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What is a fair price for a home design?


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Marty's Forum Posts: 59

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By Marty in Boston, MA on 10/8/2006


I met with an architect last week to discuss my house plans.  When I met with him, I showed him a layout that I created utilizing Punch Software.  I designed the house based on various ideas that I took from the many open houses that my wife and I attended.  Structurally, I obtained ideas from my dad who is a retired general contractor.  The architect reviewed my plans and made some (minor) suggestions.  I was happy to learn that the architect  was impressed with my work (I have my dad to thank for that since he spent a lot of time helping me with the design).  I was quoted $3,500 for a detailed plan of the home.  Is this a reasonable price?  I realize that the architect will need to start over in order to provide me with a detailed plan from his computer system; however, the price seems a bit high considering that I already did what I consider the difficult part – planning how the house will flow.

 

The home is approximately 3,500 s.f.  I contacted the planning board in the town where I will be building and was informed that the plans do not need to come from an architect; however, a detailed structural plan is required.  While am at it, has anyone submitted their own plans to a planning board??

 

Thank you for your help.

 

Marty    
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By Randy in Dunlap, TN on 10/8/2006


Marty,

      I hired a designer vs an arch because, like you, I knew exactly what I wanted - I just needed the blueprints drawn with framing, foundation, electrical, etc.....  Most architects run between 7-10% of the total cost to build, whereas most designers run between 1-3% of the total cost of the project.  I used a designer for a 4600 sq ft custom home and his fee was $4200.  It sounds like the number you mentioned is a very good price for "engineered plans" esp coming from an architect.  Hope this helps.

Randy

p.s.  One thing you may want to consider are the covenants required in the area you are building.  You mentioned a planning board, I assume this board will approve your plans...yes??  If so make sure all covenants or building requirements are met before you smooth your plans so you don't have to go back and change them after your plans are submitted.  These are normally cosmetic things or square footage requirements.  You can save yourself $ by not having to change something in your plans after they are smooth.


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By Marty in Boston, MA on 10/9/2006


Randy,

 

Thank you for your post.  If people are paying an architect 7-10% of total cost to build, then I am getting a “really” good deal.  I can’t believe that people building a home costing $200,000 are paying up to $20,000 for an architect.  I should probably add that the architect is a friend of mine (not close; however, we have known each other since we were kids).  He mentioned that the fee was a “special fee” for me, though I still thought it was high.  I base this on the fact that a colleague of mine paid an architect $4,000 for his house plans and his home is twice the size of what mine will be.

 

My dad designed the last home he built (which is the home he and my mom are living in now).  He drew and submitted the plans to the board and they were accepted (different town and state).  My dad has offered to do the same for me; however, his drawings are not computerized and done solely by hand.  This means that changes are not made easily and any changes mean “back to the drawing board.”  Also, as a builder my dad is able to envision a finished product, whereas I can’t so easily.  That is another reason why I wanted computerized drawings. 

 

Looks like I have a decision to make.
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By Thomas in Chuluota, FL on 10/16/2006


Hey Martino;

You are getting a very good deal on those plans.  I made a big mistake and didn't do my research before getting plans for our 1000 sq ft addition.  I talked to 3 architects who told me $3.50 to $4.00 a sq ft for the plans.  Good luck with the house.

Thomas


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 10/17/2006


I hate to see these rules of thumb, such as most architects charge between 7-10% of you home price.  I found architects charge based on the services you wish them to provide, and they generally charge more because they are better trained than designers (that architecture school and license is a premium, you pay extra) and they provide more services.  If you need detailed structural plans, at least locally these can be stamped by an architect although not by a designer, so they definitely have some structural training as well.  Architects also typically inspect the work progress, building materials, etc.  Again designers don't.  An architect also buys you some credibility with the codes department as an O-B (they tend to think the architect is inspecting the progress too) and with material suppliers, although some of the trades are uncomfortable if they think an architect is overseeing their work.

I used an architect, we negotiated the fees upfront.  His services consisted of a complete set of plans, and nothing after this.  I could have saved some money using a designer, but I could have spent more money using a designer too.  I found for the services I wanted from an architect, the price was comparable with most home designers.  He wasn't the cheapest, he wasn't the most expensive, however he was the best value.


