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How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Architect?

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$2,022 - $8,337
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How Much Does an Architect Cost?

Nearly 1,000 homeowners report that the average cost to hire an architect is $5,158, or between $2,022 and $8,337. This can come as a $60 to $125 hourly design rate or as 5 to 20 percent of the total project cost. This typically includes the cost to draw plans, or blueprints. Separately, the cost to hire a draftsperson is about $1,794.

On This Page:

  1. Architect Fees & Rates
  2. How To Know if You Need One
  3. Choosing The Right Architect
  4. How Architects Complete Their Work
  5. Legal Considerations
  6. Conclusion

How Much Do Architects Charge?

Most homeowners report spending between $2,022 and $8,337 when they hire an architect.

An architect is an asset to any project requiring building a new structure or fundamentally altering a current structure. An architect can turn your vision into an actual plan and create blueprints for a builder to work from. They are not only skilled at building engineering, structural and spatial relationships and planning, but they also are familiar with applicable building codes and zoning regulations. They work as your agent and can help you in bid evaluation and selecting a contractor.

Architect fees are typically charged by the hour, as a percentage of construction costs, or by square footage. How an architect charges depends on the firm, the nature of the job, what part of the country you’re in, the economy, and your skill at negotiating.

How Much Does an Architect Make Per Hour?

If you hire an architect on a hourly basis, they might charge you between $60 and $125 per hour for their services, though it can vary. Charging by the hour is beneficial to the architect as some homeowners can find themselves constantly making changes to the design. However, if you tour model homes and settle on what you want, you can save money. With a good plan in mind, at $60 an hour the design fees for a 2,500 square foot house normally run about $4,000.

Some people hire an architect by the hour with a stipulation that the rate is not to exceed a certain amount. Of course, this means that once you hit this price cap, you either need to renegotiate terms or take over the project yourself. For some people, the compromise is to hire an hourly architect only for certain aspects of the job.

Typical hourly fees can depend on who in the firm is handling the work. There may be other levels within a firm, but these four are the most common:

  • Principal: $135-$175. The Principal is the overseer of the entire architectural firm.
  • Project Manager: $95. They usually have more than 10 years of experience and are usually responsible for a number of projects or teams, including client contact, budgeting, and scheduling.
  • Intern Architect II: $80. 6 to 8 years of experience, they handle the daily design or technical developments on a project.
  • Intern Architect I: $65. 3 to 5 years experience, they handle specific parts of the project according to parameters set by others.

An architect may charge by the hour if the full scope of a project is not known, such as if a client presents poor or incomplete plans.

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How Much Do Architects Charge as a Percentage of a Project?

Architects charge 15% to 20% for remodeling projects, while new construction runs between 5% and 15%.

Some architects charge a percentage based on the construction costs. The percentage depends on whether the project is for new construction or remodeling existing construction. Remodeling existing construction often costs more because the architect and builder have to deal with whatever the previous architect or contractors did. In a very old house, they may be dealing with elements that aren’t up to code.

Where things can get confusing is when you try to figure out what counts as a “construction cost”.  Not every decision affects the cost of construction.  For example, what sort of lighting fixture is going in should have no effect on the cost; the junction box to hook the fixture into is the only thing the architect is concerned with. By contrast, when designing a kitchen, what appliances are going where will have a major impact on cabinetry, hook-ups, trim, etc. This will be included in construction costs. A rule of thumb is that if it’s going to affect the actual structural part of the house, it’s a construction cost.

How Much Do Architects Charge Per Square Foot?

Many people are hesitant to hire an architect on an hourly basis because they fear they will see surprises in the final bill. However, the unpredictability of the “per square foot” charge can make the hourly rate more attractive. An architect who charges by the square foot might have to produce more drawings and documents than his time and overhead may be worth. This leads to an architect either producing low-quality drawings or else cutting corners to save costs.

This method of charging does not work well with remodeling projects. As one architect put it, “There are too many moving parts.” However, for some custom homes the per-square-foot method is the best way to handle things. An architect who agrees to this method also often limits the client to a certain number of revisions to help keep costs from running out of control. If more revisions are required than are allowed, some architects will handle the additional changes on an hourly basis.

