It should not be a complicated process. He'll give you a proposal and should outline all of his services, milestones, and deliverables. Try to break-up the fee by phase. Your architect should be able to share progress plans and sketches with you. There likely won't be much on a $20k rehab. I'd be happy to review your proposal offline and share my thoughts.
I don't know your city but every city is different with permitting. You may be able to pull a permit over the counter (OTC) but it will take longer if it involves zoning or planning dept issues. I typically charge an hourly rate for permitting work because I do not know how long visits will take or what comments the City will develop.
Go to your city's building department and download the list of plan requirements. i.e. # of copies, plan size, what needs to be shown on floor plans, elevations, etc. Share w. your architect and ensure that he has this on his plans. It should save some time on the permitting effort. Best of luck!
@William Dolinko , @Nicholas Leone is largely correct. $20k seems like not much work but a lot depends on what the scope of work entails. As Nicholas mentioned, a typical proposal will break down the services being provided broken into phases with a cost associated with each.
I do not know your location, but permit filing can be as simple as gaining approvals over the counter in rural/suburban areas or a highly regulated process like here in NYC. It can take months to get through the filing process here. If you have to deal with Zoning or Planning Departments, Review Boards or attain a Variance, yes that could be months and months before attaining approval. HOWEVER, one would need to better understand what your scope entails and what city the work will occur in. Your Architect should be well versed in dealing with your municipality and honestly not need for you to go to the Building Department (This is why you are hiring them and is part of their services), unless you want to for your own knowledge.
thanks jared I am in new York as well and was just trying to figure his cost out so I have a better understanding of my ovrall cost ? and yes your right I wanted to try to educate myself