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. On the low-end, homeowners pay $2,500 for an initial meeting and custom design plans only with no continuing oversight of the work. Costs can be as high as $150,000 for full design and overseeing of a custom 6,000 sq.ft. home build.
|Hiring an Architect Costs|
|National average cost||$40,000|
Architects have specialized training in the science and art of building design. Professional architects hold a bachelor’s degree in architecture and have completed a professional internship. They also need to pass the state licensing exam and maintain their qualifications or update their licensing depending on where they live and work. These professionals create building designs and blueprints by evaluating sites and understanding zoning regulations and building codes.
Not only do architects draw building plans, but they also incorporate plumbing and electrical systems into the designs. They prepare detailed construction documents outlining the structural plans and how they meet code. They also work with contractors throughout construction to ensure the safety and integrity of the building. Overall, architects are responsible for overseeing the building design and creating building plans that accommodate the landscape, surrounding buildings, and the overall goals of the project.
Architects can offer basic house plan drawing or complete service with full documentation and project management. If you already have a builder you trust and just need your plans confirmed by an architect, then the drawing-only service may be best for you. This costs $2,000 to $15,000 for a 2,500 sq.ft. home. If you want an architect’s full experience and support throughout the entire process, full service is better, although it costs much more, around $25,000 to $70,000. With full service, your architect is available from start to finish to assist with drawing revisions, construction documentation, and administration throughout the build.
|Service||Average Price Range|
|Custom Drawing Only||$2,000 - $30,000|
|Full Service (Drawings, Documentation, Project Management)||$5,000 - $70,000|
Architects work on a wide range of home projects, ranging in price from $2,000 to $70,000. Every homeowner is different, and the costs depend on the property and the complexity of the project. You may have a small project you want architectural approval on, or maybe you’re planning on building your long-desired dream home. Speak to your architect about their fees per project type and anything else you want to know before moving ahead with the project. Below are the average project costs, with an hourly rate ranging from $90 to $400 and cost per sq.ft. between $2 and $15. While these are average costs, keep in mind project prices vary greatly depending on the size and specifications.
|Type of Project||Cost (Drawings Only)||Cost (Drawings and Overseeing the Project)|
|Small Project||$2,000 - $5,000||$5,000 - $8,000|
|Remodel||$3,000 - $9,000||$12,000 - $20,000|
|Home Addition||$4,000 - $9,000||$15,000 - $20,000|
|New Construction||$10,000 - $30,000||$25,000 - $70,000|
The average cost to hire an architect for a small project is $2,000 to $5,000 for drawings only and $5,000 to $8,000 for architectural oversight of the project. You may wish to bring in an architect for minor residential projects such as renovating one bedroom or bathroom or enhancing outdoor-indoor living space. If you need some inspiration and want professional expertise, a few meetings and blueprints 1 from an architect could make a big difference. Architects will explain how your vision can come to life while keeping the project within budget.
Hiring an architect for a remodel drawing costs $3,000 to $9,000. The project price depends on how extensive the remodel is and the architect’s involvement. The cost may be closer to $12,000 to $20,000 if the architect oversees the project too. 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.
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.
The cost to design a home addition is around $4,000 to $9,000. The architect’s fee for a small extension increases if they oversee the project. The final amount approaches $15,000 to $20,000, depending on the project scope and the architect’s level of involvement. 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.
Hiring an architect for new construction is the most expensive project, costing $25,000 to $70,000 on average for the plans, designing, and overseeing the building process. Custom plans only cost around $10,000 to $30,000. Architects can modify stock plans with the most popular home features, or they can start from scratch to customize your dream home. Custom plans cost more and take a longer time, but either way, you can expect an architectural professional to go through as many meetings and revisions as you need to achieve the right design. Architects also assist with the bidding process and construction administration, ensuring clear communication and understanding between building contractors to complete the project effectively.
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. It is very common for a firm to look at a project before deciding how to proceed. They then may break the project into phases and determine the best method of charging for each phase. For example, they may charge hourly for the planning, designing, and drafting and 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. The idea is to make the pricing process transparent to the client while 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 their work.
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.
Every firm has its own fee structure. Due to the Sherman Act, which prohibits the American Institute of Architects from recommending what architects should charge, each firm must independently create its own fees and ways to implement them. Therefore, it is difficult to compare costs between two architects because they bill the same project differently.
|Charging Method||Average Price|
|Per Sq.Ft.||$2 - $15|
|Hourly Rate||$90 - $400|
|Fixed Price||40% of architect’s fee|
|Percentage of Total Project Cost||8.9% - 20% of project|
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 choosing materials or working out the design. 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 architect’s experience. This ranges from $2 to $15 a sq.ft., depending on the circumstances.