In the western part of Texas, the charge per square foot for an architect might be about $0.75, while in southern California you could pay $3.50 or higher.


There are some architects who use a combination of hourly and per square foot billing. When working with the schematic and design phases, the charge is by the hour. This provides incentive for the client to be available and to present changes in a timely manner. After the design is settled on, the project’s scope is better known and a more accurate per square foot fee can be assessed.

This works well for the client if the architect is ethical. However, an unethical architect can pad the bill by turning in poor drawings that require more documentation and thus more hourly charges. Unfortunately for the client, there is often no way to know an architect’s ethics beforehand. As with any service you seek to hire, find previous clients and talk to them about the quality of service.

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How do I know I need an architect?

An architect is not always a requirement for a project. For example, the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners offers a flowchart for building in the state of Texas that shows what does and doesn’t require an architect.

If you answer yes to any of the following questions below, then you may need to hire an architect:

  • Do you need a blueprint for bank financing, construction requirements or subcontractors to complete your project?
  • Do you require a permit for your project?
  • Do you need help designing your room/house?
  • Do specific areas of your project require an architect's seal?
  • Is the project anything more than a simple remodel or home addition plan?
  • Are there special structural considerations, such as balconies, roof-decks, multiple fireplaces, etc.?
  • Do you want to maintain and/or improve the value of the house?

Blueprint for Banks

A bank may require a blueprint before it will finance a project. This is to ensure that the project they’re financing is viable economically.

Permits for Remodeling Project

Before a permit will be issued, the issuing department will require some kind of plan to be drawn up. The requirements for this vary. Some places want detailed plans while others are fine with a sketch on a napkin. However, large structures, especially if they are intended for public occupancy, may require a licensed architect before permits will be granted.

Help with Project Design

Some people may know exactly what they want and how to make it fit. Others may know that they need an extra bedroom but aren’t sure how to make it fit into existing construction. Or they may have a piece of land and know where they want the picture window and not much else. The architect plans will fit what you want even if you didn’t know you wanted it until you saw it!

Architect’s Seal Requirement

Depending on your municipality, a licensed architect may be required to place his or her stamp, or seal, on your plans. What the seal does is it asserts that the person doing the architectural work was a legally licensed architect. In most places, single-family detached homes do not require an architect unless that home exceeds 2,500 square feet. Check with your state and local department that regulates architect licensing for requirements specific to your area.

Also, if your project is in an area with specific requirements due to seismic activity, high winds, steep slopes, or certain coastal conditions, the seal shows that the archtiect plans are suitable.

How They Help with Remodels

Most normal remodels and simple additions don’t require an architect. However, if you plan to literally “raise the roof” and add a second story, add a wing to your existing house, or build an entirely new house, an architect can only help. They help with:

  • Making sure the design fits what you envision
  • Obtaining permits
  • Contacting the necessary consultants
  • Calling in structural engineers when needed
  • Making sure everything “flows” with the design of the house so the value of the house doesn’t plummet
Looking for the average cost to add a second story? Check out our Cost Guides.

Structural Considerations for Architects

Some design elements may require an architect’s touch to look good, others to function well, and yet others to do both. For example, the historic Decatur House in Washington DC was the first residence in the area. Owner Commodore Stephen Decatur, Jr. envisioned a Federal-style 3 story house which was designed by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe. One of Latrobe’s biggest challenges was how to run the numerous chimney flues (multiple fireplaces per floor) through the walls to four chimney stacks without disturbing the symmetrical look of the house. Today, architects continue to tackle combining form with function.

How They Help with Your Home Value

Finally, the value of your home, as stated earlier, will suffer or benefit depending on how well your design fits the rest of the house. If you’re at all interested in keeping or improving the value or curb-appeal of your house, then hiring an architect is the best way to go.

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Choosing the Right Architect

Selecting an Architect

Selecting an architect should be done with care. You’re going to be working with this person for a long time, so you have every right to be choosy. In fact, by being particular about who you hire, you stand a better chance of satisfaction with the end result. So you should look for:

  • Genuine enthusiasm for your project. Everyone wants their project to have the top priority, so you should look for an architect who can place your project at the top of the list.
  • Ability to work together. Meet the people you will actually be working with. You need to be sure you both communicate well with each other and get along.
  • Ability to handle the size and scope of your project. You may wish to consult a contractor first to discuss cost, feasibility and design coordination. Select two or more firms and ask for references from previous jobs similar to yours. Verify their expertise in your type of project and their ability to complete projects on time and on budget.
  • Licensing. A quick call to your local building department will help you confirm that the architect that you are about to hire has an active license.

