How Much Does an Architect Cost?
$1,970 - $9,524
$1,970 - $9,524
Updated August 31, 2021Reviewed by Robert Tschudi, Expert Home Building and Remodeling Contributor.
Architect fees typically fall between 5% and 20% of the total project cost. For an average 2,700 square foot home with a build cost of $300,000, that comes out to $15,000 to $60,000. Less commonly, they charge $125 to $250 per hour and a few pros charge $2 to $10 per square foot.
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|Typical Range||$1,970 - $9,524|
|Low End - High End||$525 - $40,000|
Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by 1,370 HomeAdvisor members.
You’ll pay anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000 for plans alone. This typically doesn’t include any add on services like extra revisions, project management services or any type of construction help. This price gives you a set of plans to start from, which you’ll then take to a builder. However, you’ll most likely need revisions along the way.
|Fee Structure||Average Cost|
|Hourly Rate (Principal)||$150 - $250|
|Hourly Rate (Project Manager)||$125|
|Hourly Rate (Intern)||$45 - $90|
|Per Square Foot||$2 - $15|
|Percentage||5% - 20%|
If you hire an architect on an hourly basis, they charge $125 to $250 per hour. You might get an intern for $45 to $90 per hour, but typically you can’t hire them independently of the firm.
Hourly rates aren’t common and usually only for smaller projects or where the time it’ll take to finish isn’t known. However, if you need limited services, such as simple plans drawn, you might get a lower rate and use an intern or draftsperson in an architectural firm.
There may be other levels within a firm, but these four are the most common:
Principal: $150 - $250. The Principal is the overseer of the entire architectural firm.
Project Manager: $125.10 years of experience and handle multiple projects.
Intern Architect II: $90. 6 - 8 years of experience.
Intern Architect I: $45. 3 - 5 years of experience.
You’ll pay anywhere from $2 to $15 per square foot for an architect, depending on a few factors, including:
Concept development and drafts: $2 - $5 per square foot This includes a consultation, site visit and initial draft documents.
Construction documents: $2 - $5 per square foot. This includes detailed layered drawings for all elements of construction from framing to electrical and plumbing.
Project management or administration: $2 - $5 per square foot. What this entails and costs varies by location and firm.
However, most pros don’t charge this way since the amount of work and time on a project can vary by quite a bit. A few actually do a combination of hourly and per square foot. While that allows for flexibility with how much you can use an architect, it also rewards sloppy work on their part.
Architects charge 8% to 15% for most projects. For example, with a typical home build price from $160,000 to $475,000, the math is pretty easy to do:
Percentage fee multiplied by total build price = architects fees.
8% x $160,000 = $12,800
15% x $475,000 = $71,250.
The most common range you’ll find yourself in is $12,800 to $71,250 with an average price of $34,500.
A few other things to keep in mind:
Some go as high as 15% to 20% for remodeling projects and as low as 5% for some new construction jobs.
Find a professional who uses the percentage model for pricing. It’s the most common and ethically acceptable formula.
Clearly define your budget.
Where things can get confusing is when you try to figure out what counts as a “construction cost.” Generally, if the architect must play some role in it, it counts.
Although rare, some architects use some combination of percentage, hourly and per square foot billing. When working with the schematic and design phases, the charge is by the hour. This provides incentive for the client to be available and to present changes in a timely manner. After the design is settled on, the project’s scope is better known and a more accurate per square foot or percentage fee can be assessed.
Most homeowners report spending between $2,000 and $8,500 when they hire an architect. However, this price likely reflects only initial plans, small projects or partial services. Most architects report charging 8% to 15% for residential services, depending on the budget and project type.
An architect is an asset to any project requiring building a new structure or fundamentally altering a current structure. They perform a variety of functions with a wide skillset, including:
Creating plans, blueprints and construction documentation.
Work as your agent as a planner, manager and construction administrator, and can help you in bid evaluation and selecting a contractor.
Understanding engineering, structural and spatial relationships, planning, applicable building codes, and zoning regulations.
Remodels and home additions tend to cost 12% to 20% total project. Add-on building costs range from $20,000 to $70,000, which means you’ll pay $2,400 to $14,000.
Architects charge more for a variety of reasons:
They must deal with unknowns in the current structure. This creates the expectation of multiple revisions.
They’ll have more hands on work with the project. Most pros won’t write up initial plans and leave it there. They understand they’ll need to be on hand to make changes as the project progresses.
Any time you update your home, you’ll need to bring any exposed construction areas up to current code. For example, if you’re adding an addition and open a wall, the electrical, plumbing and structure all might need an update.
Creating basic custom house plans, not including any other services or construction documents, runs $3,000 to $8,000 on average. However, to add on multiple layers of construction documents, like electrical, cabinetry, appliances and plumbing, you’ll end up paying anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000 with an average cost of $30,000 for the average $300,000 build price.
|Project Level||New Construction||Remodels|
|Basic||8% - 10%||10% - 12%|
|Basic + Cabinetry||up to 12%||up to 14%|
|Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical||up to 13%||up to 15%|
|Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical +Bidding (and related)||up to 14%||up to 16%|
|Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical +Bidding + Construction Administration||up to 17%||up to 19%|
|Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical + Bidding + Construction Administration + Project Management||19%||up to 20%|
An architect charges anywhere from 2.5% to 12% or $8,000 to $3,000,000 depending on the project costs for commercial construction. The more complex the build, the larger the percentage of the total cost you’ll pay. For example, a warehouse might fall on the very low end of the spectrum, with fees in the 2.5% to 8% range.
