hourly rate. And I carry the burden of liability for a very long time.

Next time I will inform the client that my fees are no less than those of a real estate agent prorated to an hourly basis. I will be fabulously wealthy!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2013 at 8:31PM
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Stephanie Halfacre

"--Bidding Assistance: the architect prepares the process and documents (including conditions for construction and the construction contract) for competitive bidding, issues documents, reviews bids and presents responses to the owner, with recommendations for award of the construction contract;
--Construction administration: the architect acts as the owner's agent to review construction progress and accuracy; processes contractor requests for payment and presents these to owner with recommendations; compiles a final punch list for completion and certifies substantial completion for final payment, subject to retainages."

These things would probably fall under the scope of a builder's responsibilities if the owner was using one correct?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 12:12PM
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You mean like the guarding of a henhouse falls under the scope of a fox's responsibilities?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 1:59PM
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Stephanie Halfacre

Lol, no. I mean if I have a builder, wouldn't I be expecting him to help with bidding assistance and construction administration instead of my architect?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 2:24PM
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mrshalf, a builder represents his/her own business interests, not those of an owner. It's like a realtor who represents the seller's interests, not the buyer's. Many buyers mistakenly think that the realtor is representing their best interests. Not so unless commissioned by the buyer.

Good builders will be honest and ethical, but few put the owner's interests ahead of their own.

An architect represents only the owner and owner's interests. And the architect, who prepared the construction drawings and specifications certainly has the most detailed knowledge of those documents.

The best team of all is one composed of a knowledgable owner, experienced architect and professional builder.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 3:42PM
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How much does the architect cost?
If your building costs $1,000,000.00 and the architect charges 10% his fee is $100,000 making the total value of the house $1,100,00.00. It is important to understand that decisions made with the architect/designer are decisions that you will be living with for many years to com. If one considers the long-term expenses involved in owning a home, the 10% fee becomes even less important compared to the design service provided. Proper orientation, landscaping, mechanical systems, insulation, windows and doors and internal organization can have a profound impact, a little each day, on the operating costs. And we have not even considered the comfort level of a good design and its value.

Virgilcarter’s post describing the basic phases of a project is great and should be carefully reviewed and discussed so that there are no misunderstandings during the work. Further in this thread, the comparison of costs and liability between a realtor and architect is a dramatic way of describing the burden [and disparity] professionals [doctors, lawyers, accounts, architects, engineers] incur by undertaking a project.

There are numerous problems inherent in designing of a home: the soundness of the relationship of the family, consensus regarding requirements, lifestyle, sophistication of the client, quality of materials, and the ability to understand drawings, the cost of changes.

I have a copy of the construction drawings for the Robie House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Each drawing was signed by the architect and home owner. In other words, this is the FINAL design that the Owner and Architect agree to.

So let’s look at each of the problems listed above.
1. Requirements. Budget, size, location, quality of materials, orientation, special requirements [handicapped, in-law suite, home office, triplets on the way, gourmet kitchen]. It is wise to accumulate as many examples of these elements as possible: photos, drawings, sketches, samples, brochures, costs.
2. Lifestyle. Are you single, married, children, have frequent visitors, like to entertain. Do you work from home? Hobbies? I once heard of a couple who moved into a medieval home and frequently gave period parties requiring authentic costumes. Frank Lloyd Wright would stay with a family for a week to observe how they lived. Take notes on your daily life, what you like, what you want and what you don’t like.
3. Sophistication. Some people like flocked wallpaper and others prefer all white walls. Consensus here, for common rooms, is essential. If one person requires a personal library the decisions are narrowed. Different materials, different colors, different textures can evoke different emotional/psychological responses. Try and be aware of these. This goes for different size rooms, different ceiling heights and orientations to sunsets/sunrises. An architect I knew was asked why there was a balcony off his second floor master bedroom. “I’m a romantic.” Be honest in your desires.
4. Materials. A good designer/architect should assist you continuously about the relative cost of materials. You may also do your own research. Sometimes the installation costs are higher than the material costs. Again different materials can evoke different responses. If you delight in the appearance of Venetian plaster but cannot afford the cost a good designer/architect might find an effective alternative.
5. Drawings. Beyond two dimensional drawings or 3 dimensional renderings, even sophisticated 3-d walkthroughs, the best preliminary representation of a design is a model. This is usually an additional cost. But if you do not understand drawings this is your best bet to realize the design. Beyond that your actual experience is best. Identify spaces that you like, record them, measure them, get a drawing of them if you can, take out your cell phone and take pictures and then write down your feelings, yes feelings, about what you are looking at. Sometimes it’s one small element that piques your interest, but it may also be the context it is in that makes it attractive.
6. Changes. Once you understand the design and have communicated your ideas effectively the architect/designer will complete the drawings. It is critical that every note on every drawing is reviewed and understood. Some notes are general and apply to all similar circumstance and some are specific to only one instance. Cost overruns often occur because the owner/client makes changes once they “see” what they are getting. Any change during construction can have monumental repercussions. Moving a support wall, even a foot can change the allowable loading for a roof or floor and cause sagging and even failure.