As you get your bids, ask for everything to be in writing and understand the terms and conditions of the work to be done. See what kinds of warranties are offered and know what is included in the price of the estimate.

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Questions to Ask an Architect

No two architecture firms are alike. Each will bring its own expertise, skills, values, and interests to a project. You want to find one that is most compatible with your project’s needs. According to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) here are some vital questions to ask as you interview architects:

  • What is your design philosophy? Design philosophy is how the architect approaches the design such as organic, modern, functional art, or industrial. Basically, it’s their “style”. You want to hire an architect who is experienced with the style you want, or who can provide a design that you feel is the right fit.
  • What’s your experience with projects similar to mine? You want to be sure that the architect has the experience to handle a project of the size and type that you want. Someone skilled in one and two story residential homes might not have the experience to handle a multi-story custom home with extremely high-vaulted ceilings, tall windows, etc.
  • What challenges, issues, or considerations do you foresee? This will let you know where the architect is expecting difficulties and may require design changes.
  • What is the estimated time to handle this project? Times can vary quite a bit. The client is a major factor in how long an architect will take to handle a project. A client with a clear plan and no budget worries can see a result in a few weeks. However, a client without a clear and concise idea of what they want and who is very budget conscious may have to wait as many as four months or longer before seeing a finished design. Some factors can’t be controlled by either the client or the architect, such as weather, zoning reviews, and contractor scheduling.
  • How do you bill? Knowing how the architect charges, hourly, percentage, square foot, etc., will help you manage the budget. As you ask this question and establish your budget, be sure to add another 25% to account for any necessary extra expenditure. If you can’t afford the extra 25%, you may have designed more house than you can afford!
  • What are your basic services, and what would incur additional fees? Be sure you know what is included in the basic package. Additional services could include a survey of existing conditions to make sure that what you want is even possible on the site, 3-D modeling, interior design, and kitchen design. A good architect will make you aware of what is basic and what is extra, but you should always ask if you don’t see it listed. (Many architects today use 3D rendering so that the client can see the project from any angle. An architect who doesn’t do this may not be up to speed on the latest methods and techniques.)

There are more questions to ask depending on your project and preferences, such as if the architect has experience with “green” design and what fees may be incurred by certain design changes. It’s best to ask as many questions as you can think of to get all of the information you need.

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Phases of an Architect’s Work

Many people think that an architect designs a house according to the client’s wishes and budget, hands over the plans, collects pay and that’s it. In fact, most architects have about five or six phases that make up a comprehensive service:

  • Schematic Design – This is known by many names such as Preliminary Design, Initial Consultation and Design, Building Program and Site Analysis, etc. This is the first contact the architect has with the project. They will visit the site and analyze it, consulting with the client to get design ideas, budget information, and determine what the client’s needs are. This will become a written program defining the client’s needs and design goals. This is where the rough draft is created identifying key design concepts and sketches of the size and layout of the project. Some architects may present a couple of options at this time.
  • Design Development – After the client has accepted a plan sketched out in the first phase, the architect will turn it into a more detailed and technical plan. Through 3D computer modeling, some architects can show you a complete model that you can walk through on the computer. This is also where trim and design details will be created that give your project its distinctive character.
  • Construction Documents – These are the hard-copy blueprints that you can take to different contractors to get bids. Enough detail is included in these documents that a contractor can make a fair assessment of what it will take to turn the plan into reality.
  • Bidding and Negotiation – Not all builders can build everything. During this phase the architect can help you get bids from contractors who can perform the tasks needed for your project. You can also bring in your own choices, and the architect will interview each of them to work out any questions and details that the contractor may need to know. Some plan revisions may happen at this time especially if a design element is unsafe or impossible. After gathering all of the information and bids, the architect then turns the final decision over to the client.
  • Construction Administration – Though the architect is not the contracted supervisor for the work, he or she will visit the site to answer any questions and clarify any details. This phase may also include:
    • Preparing any necessary additional drawings
    • Approving the contractor’s request for progress payments (payments made at specified milestones in the project)
    • Handling any changes made to the plans
    • Negotiating disputes about payment for change orders (such as who pays for them)
    • Resolving issues caused by conflicts or lack of detail in the design

Change orders can come from a number of sources. Many times it’s a request made by the client, but other sources include having to use a different material for strength or availability issues, finding unexpected complications when excavating for the foundation, or a remodel discovering termite damage in the existing structure.

