Part #5: What does it cost to hire an architect?

So, we had to get there, the ultimate question. “What is this gonna cost me?” The fact is that its not as simple as that but let’s try. There are a ton of factors that work into the cost of hiring an architect and I’ll try to break some of them down here.

The first thing to understand about costs involved, and where most people get it wrong is this. Smaller projects don’t cost less. And of course, there are some asterisks attached here but let’s try to break it down. The typical project that would need the services of an architectural team means that there are multiple steps that need to be followed and multiple people that must be hired. Architects, interior designers, MEP engineers, Structural engineers etc. they all need to be involved, and remember these are professionals running businesses. In order to keep the lights on, every project through the door must be worth a minimum amount. So, when a project gets small, the cost of the project will inevitably go up. You’ll be paying each professional a minimum fee which can add up quickly.

When you get into larger projects the cost breakdown can be done in a few ways. And the most common that I’ve experienced is the fixed fee model. In this case, one lump sum of money spent by the client will be paid, in intervals of course, to the architect. This in turn will be used to cover the cost of the design team and any relevant engineering.

Now we can start talking some numbers but just remember that these can and will vary greatly depending on several factors but most importantly where you live. When planning a project, you should have some idea about what you expect to spend, hint, speaking to an architect can help here. But you can plan on soft costs in a few ways.

First you can think about costs as a percentage of the overall construction costs. In this case you need to have a decent understanding of the overall costs. These costs will vary obviously but Design costs should be in the range of 2% – 15%. 

Alternatively, you can plan on a cost per square foot number. This is typically easiest when your considering new construction because you get to plan out the total expected SF up front and don’t have existing space to contend with during an addition or remodel. In this case architectural costs (remember these usually include engineering) can be in the $5-$20 per square foot. Again, this number can go way up because of a number of factors but it’s a decent place to start.

If you start to put some numbers here, you’ll quickly realize that this can be a pretty big range for budgeting the soft costs. Take a 1,000 SF addition that you expect the overall budget to be $250,000. If you do the math the numbers for percentage and per square foot ranges from $5000 to $37,500. How can you budget for that kind of range? Well the answer is, talk to an architect and you’ll be able to narrow that range considerable. Without knowing specifics, the numbers are bound to be all over the place.

If you’re thinking about starting a renovation, addition or new construction project, I urge you to have a discussion with an architect about it. If you call me at Swakon Design, I’ll be happy to go through the numbers and discuss your option. Understanding the limitations and opportunities is the key having a successful project and we are always happy to help.