Architectural Design Costs - What and how do you pay?

6 Replies

For those of you doing new construction, do you use an architect or a drafts person for your your designs? 

When you start the design, do you know the style you want or does the architect make those decisions? 

What do you pay for design services in your area? 

Do you pay a set amount, by the square foot, percentage of job or ? 

How long does it take from beginning to final design ready to submit?

As many of you know, our son/partner has been doing our preliminary designs, then we hand off to a licensed architect to go over for any changes needed to submit for permits. Michael is wanting to get more involved in other aspects of the business and transition out of design, so I've started thinking about the topic. 

Architects and designers please feel free to weigh in too.

@John Blackman   @Jon Klaus   @Kenneth Bell  

 @Bryan A.   @Lynn Currie   @Nhi Nguyen   @Todd Whiddon  

 @J Scott @Heather Medina  

We use someone on a flat fee basis, with additional charges for changes. We pay +/- $2500 for an addition depending on what town we are working in, the complexity of the project, size of the home, ect. The fee is closer to 3K on newer stuff. On commercial work or new work that we don't have a previous design to build off we pay about $1 per foot.

Most of the time I have a vision for what I would like to create but we are basically doing take offs of earlier plans, because we know zoning office already likes them. While I might like to do more specialized designs and cool houses we do tried and true because we know it will get approved easier, we know how to build it already, and we know how much it will cost and what finishes will look best with it

We use an architect to do all of our designs.  Pricing ranges from $2.50/sqft for very simple draft designs to $7/sqft for custom homes.  We have paid in the range of $2.50/sqft to $4.50/sqft since we do specs and are much less headache (I think) to an architect than a custom home owner.

There is a wide service difference in the pricing too.

Regarding time, it takes anywhere from 1-4 weeks to design the plans.  This depends on the size of the project.  Our less expensive designers are often faster because they make simpler designs.  Once it hits the city there is another 4 weeks with some back and forth with the architect, then another 2 weeks after we get our permit to polish off the final set and make it builder ready.  This can be done while the foundation is being formed and poured.

The key differences with architects are as follows in my experience.

1) Do their fees include working with the permitting office to get your permit.  Some architects are too high on themselves to do this work and don't like going to the city.

2) Will the architect provide a nice rendering?  This is essential for marketing or presales and is often not included in the $/ft amount.

3) Will the architect select finishes?  This is quite a bit of work and is required for any spec build.

4) Is the architect cost conscience?  Most architects don't care about cost, they care about beauty and expensive designs.  This will impact your economics.  If they put a roof on your plans with under a 3-n-12 slope you are going to have to use metal.  Big open spaces on the second floor that are over the living room cost a lot and you can't sell them.  A 36" range is only 6" larger but about 3x the price.  Master balconies are expensive.  Non standard windows are expensive.  Solid doors are expensive.  I could go on here for a lot longer...

In the end, you want your designs to stand out.  Different sells, at least here in Austin it does.  If it looks the same as everyone else's the buyers don't feel like a unique snowflake.  Distance between similar projects helps for sure.

Re-use designs where you can, but be sure to work out any licensing fees with your architect if you cookie cutter one of her plans.  Most architects will be happy to allow you to re-use their designs for a fee that is a much smaller portion of the original design cost.

@Karen Margrave  We try to use a draftsperson whenever we can, Architects can get PRICEY in a hurry!

We generally have a pretty good idea of the design / concept and we try to give whoever is doing our plans as much info as possible to expedite the finished product and cut down on the back and forth.

Our BEST draft-peeps we use only cost us 40/hr  50/hr if we want to jump to the front on the line and have something expedited.  If we give them a good sketch of the plan we want we can get a full set of custom buildable plans for 400-600 bucks most of the time!

Our WORST draft person is a border line architect but takes FOREVER and charges around 350 an hour!!

For custom plans or big remodel jobs we usually pay by the hour. Sometimes we purchase a "stock" plan the architect or draftsperson has in their repertoire which usually cost 1,500-2,500 and then we will pay hourly for our customizations.

Time lines are all over the place depending on their workload and the complexity of the plan.  For example the custom plans we had drawn for our Diary of a Pop Top house were turned around in a couple weeks. 

Whereas the plans for a HUGE house we are building in North Atlanta took about 4 months, but that had more to do with the person drawing them being overbooked than anything else.

Also for just a couple hundred bucks a house we are having all our plans 3-d rendered for marketing purposes, MLS, ect, AND potential clients can even view the plan on a custom website that lets them play Property Brothers and place furniture ect on the 3d plan either in our showroom or via an email link.

Check out for the 3D plans and custom furniture staging websites.  

Also a quick, quicktip.  We have invested in the SAME software our draft peeps use so that anytime we need a quick change or wanna play around with the plan we can do it ourselves without having to wait for anyone.  We use a combination of Softplan and Cheif Architect.

Another benefit to having this software are the added features they can help us save time with. For example when the draftsperson sends us the plan, a couple quick clicks of the mouse on our end and the software will do material takeoffs and RES-check energy calculations!  Money well spent!

We use several different architects, and their pricing structure varies to by the job, to by the sq. ft. Overall though, the price usually hovers at about $10k per project.

I dictate the specs and style, and the architect does the design.

I deal directly with the city for all of my permits, but we do tag team a little with the architects for the building permits. This is actually my requirement more than theirs. Initially, doing it myself was something I wanted to do to fully understand the process. Now, I've found that doing it myself allows me to maintain a level of control over the process and has given me the opportunity to create relationships with the folks in the different departments. While these folks don't set the rules, they are the gatekeepers and are always extremely helpful when I'm trying to solve any challenges that arise.  

Now, back to how I work with my architects. They fill out the part of the application for me (the parts that deal with the technical review), I fill out the rest and get all of the utility approvals, demo permits, tree permits, tax docs, etc. and submit it. When the initial comments come out from the reviewer, I have the architect handle most of the the issues and, if needed, meet with the reviewer.

My architects provide renderings. They aren't the ones that look like actual photographs, they look like, well, renderings. They are nice and can be walked through, they're just not as soft looking as some of the others I've seen.

I select all finishes in our houses. On occasion I'll ask the architect if they like something, but that's it.

Generally speaking, we take about a month to do the plans.

@John Blackman  @Lynn Currie  @Steve Wilcox  @Todd Whiddon  

Thanks to all of you for your input, I just love BP, and everyone's generosity. 

Todd that's great you put those links in, I know there are a lot of people doing remodels, etc. and have a hard time imagining the space that will be helped by those.

I use a variety of different residential designers/architects depending on the product it has ranged from +/- $1500 to $10,000 depending on the home and complexity. We rarely duplicate plans so I always look for new designs.

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