Build Your Own House

Architect Fees

Summary: How much are architects fees and how to save on architect fees when building a new home.

Hi Carl,

I plan on designing my own home.

I have an exact idea of what I what the house to look like and can come up with rough sketches by myself or by using home design software.

How can I save on architect fees in this situation?

I will also be acting as own General Contractor.

Thanks, Sam

Hi Sam,

Architects draw very few new homes or new home plans for us average individuals.

Many Architects feel can’t make enough money drawing the average house unless they sell multiples of a plan trough plan books & web sites.

Most cities, townships or counties do not require the use of an architect unless the house is over a certain square footage or is very complex in design, and then they can require an architect’s signature, and/or an engineering seal of approval on your home plans.

So, call the building inspection department where you plan to build and ask them what their blue print (new home plan) requirements are.

Ask them point blank if an architect's seal is required on the plans. Ask them if an engineer's seal is required.

Sometimes a separate roof truss or floor truss plan is required with an engineer's seal, even if the trusses come from a truss company that has its own engineers.

If an architect’s seal is required, you will have no other option than to employ an architect. I doubt that this will happen unless, as I stated above, you are building a large house or one with a complex design.

There are several different ways in which architect may structure their fees. The most common fee structure is a percentage of the cost of construction, usually 6 to 15%.

On small projects such as a private residence where much of the design work has been completed, a negotiated fee is not uncommon.

It could be an hourly rate or a percentage of the total estimated cost, or a “cost plus” fee, or even a fee based on the square footage.

I would prefer the square footage fee as you don’t know the cost of construction yet.

An architect may say that he (or she) could estimate the cost for the purpose of establishing a fee, but I wouldn’t go that route as his (or her) estimate and yours when you finally get around to getting one, probably will be different by thousands of dollars, with the architect’s being the higher one.

See "Finding a Home Designer" for an alternative to hiring an Architect.

Good luck, Carl Heldmann