architectural fees for homes and buildings explained

Architect Hourly Fee Rates

Architect Hourly Fee Rates and what that means: that’s the subject of this page.

If your architect is charging between $100 to $250/hour, that’s in the normal fee range for Architectural fees.

Let’s do some math to see what this means on a typical project, comparing with the fee range ballpark estimator on the Fees tab of this website.  Let’s get very specific.  So, let’s look at the Residential Architectural Fees page and review those percentage fee ranges and see how they stack up next to the hourly rates charged by many architects.

Let’s establish an hourly rate somewhere in the middle: $150/hour.

Now let’s look at what the actual cost of construction might be for a house.  Let’s say it is about $200/HSF (Heated Square Foot).  If you are one of those who think you’re going to get your architect designed custom home with tall ceilings, stone walls, fireplaces, steep roofs, 3 car garage, big kitchen with top of the line appliances for $100/HSF you need to go somewhere for about 2 years, researching these things, then come back to this website.  You will, by that time, be a believer of more realistic prices for nice homes.  If you want to know the truth, read on.

So: $200/HSF.  We need a SF to multiply that.  How about 3,000 HSF?  Quite a few people these days think they want to downsize, but very few actually end up much under about 3,000 HSF.

Therefore: $200 x 3,000 = $600,000.  If you have a problem with that, it’s really too bad.  That’s the going rate and that’s not the upper end.  It could be substantially more, like $300/HSF x 3,000 = $900,000.

Let’s figure that you are going to have your architect design some nice things into your house.  Like a nice large kitchen with custom full-height backsplash, custom master bathroom with custom oversize 2-person shower and a host of other features.  The fact that your architect designs these is the point.  Not whether you build them or not.  We are talking about the time it takes your architect to design and document your project, along with their other activities.  Let’s call this a $750,000 house with 3,000 HSF, which is $250/HSF.  That’s probably much more realistic.

Now then, let’s examine the historic fee range percentages for each phase of architectural work based on this amount.  But first: why all the fuss over the actual construction cost of the house, which no one will know exactly, until the builder signs a contract to build it anyway?  Well, here it is:  the theory of architectural compensation is, has been, and will likely always be, in some respect, based partially on the level of complexity, size and amount of detail associated with the project they are designing.

So: once the architect has a pretty good idea of the real cost of construction (not necessarily what you want to pay to have it built, but what it will likely really cost when all is said and done), the architect can apply these percentage ranges of fees for Basic Services and the other service types, to obtain at least a ballpark idea of where their fee dollars and hours might be.

Wait a minute.  How would the architect get an idea of the amount of hours he or she might spend on your project just from the realistic construction cost?  Pretty simple: he or she can divide their average hourly rate into the amount of percentage fee ranges to yield a decent guesstimate of the number of hours.

And that’s not a bad idea.  So, let’s try this:

Let’s see:

Likely Construction Cost: $750,000.

BASIC SERVICES historic average fee percentage: 8% to 10%.

That = .08 x $750,000 = $60,000  and .10 x $750,000 = $75,000.

So: the average Basic Services architectural fees for a nice custom home with 3,000 HSF costing about $750,000 to build might be in the range of $60k to $75k.  Okay so far.

Now then, let’s apply the architect’s average fee rate to see how their hours stack up:
$60,000/$150 = 400 hours.  And $75,000/$150= 500 hours.

BASIC SERVICES = 400 to 500 hours +/- for this project size and complexity historically.

From architectural firm time sheets keep over several decades, this level of effort can and will take between 400 to 500 hours, so, for Basic Services, this is in the right ballpark.  See how this works?


 

Let’s move on to ADDITIONAL SERVICES:

CABINETRY ELEVATIONS: 1% to 2%
$750,000 x .01=$7,500.   $750,000 x .02=$15,000.
Then divide by the hourly rate to see the hour range:
$7,500/$150=50 hours,  $15,000/$150=100.
50 to 100 hours.
Experience dictates over 100 hours, so we’re at least in the ballpark on this.