If the designer/architect uses a standard AIA contract, which anyone can use, a significant change takes place once construction starts. This is important to note for two reasons. The first is that it shows how important it is to have concluded all decisions BEFORE construction starts. The second is that the architect/designer now becomes a neutral party. He/she is bound to seeing that the drawings and specifications are adhered to by the contractor/subcontractors, that the owner and contractor fulfill all of their obligations. If there are discrepancies or conflicts in the construction documents the architect/ designer is responsible for making a proper interpretation without regard to the other parties [client, contractor] personal interest. Changes on paper cost time and therefore money. Changes during construction cost time and money because of delays, abandonment of materials, purchase of new materials, redesign, checking of structural requirements, etc., etc.
Establishing a relationship with a designer/architect is just that. It’s not a two hour meeting followed by a couple of weeks where the drawings are prepared. It is a relationship that takes trust, communication, understanding and oftentimes patience.

An architect I know compares the design and construction of a home to having a baby. It takes about nine months, starts out a lot of fun, gets difficult along the way and sometimes ends painfully. The result, hopefully, is a beautiful addition that can be enjoyed for many years.

There are many good books on home design that can be found in the library or online. Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House series is an excellent start. If you can extract yourself from the theatrics of HGTV, there is a lot of good information to be had. And of course the This Old House series on PBS is excellent. I think Bob Villa was best but that’s just my opinion. DO YOUR RESEARCH before jumping into the fray.

The architect’s cost is one thing. His/her value is another.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 2:00PM
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I designed our house from the ground up. Our only building permit cost us $25. We did get electrical and sanitary permits, but the total design cost with permitting was $25.

That being said, I would STRONGLY advise anyone to consult a licensed architect who has a portfolio you like in coordination with an interior designer who has a portfolio you like.

Consult an interior designer during the drafting stage; they are also trained in drafting and can help you gain a better sense of how you really want to develop your space.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 4:12PM
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In this market a 10% of construction cost design fee for a house would be from a large architectural firm with a high overhead and that is unrealistic for a $1 M house. There is little reason to hire a large firm since they would give most of the work to a less experienced staff. And people who can afford to hire large architectural firms to design their homes aren't building $1 M houses any more.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 8:33PM
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Renovator8, are you saying that 10% of construction cost is high? What do you think would be more typical in this market? What do you consider to be a "large" firm? And when you say "people who can afford to hire large architectural firms to design their homes aren't building $1M houses any more" did you mean that they aren't building homes, that they're building $5M homes, or something else? Just curious and hoping to get a better understanding of your post.

We paid our architects a contracted amount per phase through construction documents (much like what virgilcarter described above) and are now on an hourly basis for "construction admin" type work. It is looking like the total will work out to roughly 5% of construction costs once everything is said and done.