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By Jay in Elkhart, IN on 10/18/2006


Marty,

I also feel that you are getting a reasonable price for your plan designs.  One thing to remeber that if you do not build homes everyday and have a solid group of subs and vendors that you work with on a regualr basis, it is worth paying a little more up front with detailed plans that outline your detail, that you may or may not know to ask for.

 

Just my two cents

Jay


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By Marty in Boston, MA on 10/18/2006


As each of you posted your messages, I received an email of your postings.  I have thanked each one of you (or so I thought) by replying to the email I received.  What I didn’t realize is that I was replying to the Webmaster.  I am not sure if those messages were forwarded on to you so I want to thank all of you again for your helpful postings.  I am leaning more and more towards going with this architect.

 

Thanks again

 

Marty
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By Ken in Fredericksburg, VA on 10/26/2006


I agree with the earlier post about not using rules of thumbs based on sq ft or percentage of project when considering an architect.  Think about it a second; a rectangular 1 story that is 1000 sq/ft vs a 2 story, multi-cornered building, with the second floor overhanging that is 1000sq/ft.  It isn't reasonable to charge the same for both.

As a designer, I also work as a drafter for an architectural firm.  From my experience working with architects the cost per square foot pricing is usually related to existing building interior partioning (like designing new tenant stores in an existing strip mall).  The cost per total project is also usually only used for comercial buildings; with a deposit made up front, incidentials and percentage invoices paid during design & construction, and the final fee at the completion of the project.

For a new residence, most fees are established at the front of the project, $x for design, $x for construction documents/permitting, and $x for fees.  Architects also cannot stamp (legally) drawings they didn't create (IE you can't draw them, and then just pay for their stamp)(well, you can, but they aren't supposed to).  They are legal documents, and the architects take on the liability of their accuracy once they are sealed.

From the designer standpoint, I only provide what is needed to get permits.  Finishes, details, and construction methods that aren't regulated by code are left to the homeowner/builder.  The sole intent of those documents is to help establish an understanding between the owner and the builder what is to be built.  While a much cheaper route, the owner must have a well trusted/experienced builder who can do the job to the satisfaction of the owner's expectations.

Another drawback to not using an architect is there is no one acting on the owner's behalf.  If there is a problem, or the execution of the plans is not up to expectations, the archtiect can review the building process and audit or correct issues between the owner and builder.  Most designers do not provide site visits or support after the drawings are issued.

So, even though a lot of work was performed before talking to the architect, a lot of work will still need to be done checking your work and making sure they meets your needs (don't be surprised if the architect suggests alternate layouts to reduce cost, or increase use).  Plus it will be several hours research confirming code issues & requirements as well as checking structural sizing and locations, and because of that they are assuming some of the liablity should there be any problems once the house is constructed.  Without seeing your plans, or how complex they are $3,500.00 seems like a darn good price.


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By Kelly in Charlotte, MI on 12/26/2006


My DH and I are in the process of finalizing our house plans.  We did not go with an architect, b/c, quite honestly I didn't feel we needed their pricey view.  We had a good idea of what we wanted.  Our home is going to be around 3,200 sq ft and he is charging us $1,200.  He will draw up all of the blueprints and allow us to make as many copies of them as we want.  If we make any changes after getting bids, then he's going to charge us an hourly rate (I think).  We have been very happy with him and, having done some building himself, he has offered up great suggestions.
Kelly

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By Dale in Richland, AZ on 1/8/2007


As a designer, I agree, completely. Every job is different.

But there are some basic costs of being in business, having the education/knowledge background, and such that from my stand point say there is a minimum that I am willing to work for, regardless of the job itself. Also what services are provided have an impact on that number, usually my firm provides permit process services because it saves time for the client and me for them to not be involved in that situation where I know the process and everybody downtown.

As for actual costs, in Arizona you would  have a lot of work invested in finding anyone who would do competent residential construction documents for less that $1.50 per square foot.

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