Architect Fees: What Should You Expect?

How much is an Architect’s Hourly Rate?

As some clients continuously make changes to their design, it’s beneficial to hire an architect on an hourly basis. With an architect, you can avoid the constant changes and quickly settle on what you want, saving you money.

Some clients will hire an architect by the hour to stipulate that the rate will not exceed a certain amount. Of course, this means that once you hit this price cap, you either need to renegotiate terms or take over the project yourself. Some clients compromise by hiring an architect on an hourly basis for only certain aspects of the job.

An architect may also charge by the hour if the full scope of a project is not known, such as if a client presents poor or incomplete plans. It’s recommended that you get an estimate from local architects and then compare quotes.

What Percentage Do Architects Charge?

Some architects charge a percentage based on construction costs. The percentage depends on whether the project is for new construction or remodeling existing construction. Remodeling existing construction often costs more because the architect and builder have to deal with whatever the previous architect or contractors did. On a very old project, they may be dealing with elements that aren’t up to code.

Things can get confusing when you try to figure out what counts as a “construction cost.” Not every decision affects the cost of construction.  For example, the lighting fixture that goes in should not affect the cost; the junction box to hook the fixture into is the only concern to the architect. By contrast, when designing a kitchen, where the appliances go will have a major impact on cabinetry, hook-ups, trim, etc. These determinations will affect construction costs. A rule of thumb is that if it’s going to affect the actual construction, it’s a construction cost.

What’s the Average Cost of an Architect Per Square Foot?

The price per square foot for an architect can vary considerably based on the project type, size, and location. In the western part of Texas, the charge per square foot for an architect might be about $0.75, while in southern California, you could pay $3.50 or higher.

Many people hesitate to hire an architect on an hourly basis because they fear they will see surprises in the final bill. However, the “per square foot” charge’s unpredictability can make the hourly rate more attractive. An architect who charges by the square foot might have to produce more drawings and documents than his time, and overhead may be worth. This leads to the architect either producing low-quality drawings or cutting corners to save costs.

This method of charging does not work well with remodeling projects. There are too many moving parts. However, for some new stand-alone projects, the per-square-foot method is the best way to handle the project. An architect who agrees to this method often limits the client to a certain number of revisions to help keep costs from running out of control. If more modifications are required than are allowed, some architects will handle the additional changes on an hourly basis.

Combination Architect Fees 

Some architects use a combination of hourly and per square foot billing. When working with the schematic and design phases, the charge is by the hour. This provides an incentive for the client to be available and to present changes promptly. After the design is settled on, the project’s scope is better known, and a more accurate per square foot fee can be assessed.

This works well for the client if the architect is ethical. However, an unethical architect can pad the bill by turning in poor drawings requiring more documentation and more hourly charges. Unfortunately for the client, there is often no way to know an architect’s ethics beforehand. As with any service you seek to hire, find previous clients and talk to them about the service quality.

We find it is in our client’s best interest to charge a lump sum fee based on similar projects we have previously completed at LPA. This gives the client a hard number to work within their budget.  With this, there are no hidden fees and surprises. That’s not to say there aren’t cases where any of the above options aren’t used.  We evaluate every project and determine what we think will be needed to produce the best quality drawings. For more information on our prices for your type of project, please contact us.

We Can Help!

Do you have specific questions about fees? Contact us today to have a conversation.