LawPaw -- WOW, that is fantastic. Congratulations on your accomplishment.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 10:32PM
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Folks, keep in mind that 10% is a rule of thumb. Designing and building a home is not like fabricating a toaster, where each one is exactly the same as the next and one has the luxury of prototyping. Every house is different, budgets, locations, views, soil conditions, building codes, ordinances, family sizes, wishes, wants, climate, orientation, context, etc. And of course, every client is different.
I have a friend who's rule of thumb is 15% of the cost of construction, not including construction observation. His clientele kept him busy even through the recession (what recession?). I have another friend who charges a flat fee of $5k for any house or addition 1,500 sq. ft. or less. I know design-build contractors that work out the design fee into their budget and charge no more than a regular contractor. Of course the most important "rule of thumb" if it could be called that, is that "you get what you pay for".

    Bookmark   February 25, 2014 at 10:48PM
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Oaktown, thanks buddy! It was hard work, but we made it!

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 1:16AM
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I am gobsmacked by our small town of 7,000 people (where real estate is rather pricey I admit), we paid over $20,000 for our permits ($5,000 of which had to go to the local school district), $1,000 went to the fire department, and the planning and building permits were each about $8,000. Wow, $25? That's like back when bread was 10 cents a loaf!!!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 11:42PM
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Firsthouse, I did have something like $200 I also had to pay for a county septic permit and the state electrical inspection.

Farmers don't think the government should ever tell them what to do. God bless em'!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 11:35AM
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Our architect charged 10% of the proposed construction budget (from design phase to construction documents). Construction management/administration was a separate fee (~5K) as well as interior design (product specs, tile selection, etc.). We have a challenging lot in Western NC so, while other architects offered lower pricing, we felt that our current architect's skill/experience and creative style was more consistent with what we desired for our mountain home.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 3:33PM
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appalachamoon - where are you in western NC?

I spent a couple of years at the Nantahala Outdoor Center between Bryson City and Andrews.

Beautiful country and I miss real trees.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 12:37PM
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Wow this post has some interesting reading! I will keep my opinions to myself on some of the off-topic items and stick to answering the question.
As a registered architect in the midwest, I only do homes on an hourly basis. The firm I work for generally doesn't do homes but we are free to do that work on the side. We (I say we because I have a few colleagues that do residential on the side as well) charge hourly because in our experience homeowners are the least sure of what it is they want. (I am currently designing my own house so this is true even for those in the profession!) If we charge a percentage or even a flat fee we will get burned as the owner changes their mind - literally hundreds of times. With that said, if an owner only requires a few changes, @ around $60 an hour, a 2,500 SF house will usually cost $3-4000 in design fees.
The biggest recommendation I can make is tour model homes or open houses and look at floor plans since there are thousands available. Make notes of every little thing that you like and dislike. It makes the job much easier (and affordable) when the owner can show examples, i.e. 'I like the kitchen/dining relationship here' or I like the split bedrooms etc. The hardest/most expensive projects are ones which the owner wants to give us design freedom but they don't realize they have a very severe opinion on what they like/don't like.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 10:59AM
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I think everyone has already provided a lot of info but here was our scenario.

We talked to several people and didn't go with a Licensed Architect because didn't that 'level'. Went with a designer who has been designing/building homes in our area for over 20 years .... hundreds and hundreds of home, some spec and lots of custom. Their family has a good reputation.

We designed the house ourselves and then took it to the designer as a starting point. We settled on a flat rate that is well below numbers I see posted here but we weren't starting from scratch either. We had to pay all engineer fees. After about 3 weeks, we had set of construction docs to submit for permit. Great experience and have recommended friends to him who are having him design theirs as well.

I'm the GC as well as most of the trade work so there weren't other fees/

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 12:50PM
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We (the company I work with) charge per hourly rate.

The hourly rate not to exceed 7% of construction cost (Residential). We do mostly Commercial and is a different, higher rate. My boss (owner/Principal) hourly rate is 125 an hour

The person in charge of each project hourly rate is between $65 to $110 an hour, being 65 the intern architect’s rate and 110 the most experienced architect (not me). We do not have draftsmen per se.

Usually 1/4th is preliminary design, ½ is construction documents (Plans/specifications) and 1/4th is on-site administration.

I have a similar situation as stephja007. We are allowed to work on the side (residential only). In my particular case I do homes either on an hourly rate or on a fixed rate.

