For once, I have a pretty easy answer here… just like sales tax, architects will cost about 8% - 15% of construction costs. So on average if you are planning to build a $300,000 house, your architecture fees will be somewhere between $24,000 to $45,000 for a set of house plans and administration during construction. Typically, the larger the project, the lower the percentage. So million dollar projects will have 5%-10% fees while smaller $100,000 projects will have 10% to 15% fees. This is due to the start-up costs that are involved in beginning any architectural project.
A bigger question is however, if you give the same details of your project to multiple architects, why are some more expensive than others? To start, not all proposals are created equal. Some architects will appear to have lower bids but they often are giving you the bare minimum. So if you are going to bid out your project to multiple architects, make sure to ask a lot of questions on what each architect is providing. Some may exclude engineering costs that are necessary or not include design for certain features of your building or home that you may find you need help designing. Each architect should give you a very clear proposal of what they will do and what it will costs. So as you compare, know the bottom lines may not match because they are not offering the same service.
Even so, some architects may still be more expensive than others. This is because not all architects are created equal. Some have more experience and licensing to back-up a larger price. Some are the specialists in their field, and you are paying for their expertise. Trust us, paying for this is worth its weight in gold. We will say it again… by building a house or office that you are happier with for a longer period of time and is appropriately sized for your family or business, you will make back what you spend many times over from moving costs, energy costs, and time. Time is by far the most precious commodity we have, so we want to be wise with what we build.
Another way to look at the value of a good architect that can execute good design is the “one-degree” mistake. You may have heard this, but for every degree you fly off course, you will miss your target by 92 feet for every mile you fly! So though you had in mind a New York City destination… you may land in Georgia! The smallest of mistakes in the planning process can be detrimental in the building process. So as you think about the expertise you want to hire, ask yourself, “What is my tolerance for being off course?” Are you okay with being one-degree off? A great architect will be able to keep you on course. They will know where budget cuts will be worth the immediate savings and where it would cost you (big time) if you do.
Either way you go, we do recommend that you begin thinking about your project budget. Remember that it is more than construction costs. It may be $200,000 to build but you may also have land costs, permits, financing, engineering, and of course architecture fees on top. We call this project budget (verses construction budget). A good architect or contractor can help guide you through this and begin to give you an idea on where you should set your budget. Knowing what you want to spend would be great either way though... If you will be lending money, talk to your banker to see what would be wise for you to borrow.
Though they may cost money, a good architect that can produce good design will always save you money in the long run. So in the end…how much does good design cost? Nothing. Great design should more than pay for itself, where poor design and planning will almost COSTS you. Paying for good design will always be worth the investment.