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Ask an Architect, Custom Residential

How Much Does an Architect Cost to Design a Remodel?

One of the most common questions we hear from potential clients is, “What are your fees?” Many architects keep this a mystery to the general public, and it harms the perception of our profession. Step in: Board & Vellum! Here, Jeff Pelletier pulls back the curtain on architectural fees, and makes architecture approachable.

February 10, 2015

We take a lot of project inquiry calls, and one of the most popular questions is always, “What are your fees? To say there is a lot of confusion about this topic would be a wild understatement. Architects (and interior designers and landscape architects) maintain this as a mystery to the general public, and I think it does a lot of harm to the perception of our profession. While we are certainly a bit of a “luxury” service, our fees tend to be a small percentage of overall project costs, and help retain the value of what you build, as it will actually look good! We hear from lenders all the time about how our projects appraise at higher values.

So, what do we cost?

Well, it depends (yeah, yeah, groan…) on a bunch of factors and project types. Our commercial work is calculated differently than our residential work, as is our multi-family work. Basically, our goal is to cover our costs and make a decent profit. This is typically handled with an hourly rate based on employees, or rather, the role of that employee on a particular project. Sometimes, a staff member acts as a project lead and bills out at a higher rate. Other times they’re pulling drafting duty and billed out at a lower rate. This applies to all of us and allows us greater flexibility, and helps everyone grow professionally.

Great, huh? So, what the heck do you pay for a residential remodel or a new house?

The typical fee range for a residential project at B&V varies between 8% and 20% of construction cost, and is most-often billed hourly. (We propose a fixed fee in situations where clients feel more comfortable with that arrangement.) Our fees are not directly tied to a construction cost (some architects do that for a variety of reasons with the associated pros and cons), but tend to hover around that range.

Why the big spread? Not only do we tailor our services to each client (some clients want full interior design services and very detailed renderings while other clients are happy to pick all the finishes themselves and go for less custom detailing), but smaller and larger projects require different levels of work as well. A project's fee range trends slightly higher on smaller projects because the same complicated calculations on a large project are still required for a small project, but it eats up a proportionally higher percentage of the fee on the smaller projects.

Given the range, our goal is to work with you on carefully tailoring our scope of services so you get what you need and go into it with eyes wide open. Our proposals typically include a fee range based on the hours to design the full scope that you are looking for (regardless of your final construction budget). We provide estimates of our fees through the first pricing set of drawings — usually produced during the Schematic Design phase. After we’ve had the initial round of construction pricing based on these early documents, we provide a fee range based on the new construction cost and the agreed upon scope of work in our court. (These fee ranges are not strictly tied to the construction cost, they are estimates and not limits.)  Often times, the scope is adjusted after schematic pricing based on your budget. Regardless, we walk you through where the initial costs were from the proposal and where they are trending based on current costs. Every monthly invoice gets a summary like this one, and it helps our clients keep track of where they are at, based on our fee, and the estimated hours needed to complete the scope of work.

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When you’re taking on a large and complicated project, we have found, having an architect on board really helps you maintain quality and acts as insurance on your investment. Many of us have seen remodels that have seemed lackluster or were missing that “wow” factor. That is what we strive to bring to our projects and it helps us design projects that appraise higher, have designs that look timeless, don’t warrant another remodel in ten years, and help your home stand apart from the crowd. This is your house and we love making it awesome!

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

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Dos and Don’ts of the Pricing Process

We see all the time how a good and thorough Schematic Pricing set helps us avoid the pitfalls of waiting too long to get an official pricing estimate. Still, we understand how the process can be overwhelming and confusing for clients. We’ve got your back with a list of our dos and don’ts for sailing through pricing like a pro.

Why and How We Get Pricing Early

If you’ve started a design project in the last few years, you’ve likely experienced an unfortunate shock when the pricing estimate rolls in. We hate that feeling, just as much as you. Instead of leaving it to chance, we take a different approach to helping our clients navigate the confusing and variable world of construction costs.

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