But it also depends on the project cost. As the total budget goes up, the fee structure usually goes down. So, on a $100,000 project, you might pay 8% to 12%. But on a $50M project, you’ll end up paying only 2.5% to 6.5%.
An architect is not always a requirement for a project. If you answer yes to any of the following questions below, then you may need to hire an architect:
Do you need blueprints for a commercial project? Most commercial projects require blueprints and plans as a financing requirement.
Do you require a permit for your project? Before issuing a permit, the issuing authority needs a plan.
Do you need help designing your room/house? The architect plans will fit what you want even if you didn’t know you wanted it until you saw it!
Do specific areas of your project require an architect's seal? Depending on your municipality, a licensed architect may be required to place his or her stamp, or seal, on your plans.
Is the project anything more than a simple remodel or home addition plan?
Are there special structural considerations, such as balconies, roof-decks or multiple fireplaces? Some design elements may require an architect’s touch to look good, others to function well, and yet others to do both. Architects combine form with function.
Is your remodel complex enough to need more than an engineer or draftsperson? Most normal remodels and simple additions don’t require an architect. However, if you plan to literally “raise the roof” and add a second story, add a wing to your existing house, or build an entirely new house, only an architect or engineer can help.
Select an architect with care. You’re not only going to work with them over the course of the project, but you’re trusting them with your home. They’ll work to transform your desires, and list of needs and wants into a functional vision that fits inside your budget.
Genuine enthusiasm for your project.
Ability to work together.
Ability to handle the size and scope of your project.
A strong portfolio.
Use care when hiring an local architect. No two architecture firms are alike. Each will bring its own expertise, skills, values, and interests to a project. You want to find one compatible with your project’s needs.
According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) here are some vital questions to ask as you interview architects:
What is your design philosophy? Design philosophy is how the architect approaches the design such as organic, modern, functional art or industrial.
What’s your experience with projects like mine? You want to be sure that the architect has the experience to handle a project of the size and type that you want.
What challenges, issues or considerations do you foresee? This will let you know where the architect is expecting difficulties and may require design changes.
What is the estimated time to handle this project? Times can vary quite a bit. The client is a major factor in how long an architect will take to handle a project. A client with a clear plan and no budget worries can see a result in a few weeks.
How do you bill? Knowing whether the architect charges on an hourly, percentage or square foot basis will help you manage the budget.
What are your basic services, and what would incur additional fees? Be sure you know what is included in the basic package. Also find out which services they think your project needs.
Once the architect has drawn up the plans and handed them over to you, who legally owns them? Who pays for design errors? What about construction defects?
Ownership of the Plans: The standard contract from the AIA designates the copyright to the plans as belonging to the architect. The client is granted a one time use of those copyrighted plans.
Design Errors: Even given that a contractor is expected to “check and verify all dimensions” before beginning the work, some errors still get through. Fortunately, you can usually work these small errors out between you, the architect and the contracor.
Construction Defects: They may inform the client about any apparent substandard work, but the liability for construction defects falls ultimately on the building contractor.
Depending on the size of the project and how much detail they need, it can take anywhere from 1 to 4 months from initial consultation to delivery for an architect to draw up plans.
First drafts take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks.
Commercial projects can take anywhere from 2 to 10 months.
The difference between a draftsperson vs. architect comes mainly from their education and the scope of work they do. An architect can not only draw plans, they can manage projects, stamp approvals, negotiate work and oversee all aspects of a project. A draftsperson mainly works within the document designing phase of what an architect does. Some municipalities accept plans created by a draftsperson if those plans are also certified by a licensed structural engineer.
An architect’s training contains not only design, but engineering to meet building codes. It’s far more technical than a home designer, who worries about the look and feel of your home. Find out more about architects vs. interior designers. You may want to hire both.
Architectural drawings are important for multiple reasons:
They ensure an efficient building process without building errors.
Many permitting agencies require building plans.
They let a homeowner have a clear idea of what their home or addition will look like before the project starts.
They’re useful for unifying all contractors, designers and homeowners under a shared vision for the project.
Many people think that an architect designs a house according to the client’s wishes and budget, hands over the plans, collects pay and that’s it. In fact, most architects have about five or six phases that make up a comprehensive service:
Schematic Design: Also known as Preliminary Design, Initial Consultation and Design, Building Program and Site Analysis, etc. Includes a site visit and analysis, client consultation and initial rough draft.
Design Development: After the client has accepted a plan sketched out in the first phase, the architect turns it into a more detailed and technical plan.
Construction Documents: The hard copy blueprints that you can take to different contractors to get bids.
Bidding and Negotiation: Optionally, the architect can help get bids. They generally have working relationships with many contractors and can get a good price with a high level of quality.
Construction Administration: Optionally, they can handle the administration of the project. This phase may include:
Preparing additional drawings
Approving requests for progress payments
Handling any changes made to the plans
Resolving conflicts or lack of detail in the design
An architect’s salary ranges anywhere from $46,000 to $130,000 on average. Depending on experience, they charge anywhere from $70 to $250 per hour.