Fees        Architecture        

I expect to get paid for my work.  It's how I make my living.  This is how my clients express their appreciation for my design services.  I typically begin with a written agreement and a retainer, work hourly, and bill monthly, with a prompt payment schedule.  At the end of the job, a comparison of design fees and construction costs can be made.  It is different for every job, since I typically do not work on a fixed percentage basis, but I have noticed some general trends.  In the half million dollar range, my fees can be less than five percent of construction costs; above a million dollars, they begin approaching three percent of construction costs.  I've never designed a house that cost more than four million dollars, but would certainly appreciate that opportunity!  

About half of my residential projects have construction costs between one hundred thousand and five hundred thousand dollars. Decks are typically even less.  Renovation projects; who can say? As a percentage of construction costs, these fees will be higher than the larger projects.  It's fairly easy to understand why: For one thing, a one hour meeting on a smaller project takes exactly the same amount of time as a one hour meeting on a larger project.  My time is what I am selling.  The creation of a design, within limits, is fairly independent of the square footage size of the project.  In fact, in some ways, it is more difficult to find satisfactory small design solutions.  Almost any design problem can be solved by adding additional square feet.  On the larger projects, while there are indeed limits, there is also typically more leeway to expand the size of the house.  Finally, the complexiity of the design plays a part in design time as well. 

The most common question regarding fees has to do with the comparison of custom designs with internet plans.  Of course it is less expensive to copy a set of plans, than it is to create them from scratch.  Often, my clients will come to me with several internet plans, and ask me to synthesize them.  This is turning into a bit of a specialty for me.  My advice? Don't buy 'em.  The thumbnail sketch of the plan is all I need to go from.  Often, I can deduct the plan and even the dimensions of the house from the JPEG rendering that is common to many of these websites.  

If you have purchased internet plans already, remember that there are copyright issues which I will respect and that I have not played a part in any of your expenditures.  I have never had a client ask me why my fees are so low, but there's always hope.  On the other hand, I've noticed that when fee is the first question asked, it is often the last question needing to be answered.