Building, buying, or renovating is one of the single most expensive purchases you will spend money on in your lifetime.  Shouldn’t you expect to pay more for something that great? It is a very common misconception that architects are expensive. So what are you paying for when you hire an architect?  Experience.

What does experience cost?  In the beginning the American Institute of Architects (AIA) required that architects all charged the same amount.  They felt that this would keep people from undercutting the market and offering the same services for free or less money.  The AIA however was accused of violating federal antitrust laws, which promote vigorous and fair competition, and provide consumers with the best combination of price and quality.  Therefore, architects are now discouraged from discussing fee structure and job costs.

Yet you, as an owner, buyer, or builder still want to know what the cost of hiring an architect will be. Typically fees could include a percentage of the cost of construction, or an hourly wage with a set amount of hours and a maximum cost not to exceed, or an hourly rate with no cap.  It varies by architect, by location, by experience, and by type of project.

One of the very first questions an architect will ask you is “what is your budget?”  So take a look at your budget, see what you could afford as a monthly fee, roll that into the next 12 months, and start designing your project.  You could also apply for a construction loan and pay the fees of your architect out of your loan. The simple best way to discover the cost of hiring an architect is to do your research and interview a couple of architects that fit your needs based on the issues I discussed in my previous blog post.

Although there is always a deal out there, in general, you get what you pay for.  In lowest bidder work you are provided with a bid for the least amount of work possible to complete the work, not a dime more, and when there is any confusion, they ask for more money.  Let’s be honest, you can only do so much for so much money.  If you buy a $100 laptop, you should expect it to be a $100 laptop, not a $2000 MacBook Pro with the latest in graphics cards and the fastest processor on the market.   The same concept applies to the built environment.

If the contractor tells you that they can build you a house without an architect, that may be true, but when you want to move the bathroom from the left to the right, or you decide to move the garage height up four feet, are they going to be taking into consideration the proportions of the building.  A professional designed even those plans that you pick out of a magazine and took into consideration the proportions that make it look and feel correct.  But is same building perfect for every situation?  We don’t think so, so why should you?  Even the ancient Romans knew about building the right geometry,  facing the right direction, taking advantage of the natural pattern of the light, the wind, or the flow of water.

Building a takes a long time, planning for it should take even longer. There are a million decisions that need to be made when designing a project.  Everything from what can you afford, size, program, light, heat, even what color will you paint the walls.  It is a process that needs to be managed every step of the way to maintain schedule, cost, and finished product.  Do you have the time to manage your project full time?  So many of my clients become overwhelmed with the details and lost in the weeds.  So ask yourself,  “Can I Afford Not To Hire An Architect?”

Until we meet again, Happy Holidays!

Emily Mottram, AIA

Owner, Mottram Architecture

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