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Architect Cost

Architect Cost

National average
$40,000
(full design and overseeing of a standard 2,500 sq.ft. home build)
Low: $2,500

(initial meeting and custom design plans only with no continuing oversight of the work)

High: $150,000

(full design and overseeing of a custom 6,000 sq.ft. home build)

Cost to hire an architect varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from architects in your city.

The average cost of hiring an architect is $40,000​.

In this guide

Residential Architect Fees
Custom Home Plans Cost
Cost to Hire an Architect for a Remodel
Architect Cost for a Home Addition
Why Hire an Architect?
Phases of Architectural Design
How Much Do Blueprints Cost for a House?
Architect Interview Questions: What Questions Should the Homeowner Ask?
Architect vs Home Designer
Architect vs Draftsperson
Additional Considerations and Costs
FAQs

How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Architect?

If you are building a new home or considering an extensive remodel, hire an architect to help. Architects have the training, knowledge, and experience to plan the project, maximize the space, select finishes and materials in your budget, and even manage the project. Architects have a wide range of roles, from planning, designing, and drawing to overseeing the project start to finish.

They have varying fee structures, some of which may combine throughout the project as it moves through different phases. For this reason, there is a wide range of costs associated with hiring an architect. The national average to hire an architect ranges from $25,000 to $70,000, with most people paying around $40,000 for the plans, designing, and overseeing the building process for a new 2,500sq.ft. home.

Architect Costs

Hiring an architect costs
National average cost$40,000
Average range$25,000-$70,000
Minimum cost$2,500
Maximum cost$150,000


Residential Architect Fees

Architects charge in a variety of ways. It is not uncommon for an architect to charge differently depending on the type of work they are doing. For example, they may charge hourly for the planning, designing, and drafting, switch to a flat fee or square foot pricing for the bulk of the project once it has broken ground, and then go back to hourly to wrap things up. Every firm has its own fee structure, and due to the Sherman Act, which prohibits the American Institute of Architects from recommending what architects should charge. Each firm must independently create their own fees and ways to implement them. Therefore, it is difficult to compare costs between two architects because they bill the same project in different ways.

Architects have different fee structures available for their costs. They may combine them, use just one, or determine the fee structure based on the project. For example, large and complex projects tend to use different fee structures than smaller projects.

Architectural Fee Percentage of a Project Cost

If your project is large or complex, such as a custom build over 5,000 square feet with many specific details, high-end finishes and materials, and complex engineering work, your architect will likely charge based on a percentage of the total project cost. With this structure, your architect usually does the preliminary work on an hourly basis, typically with an amount they cannot exceed. They arrive at a total estimated cost per square foot for the project and have builders or general contractors bid on it. The bids factor into the total project cost, and your architect’s fee is a percentage of that. You know this percentage upfront, and it slides depending on the project size. The larger the project, the lower the percentage fee. But you do not know exactly how much you pay until after the bidding is complete. Even then, the total may change before the project is over because things may raise costs, such as adding extra square footage to the plan.

The following shows the basic percentages that you may pay, depending on the project scope. Keep in mind that smaller projects do not usually use this fee structure.


Architectural Fee Percentage of a Project Cost

Architectural Fee Percentage of a Project Cost


Project CostFee Percentage
$100,00012% - 20%
$200,00011% - 18%
$400,00010.5% - 15%
$500,0009.8% - 12%
$750,0009.5% - 11.5%
$1,000,0009.3% - 11.3%
$1,500,0009.1% - 10.8%
$2,000,0008.9% - 10%


Architect Cost Per Hour

Most firms charge some of their work per hour, even if it is just the initial meetings, planning, and designing phases. Some firms also charge per hour for drafting, and they may have different hourly rates depending on who does the work. For example, a senior principal may do the bulk of your work and charge one fee, but they may have an unlicensed architectural designer and a draftsman handle some parts. Those professionals have a lower hourly rate. Most architects start out hourly to show the homeowner exactly what is being billed for. It is possible to put a cap on hourly work to ensure it is done efficiently and quickly. Stipulate in the contract that you have a maximum amount for hourly fees. Architects charge differently per hour depending on seniority and how much experience they have. A new architect may charge $150 - $200 an hour, while a senior architect may be $350 - $400 an hour. You pay for this experience, and a senior architect may help you save money on other parts of the project or design a more energy-efficient home that costs less to live in. Even though it is more upfront, you may save in the end.