This post was edited by naf_naf on Tue, Mar 4, 14 at 15:43

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Hi folks, a few bites of info.
Construction drawings, aka blueprints, building plans, house plans, etc. are required when submitting a building permit application to your local city, county, parish, township building and safety dept.
These drawings can be hand drawn or on the computer, by you or a professional designer or drafter. Architects and Engineers themselves almost never draw plans, they just tell the drafter what needs to be drawn. They do, however, review the plans, calculate simple and complex structural data, and stamp the drawing with a seal issued by the big bad gov't.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 3:45PM
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cavtrooper323 wrote "Architects and Engineers themselves almost never draw plans".
In more than 30 years of experience in the field I have had the opportunity to interact with thousands of architects and engineers working on projects of all types and sizes, from a $170 million sports arena to a $15,000 kitchen remodel. In all this time I have known precisely two architects that do not draw plans, all the others do. Not to say that these two never drew plans, they just happen to have transitioned to parallel careers that have to do more with construction management than architecture. On a personal level, I have two projects on the boards, a tenant improvement for a cafe in a historic building and an 80 unit apartment complex. I am drawing both myself for the moment but will seek help on the large one at some point.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 4:06PM
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Oh to live in Texas. The cost of living is so low here! The architect that designed our house charged somewhere around .75 per square foot and he was the most popular residential architect in town.

After he passed away unexpectantly, we ended up needing to make some adjustments to our floor plan. We used a designer and she charged .50 a square foot.

Our new home is going to cost us about $100 per square foot.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Bridget Helm

Two separate projects in Baton Rouge, LA:
The first was
Baton Rouge, LA
2661sf house

The second after deciding not to build:
$3000 for a 200sf addition and interior renovation on a 2880sf house, 3007sf after addition

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 11:56PM
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Jack Mason

We interviewed two architects recommended by our builder and one designer that we discovered on Houzz. Good friends of ours used that designer and the cost was less than half of what the architect would cost. We ended up going with the designer and were very happy with her services.

We are building a 3250 SF house on the Florida Panhandle. Here are the costs:

Designer Fee: $9,000
Engineering: $2,000

See our building a home link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: We have started construction

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 2:36PM
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aimless07, would love to know what part of Texas you are in, if you don't mind sharing! We are in the early stages and are considering whether or not to hire one. Budget was our biggest consideration, but at that price we could surely make it work.

We are located southwest of Houston.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2014 at 6:14PM
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Our architect was $6 k for a 3500 sq ft house not counting the basement. He did engineering as well. I guess that's not too bad. When we interview the prices ranged from 4 k- 20k.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2014 at 9:21PM
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oakenacres, I live in the western part of Texas.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2014 at 10:28PM
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Our Licensed Arc's custom 4Ksq ft in the Midwest was 15K split with our builder so he could use it for a future model he offered.

And incidentally, I appreciated twotogo's comment. Good Lord, the last thing we need here is reprimands for sharing options.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2014 at 1:19PM
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We interviewed about 5. We picked the one we liked the best - we could tell his sense of design by his office and work. He had about 6 jr's working for him and he allowed us to work with one of his apprentices. It was a fantastic arrangement - he oversaw everything and we had a ton of time with work with her. We paid 7.5K in USD. All they did was the design.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2014 at 7:04PM
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We are building in Northern NJ. Architect charged us $11,000 - this includes everything! He's been very hands-on throughout the project. It's a ground up development, every aspect has be custom designed to our needs/wants. First and second floor (3,700ft) We are also building a finished basement and attic.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2014 at 2:25PM
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First, I must admit I only read the original post.

My home is being designed by a draftsman who is a structural engineer and a state licensed general contractor. I am paying $0.27 per covered square foot. I live in SE AL. I gave my ideas to him on graph paper and we have worked out a plan. The plan has gone through 5 revisions and we are close to where we are ready to move forward. The price also includes working with a separate home designer to configure all the intricacies so that we can distribute the plan to builders for accurate bids. My covered square footage is about 3200 including covered walk ways and garage.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2014 at 3:00PM
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