Essays & Essais – the new book by David Marlatt, AIA, is now available for pre-order!

How much does an architect cost?

Hiring an architect is expensive, but not as expensive as not hiring an architect! By helping you anticipate, evaluate and solve problems before they become built problems, the up-front cost of an architect can pay for itself many times over.   

As a very general guideline, an architect’s fees can range from 8% to 15% of the construction cost of a new custom home. Without understanding what an architect does, this sounds like a lot of money, but think of it this way. Thirty percent of your project budget may be spent on construction materials, 8% on pipes and wires, 15% on various finishes and another 8-10% to keep you warm and cool. But, the organization of space and light to deliver function and joy, while also complying with the laws of the governments and the laws of physics, AND a complete set of instructions to build that functional space and light within your budget and schedule – all of the qualities that you will most enjoy for years or decades – this, costs only about 1/10th of your total budget. The other 90% is the manifestation of the first 10%. 

Architects can be paid using several different formula, such as 

  • A percentage of construction cost 
  • An hourly rate, with or without a maximum cap 
  • A lump sum 
  • A lump sum plus expenses, and 
  • Unit pricing based on the area of the home.

The fee structure is often based on the architect’s experiences, local tradition, requirements of lenders, and the priorities of the client. There is no right or wrong to any of these approaches, as any good business relationship is fundamentally based on trust and the integrity of each party. 

DNM Architecture has found over time that a fee structure based on hourly rates with an estimated total fee (for work within the defined project scope) provides the fairest and best balance of flexibility to absorb the inevitable unknowns of a design process with the security for the client to manage his or her budget.

DNM Architecture’s fees are not calculated as a percent of construction, however, historically, our total fees for design through construction documents and obtaining building permits range between 6% – 8% for a new custom home. A smaller remodeling project will almost always be higher because of its relative complexity compared to its construction budget. Once the project is permitted and underway, we provide construction administration services at our hourly rates because the needs of our clients and contractors during construction vary widely.

Finally, for an independent,  third party-look at how architectural fees play out in real life, a great resource is