What Does An Architect Charge

Architect’s 2 Minute Tips – Video Series
June 27, 2017

What Does An Architect Charge

Architect's Fees

I got a phone call the other day from a potential client who was looking to have a remodel their home. They explained what they wanted to do to their home. I listened to all their hopes and dreams. After they finished, the first question they asked me was how much would I charge for the working drawings. That is always a little disheartening. Yes, what you are going to pay me as your architect is important - but it should not be your driving purpose in a conversation with a potential architect. Let us address the elephant in the room. An architect’s fees will vary between 7 and 15% of construction cost. It varies based on new construction v. Remodels; large project v. small; simple design v. Complex design; and scope of work. When the focus is solely on the cost of my services - the other aspects of my services that I provide get lost in the noise. I, as your architect, am your designer, your dream interpreter, your guide, and your advocate. All of which what affects your costs?

Scope of Work

What you want to do to your home and size of your project, scope of work, will affect the architect’s price. Is it a single story addition or two stories? A good rule of thumb is single story projects are easier to build and usually cost less. They are easier to design and document for permit submittal and construction. Does the addition naturally blend with the existing house or does it need some finesse? If you are doing a remodel, I want the addition and remodel to look like it was designed that way when it was first built. I want your family and friends to come into your newly renovated home and say “What a great home you have!” not “Oh what a great addition” That means I did achieve my objective. This sometimes happens because of budget constraints or difficulty blending the addition.

New v. Remodel

Is your project a new residence or remodel? Actually by square foot costs construction of a new custom home will cost less than a renovated house. When you rebuild an existing home - you have to blend the addition into the current home. The remodel is not only how the spaces layout but how the spaces connect. The construction details needed to join the old with the new. This takes more time in a remodel than a new custom home. However, a new custom home has additional outside services or consultants that a remodel may not have. That list can include: Land Surveyor to survey the property - identifying the property lines and the contours of the property; Soils Engineer - test the soils and its bearing capacity for a suitable foundation. SO while my fee may be less for a new custom home - the overall cost may be higher.

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Planning or Design Review

Planning and Design Reviews affect an Architect’s Fees. It also is a significant factor in the cost and timing of your project. We know we need to file a building permit, but some locals jurisdictions require additional reviews & approvals. On the California Central Coast, any project that is within a certain distance of the coastline requires further reviews and approvals. These reviews can take months and cost thousands of dollars in fees.

You may need a design review. Various communities, where I work, require architectural review of residential designs projects that are being proposed. This may be governmental - like an Architectural Review Board that some cities in California have or your local Homeowner Association (HOA). There may be design guides and requirements for all additions and custom homes to maintain the neighbor feel of the community.

Any of these design reviews require documentation of the project and additional submittals to local jurisdictions. It is a back and forth process to complete the application and schedule a hearing. A hearing where your neighbors can have a say in what your project will look like. The more out of character with the neighborhood the more likely it will not get approval. In the end, this step will require more time and design fees.

Construction costs can be impacted by the economic cycle. Just like any industry, if builders are busy, their prices will be higher. If the industry is in a slump, prices will be more competitive. Contractors will be looking for work, and they will be flexible when pricing your project. The same goes for architects.

Your schedule can have an impact on the price, too. If you are remodeling your home and your contractor must conduct the project in phases so you can live in it during the renovation, it can increase the cost. If the crews must come in two or three times to accommodate your presence in the house, then the cost will be greater. But if you can move out of the house, even to a camper in your driveway, it may eliminate the need to "phase" the project.

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Yes, an architect’s fees are expensive when you look at them as a cost for working drawings. However, there are many other aspects of my fee that provide a tremendous benefit to you and your project. I am designing your home - 1st and foremost. That is worth the effort. I will help guide you through all procedural approvals you need to construct your home: planning review, design review & permit approval. I will help you interview and select your contractor, and I will be your advocate on the project site working with the contractor to construct your home, your vision.

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