Architect Cost Per Square Foot

Architects sometimes charge by the square foot, especially for smaller projects. This is less common for big jobs and new construction because it is difficult to set a cost before materials have been chosen or the design worked out. The architect risks losing money if they price too low, but if they price too high, they alienate future clients. That is why they generally do smaller projects by the square foot, where they understand the scope of the project ahead of time. It is common for the cost per square foot to range depending on the project complexity and the experience of the architect. This ranges from $2 to $10 a square foot, depending on the circumstances.

Architect Fixed Fee

Many architects charge a fixed fee for some parts of the project. This is for the second or third phase when the architect knows how much work is needed and most questions have been ironed out. The fixed-fee portion makes up roughly 40% of the architect’s total fee. If your total bill is $40,000, then the fixed-fee portion is $16,000.

Fixed fees are for project management and oversight, not for drawings, ordering, or planning. It is common for a project to begin hourly, move to a fixed fee for the middle stages, and then move back to hourly at the end for the architect to tie up loose ends and address any unforeseen issues.

Combination

Many firms work with a combination of fee schedules. It is very common for a firm to take a look at a project before deciding how to proceed. They then break the project into phases and determine the best method of charging for each phase.

The idea is to make the pricing process as transparent as possible to the client, while at the same time ensuring the firm gets paid for the work. Sometimes, hourly rates add up very quickly, so homeowners may balk at the final costs. By capping the hourly rate and moving to a fixed fee, the homeowner feels in control of the project costs, and the firm is paid for the work they do.

If the architect works in a combination billing method, insist that they give you a fee schedule with how much you pay for each project phase and how it is billed. Find out what you are paying for in each phase so that there are no surprises later.

Custom Home Plans Cost

There are two types of home plans - stock and custom. Stock plans are readily available, either for purchase through a third-party or from an architect firm. They can be modified so that you can make changes to better fit your needs.

However, if what you want is not found in a modified stock plan, have an architect draw up a custom home plan instead. A custom home is one created completely from scratch and is designed in phases. The initial phase is done in consultation and may be complimentary or have a set hourly fee of $150 - $350. The next phase draws up the initial plans, and this may go back and forth many times between the homeowner and architect while they fine-tune the plans. This phase costs between $350 and $500.

Once you are satisfied with your plans, the final set is drawn up. These are usually priced by the square foot, so if the home has 2,000 livable square feet, it costs $2,000 for the finished set. This makes the total cost between $2,500 and $2,850 on average for a 2,000sq.ft. home. Larger homes cost more to draw up, while smaller homes cost less.


Architect consulting home plans


Cost to Hire an Architect for a Remodel

The same fee schedules apply to a remodel as for a new home build, with a few variations. Remodels often have surprises, such as old pipes, mold, asbestos, and other things that are uncovered once the remodel is underway. Changes frequently occur to the plans during the remodel, and the contract may undergo multiple revisions.

For this reason, your final costs may also change. Keep in mind that your architect is as involved as you want them to be, so keep their involvement to the initial plans or have them oversee the entire project. This is why costs have a wide range.

It is not uncommon for remodels to start hourly until they are well underway, at which point a fixed fee is used. For smaller remodels, a cost per square foot may be given to start, with additional costs added in revisions as the process goes on.

Like new builds, the cost per hour ranges from $150 - $400, while the cost per square foot ranges from $2 - $10, depending on how extensive the remodel is and the architect’s involvement.

Architect Cost for a Home Addition

When adding on to your home, hire an architect for some or all of the job. Architects may be part of the design process for the addition, or they may design and then oversee the work. Therefore, hiring an architect for a home addition has a range of costs. The cost to design a home addition is around $6,000 on average. If the architect oversees the project, your costs are higher, approaching $15,000 to $20,000, depending on the project scope and level of involvement by the architect.

Why Hire an Architect?

Architects are expensive to hire, so many wonder whether they are truly necessary for the job, especially when design/build firms, builders with design experience, and stock building plans exist.