ELECTRICAL SCHEMATICS: 0.5% to 1%
$750,000 x .005=$3,750.   $750,000 x .01=$7,500.
Then divide by the hourly rate to see the hour range:
$3,750/$150=25 hours,  $7,500/$150=50 hours.
25 to 50 hours.
Experience indicates 36 to 50 hours (for this project size), so this is well-bracketed.

BIDDING/NEGOTIATING/COST REDUCTION ANALYSIS: 0.5% to 0.75%
$750,000 x .005=$3,750.  $750,000 x .0075=$5,625.
Then divide by the hourly rate to see the hour range:
$3,750/$150=25 hours,  $5,625/$150=37.5 hours.
25 to 37.5 hours.
Experience is that this can easily get into more than 40 hours, but on the upper end, we are not that far off, if it doesn’t become a prolonged event.

CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION: 0.5% to 2.5%
(which can vary widely depending on services provided)
$750,000 x .005=$3,750.  $750,000 x .025=$18,750.
Then divide by the hourly rate to see the hour range:
$3,750/$150=25 hours,  $18,750/$150=125 hours.
25 to 125 hours.
So now you see why there is such a spread of percentages and why this service must be offered and provided hourly.  There is simply too many variables.  Does the architect visit the jobsite once a week or once a month?  Is the architect driving or flying from a distance?  Are there other expenses involved?  Is the architect coordinating with the Contractor on a daily basis?  Is the architect processing the Contractor’s pay requests and shop drawings?  Lots of variables.  Most clients want everything: all of those services, but they need to realize that they will have to pay for them.  The architect is usually the only person that stands between the project being built the way it was designed and big problems.  Without the architect’s guidance during construction, builders and suppliers can take many liberties, without the client’s knowledge, as most owners are not well-informed about what they are seeing.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT: 0.5% to 2%
(can vary widely depending on what the client needs the architect to do for them).
$750,000 x .005=$3,750.  $750,000 x .02=$15,000.
Then divide by the hourly rate to see the hour range:
$3,750/$150=25 hours,  $15,000/$150=100 hours.
25 to 100 hours.
These sorts of services can be just about anything the client needs that they don’t know how to do for themselves: selecting and buying appliances, final color choices, selecting and buying tile, fixtures and other materials, representation during crises issues, coordination with attorneys and banks and other activities.  However, the range indicated above may be an average spread of time.

This analysis has not touched on cash items like 3D imagery.  Nor Interior Design and additional Interior Architecture, which are typically hourly, additional.


Now let’s look at ARCHITECTURAL SERVICE PACKAGES in terms of hours for each:

TIER 1
BASIC SERVICES:                          8% to 10%
.08 x $750,000 = $60,000  and .10 x $750,000 = $75,000
$60,000/$150 = 400 hours.  $75,000/$150= 500 hours,
400 to 500 hours
but this can and will vary, depending on complexity and project size and cost.

TIER 2
Basic + Cabinetry:                          up to 12%+/-
.12 x $750,000 = $90,000.
$90,000/$150= 600 hours+/-.
up to 600 hours.
This can and will vary, depending on details and project size and cost.

TIER 3
Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical:     up to 13%+/-
.13 x $750,000 = $97500.
$97500/$150= 650 hours+/-.
up to 650 hours.
This can and will vary, depending on complexity, and project size and cost.

TIER 4
Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical +
Bidding (and related):                    up to 13.75%+/-
.1375 x $750,000 = $103,125.
$103,125/$150= 687.5 hours+/-.
up to 688 hours.
This can and will vary, depending on complexity, and project size and cost.

TIER 5
Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical +
Bidding +
Construction Administration:      up to 16.25%+/-
.1625 x $750,000 = $121,875.
$121,875/$150= 812.5 hours+/-.
up to 813 hours.
This can and will vary, depending on tasks, and project size and cost.

TIER 6
Basic + Cabinetry + Electrical +
Bidding +
Construction Administration +
Project Management:                     up to 18.25%+/-.
.1825 x $750,000 = $136,875.
$136,875/$150=912.5 hours+/-.
up to 913 hours.
This can and will vary, depending on tasks involved, and project size and cost.