How Much Does an Architect Cost?

Do you want to build a custom home? Perhaps you have plans to renovate your home that entail a complex addition or extensive changes to the home’s floor plan. Well, you’ll need an architect.

For most people, the most influential factor when planning a project is their budget.

Before finding the perfect architect, you’ve probably already researched material and construction costs and the average architectural fee for your region.

However, determining a custom project’s total cost is not cut and dry. Numerous factors influence the price of different services, including the architectural fee.

Read on to learn more about architectural fees so you can be prepared when it comes time for your project to break ground.

 Do Not Underestimate Your Project’s Potential Costs

When approaching an architect for a custom project, it’s essential that you enter the experience with a realistic and open mind.

Characteristics that affect a project’s cost include but are not limited to:

  • Location,
  • Topography,
  • Geology,
  • Desired features,
  • Materials,
  • Size,
  • And more.

When working with an architect, you must allow them some design control to keep your budget in check while maximizing what you are willing to spend.

Communicate with your architect. Ask them questions, listen to them, and trust their expertise.

Different Types of Architectural Contracts

One of the various roles of architect/owner contracts is to ensure clients are fully aware of what factors will determine their projects’ costs.

There are four common contract types that architects determine their fees:

  1. Percentage of Construction Cost Contract
  2. Flat Fee (Fixed Fee) Contract
  3. Open-Ended (Cost Plus) Contract
  4. Price Per Square Foot Contract

Mitchell Wall’s Architectural Fees & Contracts

Architects determine their fees based on the type of projects their clients’ request.

Regarding residential projects, Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design typically utilizes two types of contracts:

1. Cost-Plus Contracts Combined with Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) Contracts

Cost-plus contracts are open-ended; there is no fixed fee. The client agrees to pay the architect’s hourly rate during the design phase. Thus, the total cost is unknown when the client signs the contract.

Once the client and architect settle upon the design, a guaranteed maximum price is determined for the remainder of the project.

With GMP contracts, the architect and client agree on a guaranteed maximum price. The client will only pay for project costs up to that maximum price. The architect is responsible for cost overruns.

Unless specified in the contract, clients are not obligated to share any savings with the architect if their project’s service costs are less than the guaranteed maximum price.

2. Percentage of Construction Cost Contracts

This contract is preferable for custom-builds, as construction complexity directly correlates to the complexity of the architectural design needed to carry out the project.

Once clients sign this contract, they agree to pay the architect’s basic architectural fee (%).

This fee is not a constant. It will change depending on the estimated construction cost. Thus, the architect can only provide an official estimated basic architectural fee once they complete the Program, the first step of the Design Phase.

Once the Program is complete, the appropriate basic architectural fee is applied to the estimated construction cost and any additional service fees in line with the contents of the project’s Program.

Determining The Total Estimated Project Costs

Estimated Construction Cost + Estimated Basic Design Fees + Additional Estimated Design Services Costs (%) = Total Estimated Project Costs  

  • Estimated Construction Cost = Estimated Square Footage x Estimated Cost Per Square Foot
  • Estimated Basic Design Fees = Architectural Fees (%) + Consultant’s Fees (varies by consultant)
  • Additional Estimated Design Services Costs (%)

Please view this Mitchell Wall Project Program Example as a visual aid of how an architect determines the total estimated project costs.

Basic Architectural Fees

As mentioned, basic architectural fees are dependent on a project’s complexity. Generally, architectural projects can be grouped into one of five complexity levels:

  • Level One – least complex
  • Level Two – simple
  • Level Three – intermediate
  • Level Four – complex
  • Level Five – most complicated

The more complex a project, the higher the architectural fee will be.

Custom residences are level-five projects.

Custom Residences: Basic Services

Any architect that designs custom residences will offer the typical basic services:

  • Programming
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents

Custom Residences: Average Basic Architectural Fees

The following information outlines custom residence construction cost ranges and the associated average basic architectural fees.

  • $501k to $1M – 9.7% to 9.3%
  • $1M to $1.5M – 9.2% to 9.1%
  • $1.5M to $2M – 9.0% to 8.9%
  • $2M to $3M – 8.8% to 8.7%
  • $3M to $4M – 8.6% to 8.5%
  • $4M to $6M – 8.4% to 8.3%
  • $6M to $10M – 8.2% to 8.1%
  • $10M to $20M – 8.0% to 7.6%
  • $20M to $50M – 7.5% to 6.5%

Remember that these fees are not a universal standard for architects; they only represent an average and DO NOT include additional service fees.

Custom-project costs can be three times your initial estimate as architects tune their services to fit your needs. A higher level of personalization naturally increases the cost of a project.

The availability of additional services and their fees will differ from architect to architect. Clients must remember this when choosing what custom components they want for their residences.

Find Your Architect at Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design

At Mitchell Wall, we have potential clients schedule an initial meeting, allowing us to learn about them and their expectations for their projects.

We do not charge a fee for these meetings. They allow us to gauge the scope of a project to determine if we’re the right fit to flawlessly execute a client’s custom-built home or addition and renovation.

Once the client lays out all their wants and needs, we use our extensive industry knowledge to suggest the project’s cost.

When the client hires us to bring their vision to life, we will construct a contract that best suits the project’s scope and requested services.

To learn more about Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design, please view

Contact us today if you’re looking for the perfect architect to create your dream home. We can’t wait to work with you!

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