Architects offer several services, however, that you do not get elsewhere. They have a lot of training, knowledge, and experience in the field that benefits you and the project. They know how to bring in a project on or under budget and avoid added and unexpected expenses.

They create a more energy-efficient home, so you save money on energy bills going forward. They also find less expensive materials and finishes than what you may have first imagined, as well as materials and finishes that might be a better fit for your home and lifestyle.

Architects are also better at space planning, so they lay your home out in a way that makes sense for you rather than a generic layout. And, they are as involved as you need them to be, so have them oversee everything or just get your project off to a good start, which makes them more affordable for nearly all projects.


Architects discussing and planning home remodel


Phases of Architectural Design

Every home is unique, and therefore, so is every project that an architect is involved in. Keep in mind that you may have an architect involved for just the beginning phases of your project or the entire thing. The following phases show the involvement of the architect involved in the full project.

Initial Interview

Take this step with at least three architects. Discuss the project, ask your questions, get a feel for whether this person is the right fit for the job, and get an estimated cost. Any costs at this point are only estimates and are subject to change.

Review of Proposed Work

After your initial interview, your architect outlines the project, including what they do, and what the different parts of the project cost. Look it over together and make any changes necessary before signing the agreement. Expect to pay 5% to 10% of the projected cost estimate at this time.

Schematic Design Period

Your architect begins the initial design stage of the project, including drafting floor plans and elevations and consulting structural engineers and any planning boards that may be involved. This costs 10% to 15% of the proposed cost estimate.

Final Design Period

During this phase, your architect finalizes the drawings. This includes your chosen materials and fixtures. If your architect will be the project manager, that starts now with filing the building plans, obtaining permits, and laying the groundwork. This phase is 15% to 20% of your total budget.

Bidding

Your architect guides you through the bidding process or undertakes it to find the builder or general contractor. This costs 5% of the total budget.

Completion of Construction Documents

This is a big part of the job, and your architect finalizes everything needed to proceed. Your final permit plans are submitted for processing, and work begins. This makes up 40% to 45% of your total budget.

Administration of the Construction Process

If your architect oversees the project, this is the final phase of their work. They manage the project, ensure all the details are correct and accounted for, and see the project through to completion. This costs roughly 15% to 20% of the budget.

Many architects create a fee schedule where you pay at each phase. Your budget, the plan, and the contract are revisable at any time during the process.

How Much Do Blueprints Cost for a House?

Blueprints are the printed design of your home or addition. What you pay for is the drafting, not the design work. Expect to pay roughly $1 a square foot for this service, plus initial fees and consultation rates. For a 2,000sq.ft. home, expect your blueprints to cost around $2,200 on average.

Architect Interview Questions: What Questions Should the Homeowner Ask?

Before hiring an architect, plan on interviewing at least three individuals for the job. Ask numerous questions during this process to find an architect who is a good fit for the job as well as someone you feel comfortable working with. It is also important that you understand how they work, the level of work they will do, and that they understand your expectations.

A partial list of questions you should ask an architect during the interview are:

  • What responsibilities in this job are you handling? What am I handling? Because the role of an architect varies, make sure you are clear on what you hire them for.
  • What services are included in your basic fee? What incurs extra charges? Sometimes architects price things out separately, so make sure you get a clear understanding of what you pay for.
  • What part of choosing fixtures and finishes do you take? What role do I play in this? Architects may show you samples and ask you to pick, or you may want to choose everything yourself. Be upfront if you have a preference.
  • How do you handle a project of this size/budget? How do you make sure it does not exceed that budget? Gauge their experience with other projects like the one you are hiring them for. These questions determine that.
  • What is your fee schedule, and how does it work? It is not enough to get a break down of when they are paid. Find out how they charge and if you need to put a cap on expenses.
  • How involved are you with the contractor? Are you managing the project? Some architects assume they manage, while others do not. Be clear if you want to hire them for this portion of the job or not. Find out how often they meet with the contractor and if you need to be involved.
  • What are your credentials, and are they up-to-date? Architects are licensed. Architectural designers are not. Find out if their license is current.
  • Do you carry insurance? Your architect should have limited liability insurance at a minimum.
  • May I have at least three references from recent projects? Call these references and find out how satisfied the past clients were with the work.
  • May I see a portfolio of your recent work? You want to know that your style and the architect’s style work together. If you want a cottage and they specialize in ultra-modern, know that before you hire them.