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. 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. 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 intern with one to two years of experience may charge $90 to $150 an hour. However, an architectural project manager with three to seven years of professional experience usually has an hourly rate of $150 to $350. The average senior or principal architect rate per hour is $350 to $400, based on at least seven to ten years of experience. You pay for this experience. But, a senior architect may help you save money on other parts of the project or design a more energy-efficient home. Even though it is more upfront, you may save in the end.
|Architect Experience||Architect Cost per Hour|
|Architectural Intern||$90 - $150|
|Architectural Project Manager||$150 - $350|
|Senior Architect||$350 - $400|
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.
Suppose your project is large or complex, such as a custom build over 5,000 sq.ft. 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 hourly, 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. 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 increase 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.
|Project Cost||Fee Percentage|
|$100,000||12% - 20%|
|$200,000||11% - 18%|
|$400,000||10.5% - 15%|
|$500,000||9.8% - 12%|
|$750,000||9.5% - 11.5%|
|$1,000,000||9.3% - 11.3%|
|$1,500,000||9.1% - 10.8%|
|$2,000,000||8.9% - 10%|
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 meet your needs. Modifying stock plans is cheaper than custom drawings because there is less work involved. It also takes less time, considering part of the work is already done. The cost per hour for architect drawings ranges from $100 to $400 based on the type of plans. Keep in mind that, because drawing custom plans is a very intricate and detailed process, it involves many other costs depending on the house size, project scope, and other factors.
|Type of Drawings||Cost per Hour|
|Pre-Designed Stock Plans Modified||$100 - $250|
|Draw Custom House Plans||$250 - $400|
Architects charge $100 to $250 per hour to modify pre-designed stock plans based on your design preferences and the desired project outcomes. Stock plans include the most in-demand features homeowners are looking for, with several options for the number of bedrooms and bathrooms with different square footage. Stock plans may include open-plan living, high ceilings, spacious master baths, safe staircases, and other popular features. During meetings with your architect, you can go over the stock plans and explain what you would most like to see in your home project, whether it’s new construction or a home addition.
To have an architect draw custom house plans, expect an hourly fee of $250 to $400. This is the best option if what you want is not found in a modified stock plan. 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 charged hourly, depending on the architect. The next phase draws up the initial plans. 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 sq.ft., it costs $2,000 for the finished set. This makes the total cost between $2,500 and $2,850 for a 2,000 sq.ft. home. Larger homes cost more to draw up, while smaller homes cost less.
Every home is unique, and therefore, so is every project that requires the services of an architect. Keep in mind that you may have an architect involved for just the beginning phases of your project or the entire thing. The price of an architect depends on how much consulting they do on your home. The following phases show the steps of having an architect involved in the full project.
|Phase||Percentage of Time||Percentage of Total Cost|
|Initial Interview and Review||5%||5%|
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. Most architects don’t charge for the initial interview because they want to make a good impression and hopefully win your business.
After your initial interview, your architect outlines the project, including what they do and the different parts of the project cost. Look it over together and make any changes necessary before signing the agreement. Expect the interview and review of proposed work to take up 5% of the overall project timeline, around one to two months as part of the pre-design process. This first step should also cost 5% of the projected cost estimate as part of the architect consultation fee.
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 takes around two to three months or 10% of the project time and costs 15% of the proposed estimate.
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% of the project timeline, lasting three to four months, and costs 15% of your total budget.
Your architect guides you through the bidding process or undertakes it to find the builder or general contractor. This usually takes around a month or 5% of the project time to find the best building professional to complete the job and costs 5% of the total budget.
This is a big part of the job. Your architect finalizes everything needed to proceed. Your final permit plans are submitted for processing, and work begins. Construction documents may take five or six months or 20% of the total project time. This makes up 40% of your total budget.
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. Expect the construction administration to take the longest, using up 45% of your estimated project time. For a full house design and build, this could take 18 to 24 months. This costs roughly 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.