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Legal Considerations

Once the architect has drawn up the plans and handed them over to you, who legally owns them? Who pays for design errors? What about construction defects?

Ownership of the Plans

After you’ve paid thousands of dollars to have your custom home designed, you might think the plans are yours. The standard contract from the AIA, however, designates the copyright to the plans as belonging to the architect. The client is granted a one-time use of those copyrighted plans. Your neighbor could hire the same architect and get a copy of your house made!

Where the ownership issue usually gets tested, though, is when a client and architect break up before the work is finished. Can you still use however much of the plan was finished and modify it as you see fit? This may be the case if you hired the architect only for the preliminary design phase, but discuss this matter up front and early in the first meeting so that you are both on the same page.

Design Errors

An architect is expected to know what they’re doing in the conduct of their profession, but even a very competent architect is not perfect. Some errors and omissions are only found out after the construction has begun. A contractor is expected to build to the specified dimension, but if the dimensions are faulty, who bears the burden? Even given that a contractor is expected to “check and verify all dimensions” before beginning the work, some errors can still get through. Fortunately, these errors are often small and can be worked out among the client, contractor, and architect.

Construction Defects

An architect is not a building contractor. Though the architect may inspect the site and verify that the work is going according to plan, he or she is not expected to know the construction trade. He or she may inform the client about any apparent substandard work, but the liability for construction defects falls ultimately on the building contractor.

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In Conclusion

As with anyone you may hire for a project, be sure to get multiple bids. Ask to see several samples of the architect’s work to make sure they are skilled with the design you have in mind. (You wouldn’t hire someone who only designs log cabins to design a skyscraper!) Speak with former clients and ask questions about the process, how satisfied were they with the finished product, and how were problems resolved. Ask about if the plan stayed on budget or were there a lot of change orders that raised the cost. If they worked with a large firm, ask who they worked with directly.

Hiring an architect can be a serious investment, but it’s ultimately worth it to make sure you avoid even costlier home-building mistakes.