Architect vs Home Designer

Another person you may hire for a home build, addition, or renovation is an interior designer. A designer can work on the layout finishing of the interior of a home, and so can an architect. The difference is the architect oversees everything about the home from the ground up. The designer focuses on the interior and the furnishings, as well as the layout and the way it looks and functions when completed.

There is some overlap between the two professions, but these are separate areas of expertise. It is not uncommon for architects and designers to work together on a space, with the designer taking over the interior layout and flow of the rooms as well as the finishing and furnishing of the space.

While an architect may charge $40,000 to design and oversee the building of a home, an interior designer may charge $30,000 to complete the interior layouts, flow, finishes, and furniture for the space.

Architect vs Draftsperson

Another professional who may work on your project is the draftsperson. This is a professional who handles drawing the plans after the architect has made the final design. They are usually employed by the architect and work closely with the architect to finalize your new build or renovation designs. They typically bill at around $50 an hour for their work, and this is usually included in the fee that your architect charges.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Stipulate in your contract that any design errors are corrected by the architect. Keep in mind that architects are human, and mistakes happen. By stipulating that, the architect fixes any errors they make and ensures you have legal options later.
  • In some areas, you may need an architect on your project to get a permit. In other locations, a builder or design/build firm does this. Check your local laws to determine if you need to hire an architect.
  • If you do not like the designs your architect comes up with, ask them to change or modify them. You may also fire them and switch architects, but you need to pay the original architect for their work.
  • Almost all architects and design firms use computer-aided drafting today. It is rare to find someone who drafts completely by hand.
  • When you hire an architect, you need to sign a contract. This includes the scope of the work and services the architect provides and the fee schedule. Ensure that it is clear, you understand it, and that everything is spelled out to your satisfaction before signing.

FAQs

  • How long does it take for an architect to draw up plans?

This takes a varying amount of time depending on the scope of the plans, changes you make, and whether they are custom or stock. It takes anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

  • How much does an architect make?

Architects charge for their services in a variety of ways. Most charge an hourly rate of between $150 and $400.

  • How much does it cost to hire an architect to design a house?

The average cost to hire an architect for a new home design is around $40,000.

  • How are architect’s fees calculated?

Every architect has their own fee schedule and calculation. There is no one set way to determine the cost and no overarching fee calculation schedule due to the Sherman Act, which prohibits this. They may charge by the hour, the square footage, a percentage, a fixed fee, or a combination of any of these.

  • Can I hire a student architect?

An architect is licensed, so if you hire a student, you are hiring an architectural designer. In some areas, they are not able to pull a permit or oversee your project. Check your local ordinances before hiring a student architect.

  • Do I need an architect to design my house?

No, you can use stock plans, design it yourself, or higher a builder with design experience. However, architects bring a lot of experience and knowledge to the project that you do not find elsewhere.

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Cost to hire an architect varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

Professional Architects Discussing Construction Plans

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Acampo, CA
+4%
Alexandria, VA
+2%
Arlington, VA
+38%
Athens, GA
-9%
Auburn, WA
-1%
Bakersfield, CA
-6%
Baltimore, MD
+12%
Beaumont, TX
+10%
Bothell, WA
-6%
Brick, NJ
+3%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Cleveland, OH
+7%
Coldwater, MI
-21%
Detroit, MI
+16%
El Paso, TX
-28%
Hammonton, NJ
+29%
Hampstead, NH
+28%
Hartford, CT
+23%
Hawley, PA
-11%
Hayward, CA
+31%
Kenmore, WA
+9%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Marysville, WA
-14%
Miami, FL
+1%
Norfolk, VA
-6%
Oakland, CA
+36%
Oakville, CT
+19%
Pensacola, FL
-19%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Phoenix, AZ
0%
Puyallup, WA
-1%
Rochester, NY
+6%
Sacramento, CA
+8%
Saint Louis, MO
+16%
San Antonio, TX
-4%
San Mateo, CA
+44%
Santa Clara, CA
+33%
Sikeston, MO
-35%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Washington, DC
+23%
Labor cost in your zip code
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