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How Much Does an Architect Cost?

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Are you thinking of building a new home or remodeling your current home? Then you may need to hire an architect. We’re guessing this isn’t a decision you take lightly or make blindly. After all, an architect is often perceived as a costly expense. But you can’t disregard the value you’ll get from sourcing a professional to make your dream home a reality. The best architects go above and beyond by providing you with a comprehensive design plan that’s visually appealing, while also making sure it’s functional, safe, and meets your desires. 

With architectural costs remaining a mystery to the general public, you can’t help but wonder; how much does an architect cost? There isn’t a single ballpark figure we can give you here. The truth is it depends on several factors, namely the architect’s experience, reputation, project type, and scope. Also, the fees will either be listed as a percentage of the construction cost, an hourly rate, per square foot, or a fixed price. 

Project Type and Scope

The nature of the project will impact the final fee. Is it a residential or commercial property? Do you want to hire an architect to just draw the plans? Is it a custom new home build or remodel? Is the remodel a simple extension, or are you looking to update the look of the home entirely?

If you’re looking to have some work done on a residential property, expect to pay between 5% and 20% of the construction cost. For custom homes, fees range between 8% and 15%. Remodels are a bit more taxing on the wallet. They often require demolishing what’s already there and incorporating a new concept into the existing area. So you can expect a charge between 10% and 20%. Initial drawing plans with no additional services are relatively cheaper, usually between 5% and 8% of the construction fee.  

How much you pay for a commercial design will depend on the project complexity. But the range is between 3% and 12% of the overall construction costs. Simpler buildings such as warehouses will be between 3% and 9%. More complex structures, such as office parks and hospitals that require extensive design and possibly adherence to strict legal regulations will cost you between 5% and 12% or more.

The Experience of the Service Provider

We’d like to believe this section is pretty straightforward. If you hire a new architect with no record, who is still trying to build a name for themselves, you can get away with asking for a discount. You can expect a young architect to charge between 8% and 10% of the project cost, depending on the nature of the project. Naturally, if you approach well-known names in the industry that have excellent reputations, you’ll need to be prepared to spend significantly more. These companies will lean towards the higher percentage thresholds, often around 15%. But whether or not the outcome will reflect the price isn’t guaranteed. After all, you’re paying for a name and a reputation once you reach that level. Well-established architects typically have the experience and industry-wide knowledge to deliver a higher quality project. On the flip side it’s common to get a more hands on and personable approach, as well as a lower price from the new architect who is trying to establish their brand.

Understanding Different Cost Models

For the better part of the article, we’ve been detailing the price as a percentage of the construction cost. However, different architects use different cost models. You need to be aware of the different cost models for comparison purposes. Some architects charge an hourly rate, fixed price, or per square foot. Again, the exact rate will depend on the complexity of the project and the architect’s experience. 

On average, an architect who uses an hourly rate will cost between $100 and $250 per hour. As mentioned, the architect’s experience, skill, and location will determine the exact rate. From a location perspective, an architect in downtown San Francisco will be astronomically more expensive than your local architect in a small town. On the experience side for instance, a licensed architect at an architectural firm will charge between $60 and $100. If you request the principal partner or owner of the architectural firm to oversee your project, you’re looking at between $160 and $350.

Some architects will charge a fixed price depending on the service. But this is usually the case with small projects. It’s not practical to charge a lump sum for a large project given the variables involved. Architects who subscribe to the square foot model will price their rates between $2 and $15 per square foot.

Conclusion

The average cost of an architect will depend on the nature of the project and the skill required. The cost will either be pegged as a percentage of the construction cost, at an hourly rate, per square foot, or fixed price. Whatever the case, you should never hire the first architect you come across, nor should you settle for the cheapest. The price of a product more often than not reflects the quality, so be warned. An old saying in the world of custom design says that you can have your product fast, cheap, or high quality, but you only get to choose 2 of the 3. Whatever you do, try to shop around before you sign on the dotted line.

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