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Architect Costs

The amount of money that you spend on an architect can vary greatly, depending on the size of your project, what you want the architect to do and the individual architect’s fee structure. An architect may charge by the hour, by the square foot or a percentage of the total cost of the project. These rates can vary by location. At minimum, you will need to spend $800 to $1,000 to hire an architect to review and approve blueprints and other construction documents if you need a licensed architect’s approval for a building permit or bank financing. Architects usually charge $100 to $150 per hour, and $80 to $100 for work done by a CAD technician.

National Hire an Architect Costs

Cost data is based on actual project costs as reported by ImproveNet members.

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Average reported cost

based on 765 cost profiles


Minimum cost


Maximum cost

Most homeowners spent between:




National Hire an Architect Costs
Average reported cost $4,598
Number of Cost Profiles 765 cost profiles
Minimum reported cost $70
Maximum reported cost $14,000
Most homeowners spent between: $2,560 to $4,539

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You may balk at the idea of paying an architect a percentage, as the architect is in a position to drive up the total cost of a project. You can address this concern by stating your total budget for the project. An architect can help you stay within this budget if part of the service the architect provides is to select, negotiate with and oversee contractors and subcontractors.

Administration of your construction project is considered a fiduciary responsibility. A good architect will ensure that your contractor adheres to design plans and keeps modifications to a minimum. Administration is usually five percent of the budget, so plan on paying $1,500 for a $30,000 project. Most architects who charge on a percentage basis will charge eight to 15 percent of the total cost of the project, so you can plan on spending $800 to $1,500 for every $10,000 worth of work you want done.

If you do not need anyone to negotiate with contractors, and you are worried about hourly fees adding unnecessary costs, you may want to find an architect who will charge a flat fee or who will charge by the square foot. This will increase the cost of your project only if you decide that you want a larger addition than you originally planned. Architects can charge anywhere from $1.25 to $5 per square foot. Some may charge as much as $10 per square foot, depending on the nature of the project. You can spend $1,200 to $5,000 for each 1,000 square feet of your project.

Why Use An Architect for Your Project

Despite their costs, in most residential construction, the use of an architect's services is optional. So why use an architect for your project? A well-trained architect tailors a design to the individual, taking particular needs and particular locations into account. An architect is concerned with aesthetic issues, manipulating proportions, alignments, masses, voids, and materials to create pleasing results. An architect specifies the use of materials, finishes, and fixtures best suited to achieve the client's goals.

An architect juggles many factors when solving a design problem. While sharing the contractor's concerns with getting the project built and meeting the budget and schedule, an architect integrates a broad range of additional concerns, including the following:

Ideally, an architect designs with all of these things in mind, creating a few alternative schemes for the client to consider. These may solve the problem in satisfying ways that the client has not even considered. When a favorite scheme is in hand, the architect develops the design into a detailed set of working documents that can be used for estimates, bids, permits, and construction. During this process, there is time for client feedback to help refine and hone the specifics of the design.

In the construction phase, the architect observes and reviews the work in progress for conformance with the design intent and the contract documents. During this phase, the architect's role is to protect the interests of the client. An architect's broad range of concerns, knowledge, skills, and experience can smooth the way through this exciting and complex process.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  What can an architect do for me that a contractor can't do? 
A:  A large part of an architect's role is to help you visualize potential solutions. This may be achieved through the use of building models, three-dimensional drawings, perspective views, and computer-generated images in addition to traditional floor plans, sections, and elevations. A clear and vivid representation helps you understand what a design solution will look like and feel like, so you can judge it in an informed way.

A contractor may lean toward construction methods and product suppliers with which he or she has had past success. This may narrow the field of possibilities for your project. Most architects approach a project with an open mind toward a broad range of methods, materials, and components. Creative and apt solutions can come out of this freedom.

An architect is knowledgeable about tailoring your design to comply with zoning laws, neighborhood covenants, building codes, and the like. He or she can help guide your project through the construction permitting process. An architect can also recommend contractors who might be well suited for your project. 

Q:  Can I get a permit for construction on my home without an architect? 
A:   In many jurisdictions, a single-family homeowner may obtain his or her own building permit. However, many homeowners find that between drafting the required documents and providing the necessary copious technical information, the task is quite daunting, and they seek professional assistance. The permit process varies considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. It is best to contact your local building department for information. 

Q:  Where can I find an architect? 
A:   Four methods come to mind. First is word of mouth—someone you know has experienced a successful project with an architect. This person may be another homeowner or your builder. Second, you might seek out an architect who has completed a project you've seen in person or in the media that you like very much. Third, try asking for referrals from a professional organization such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which offers listings and materials to acquaint the public with its members. Fourth, ImproveNet offers a free independent screening service that can help you find a local architect. In all cases, it is wise to check references.

Q:  What if I don't like the designs my architect comes up with? 
A:   Upon occasion, a client may be dissatisfied with the architect's work or approach. Keep in mind that the creation of a design is a complex process; an architect may not "hit the nail on the head" immediately. However, if you feel you are not being served adequately or appropriately, it is best to discuss your concerns directly. Most contracts have a provision for termination of services. Generally, either party may terminate the relationship at any time with a week's notice. Of course, the client is required to pay for services rendered up to the notice of termination. 

Q:  What does "licensed architect" mean? 
A:   It means the practitioner has earned a state-issued license to practice by obtaining a professional degree, completing an internship in the office of a licensed architect, and passing a rigorous examination. (It is possible to substitute a substantially extended internship for the professional degree.) By having earned this license, the architect is expected to uphold the prevailing professional standard of practice. He or she is expected to support the public health, safety, and welfare and to practice the profession ethically. It is illegal for anyone without a valid license to represent himself or herself as an architect. 

Q:  What is meant by the letters "AIA" after an architect's name? 
A:   The letters refer to membership in the American Institute of Architects, which is a professional organization. Membership is optional; it is not required for the practice of architecture. The AIA is open to interns (unlicensed) as well as licensed firms and individual practitioners.

The AIA serves its membership by providing a forum for education, information, recognition, advocacy, and advice. Many local chapters serve the public with educational programs and information about the qualifications of their members.

The standard contracts developed by the AIA are widely used and generally accepted by architects and contractors. They are available for the use of members and nonmembers alike. 

Q:  Does it make a difference whether or not an architect uses computer-aided drafting? 
A:   The computer and the pencil are simply different means toward the same end: a design and/or a set of construction documents. The computer is particularly useful for large and complex projects. For home remodels, which are usually full of unique, nonrepeated conditions, hand drafting is less cumbersome than computer drafting. The quality of the final product, that is, the built object, depends on the architect's talent, experience, and care, not on the tool used to produce drawings. 

Q:  Is any project too small or too insignificant to use an architect? 
A:   Even a smaller project such as a deck, an entry, or a bathroom can benefit from the forethought an architect can provide, especially if the project is encumbered with several conflicting constraints. There are clear benefits to solving a construction puzzle on paper prior to buying materials, busting out walls, etc. This type of problem solving is the architect's expertise.

Copyright © Laura Kraft

Last updated on May 5, 2016

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