Both architects and draftsmen make blueprints, which are the printed design of your home or addition. With a draftsperson, what you pay for is the technical drafting, not the design work. Expect to pay around $0.05 to $2.25 per sq.ft. for this service, plus initial fees and consultation rates. For a 2,000 sq.ft. home, expect your blueprints 1 to cost around $2,100. If you prefer to pay the higher architect blueprint cost for a complex home project, budget around $2 to $5 per sq.ft. for a total cost of at least $6,000 on average. Speak to your architect about blueprints in the initial meeting to see what their process and prices are and whether they give you the option of who makes your blueprints or not.
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 materials and finishes that are less expensive than what you may have first imagined that offer a better fit for your home and lifestyle. Suppose there is a problem with your current home layout or property, and you’re unsure how to fix it. The creative expertise of an experienced architect helps solve the problem and offer innovative design elements for your living space.
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, making them more affordable for nearly all projects.
Architects also help when restoring or remodeling historic homes, so you can maintain the integrity while ensuring it's a safe and comfortable living space. Something else to keep in mind is that you may be required to hire an architect to draw or at least sign off on your plans, depending on where you live. Some local building departments may require architect approval while others don’t, so always check with your city to be sure.
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 and someone with whom you can work comfortably. 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:
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.
One important stipulation in your contract is that the architect corrects 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. If one room was designed with incorrect dimensions and the builder didn’t notice, the mistake falls on the architect. However, If building errors occur unrelated to the initial design, they are the contractor’s responsibility.
Also, keep in mind that throughout meetings, interviews, and schematic design process, not everything may go according to plan if issues arise. If for whatever reason, your project is not completed, almost all American Institute of Architects (AIA) contracts give architects ownership of the plans. Even when a home is finished, this architect ownership means other homeowners could hire your architect and use those same plans. If you need to abandon a project midway through, you likely need to forfeit the plans too. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen, and your home project proceeds without problems. Still, it’s good to discuss this possibility with your architect. You may find that some architects are more willing to give you back your plans than others.
The main difference between an architect and an architectural designer is that the former has more professional experience and accreditations than the latter. Both have studied architectural design and may have years of professional practice, but designers are not licensed. A registered architect has taken and passed the state licensing exam and maintained their certifications throughout the years. The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards facilitates the architectural exam, much like the bar exam for lawyers.
Keep in mind that architectural designers are not the same as design architects. Design architects have passed their exams but specialize solely in the design elements of a project, letting another architect handle the construction aspects. Architectural designers do many of the same tasks as architects but for a lower cost because they aren’t fully licensed and certified. Most architectural designers charge around $50 to $150 per hour, while architects have an hourly rate of $90 to $400 depending on seniority and expertise.
|Professional||Price per Hour|
|Architectural Designer||$50 - $150|
|Architect||$90 - $400|
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, the layout, and how 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 and the finishing and furnishing of the space.
While an architect may charge $90 to $400 per hour or around $40,000 to design and oversee the building of a home, an interior designer charges $75 to $450 per hour or on average $30,000 to complete the interior layouts, flow, finishes, and furniture for the space.
|Professional||Price per Hour|
|Home Designer||$75 - $450|
|Architect||$90 - $400|
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 $75 to $125 an hour for their work, which is usually included in the fee that your architect charges.
When deciding whether to hire a draftsperson or architect, keep in mind that mid-level or senior architects usually have more direct design education than a draftsperson. For example, architects usually have five to seven years of higher education, compared to a two or four year degree for a draftsperson. Both have the technical knowledge of building dimensions, materials, and processes, although a principal architect has extensive knowledge, education, and experience. An architect costs $90 to $400 per hour, depending on their credentials and the complexity of the project.
|Professional||Price per Hour|
|Draftsperson||$75 - $125|
|Architect||$90 - $400|
Architects charge for their services in various ways. Most charge an hourly rate of between $90 and $400. After an initial interview and review of plans, architects outline their fee schedule and how much you can expect to pay for their services. These fees depend on the complexity of your project and how much support you need from your architect.
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.
The average cost to hire an architect for a new home design is around $40,000. This cost covers the plans, design, and building oversight for a new 2,500 sq.ft. home. Prices vary depending on the size, architectural firm, and the architect’s experience. A standard home design that’s relatively straightforward will be less expensive than home plans with custom, complex features in every room.
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, square footage, percentage, fixed fee, or a combination of any of these.
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.
For the ideal results when building or renovating a home, hiring an architect is a good idea. If you plan to build on an elevated site or have a vision for a complex building project, an architect can draw the most accurate plans. Some cities and counties require the signature of an architect or structural engineer before approving building plans. Other communities may not need architect approval, so just ask your local building department.