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Roland Arriaga A.I.A. Architect More than 1 year ago
For a 2500 sf house, $4000 does not equate to the number of hours an architect has to spend to prepare a good set of working drawings. Let's not say the numerous back and forth meetings with the homeowner to come up with a good design. It is totally ridiculous that a good architect will even begin to think about charging $4000 for a house of 2500 sf. It is an insult. No wonder a majority of architects don't make any money because the market has relegated their importance to below that of the contractor who does not come close to having the education and training that an architect goes through. Contractors are remunerated very well for there work. And you architects out there competing with drafters and house designers are bozos because you will end working your behind off for pennies on the dollar unless you are super fast with CAD ,REVIT, CHIEF ARCHITECT or some other program and can whip out 2-3 minimal sets of plan a week. Here in New Orleans I would say that on the very low end, this is for builders who need a good set of plans for a spec house, perhaps about $8000 with minimal detailing - perhaps an 8-10 sheet job. On the higher end about $15,000 or above depending on the number of hours spent on design with the homeowner and number of hours spent on detailed working drawings - about 15+ sheets of drawings and details. I would venture to say based on experience that very special circumstances requiring highly specialized design services for a 2500 sf house will be $25,000+ where specialized knowledge is required, i.e. LEED rating, Passive Solar Design, etc. Architects need to unite to raise their fees and charge more or less the same across the board or if you want to be remunerated very well then do design-build; become a contractor offering both design and construction services.
Tyesha Cooper More than 1 year ago
???? My house was not 2500 sq feet its only 878 sq feet and that is what I paid. My architect did an excellent job! From customer service to floor plan adjustment all the way to the sealed plans.  I'm not sure what your comment is about or where you even got 2500 sq feet from. His cost was his cost and I did not haggle him. I'm sorry if your business isn't going well but his work spoke for itself and I am very happy. It was a 1 bedroom house. 
Steve Jepson More than 1 year ago
$4000 for a 2,500 sqft house?   @ 60/hr that is only 66 hrs.
Do you really want a set of house plans that was made in 66 hrs?  No. You dont. 
You can buy one out of a magazine that is good for nothing but the rights to changes it for that.
Selling plans by the sqft is like selling cars by the pound.   
WILLIAM WINDER More than 1 year ago
These articles drive me crazy.  $60 to $125 per hour is far less than a plumber charges.  The real problem is that the public has no idea what an architect does or how he/she can add value.  The architectural profession and the American Institute of Architects do so little to educate the public it is laughable.  My clients appreciate what I have done once the project is complete but that is long after the price was negotiated. Homeowners and contractors use architects only when the project is so difficult the contractor cannot resolve the design issue.
Mark Demmerle More than 1 year ago
I have been in practice for 40 years and, I have never heard of such low compensation! In my area, southern Fairfield County, Connecticut, those building new homes are spending a minimum of $ 350.00 per square foot for a basic design, and the houses are considerably larger than 2500 SF. Assume 4500 SF x $300.00 + 1,500,000.00 +/- ( entry level ). Architectural Fees for such a project will exceed $150K. Hourly rates are higher than this article suggests as well. Principals bill their time at over $500 per hour and, interns are billed at $125.00 per hour. The state of Connecticut does not require an architects stamp on a set of residential plans. Therefore, there those who buy plans online or, leave the design decisions up to the builder. By the way, builders work at a higher overhead and profit structures than architects in my area.
Lucas Gray More than 1 year ago
There is no way the design of a 2,500 square foot house will run about $4,000 if you hire any self-respecting architect. Even looking at the math outlined in this article that makes no sense. A 2500sf home will run around $150/sf or more depending on complications of the site, of the design and the quality of finishes. 2,500sf x $150/sf = construction cost of $375,000. Even if you went with the very low end of the percentage of construction cost, say 5%, you are looking at a fee of $18,750 or more. It is misleading to say you will get anything decent for only $4000. I don't know any architect that charges by the square foot.
Barry NewDelman More than 1 year ago
Lucas, Let me introduce myself to you , you now at least one architect that charges by the square foot.. In my 40 + years of private practice (1968-present) I have always charged on sq ft basis for both our Commercail work and residential work for the simple reason. the most if not all metrics on construction costs are on a sq ft cost. (even the examples on this forum) Sq ft cost Fees take the Padding out of the AE fee proposal as none of us have control over material and labor costs consequently a % fee is not a confidence building method. on a sq ft fee the client knows exactly what to expect. and how to budget. it also eliminates legal battles if relationships go south. ITS BEST TO BE UPRONT
Tom Daniels More than 1 year ago
While all of this is good, I think the bottom line is this. No-one is going to take on a project for less than they feel it's worth to them. The reason that few architects take on small resident projects is because there is no money in them either from the client, builder, or Realtor...So I would suggest that small projects up to about 4,000 SF are governed more by the clients budget and the willingness of the designer to develop the needed contract documents. The client needs to understand the rate is best if it is fixed fee for a 100% set of CD's, the designer needs to commit to this including the effort to get the permits (assist the builder/client). When everyone goes into the project with their eyes wide shut its the beginning of a real horror story (lose-lose). Communication is extremely important for everyone. And many architects do a really great job with the plans but not so good with the communication aspect of the small projects. It takes about the same effort to develop a 2500 SF residences as it does to develop a 6000 SF home. SF pricing is not a win-win, because of the clients ability to make changes ad-hock with no end in sight. The percentage of final construction cost still leaves the client on the short end and the designer too. Fixed fee is best because the client understands the cost and can convert to a SF price for evaluation...the designer know how much the project generates in fees and the time commitment needed to fulfill that agreement. I would suggest that all parties develop a list of items that trigger additional fees for the client. These include (1) preliminary design set, (1) final review set, (1 set of CD's for permit. only the items that are the subject of the review are allowed, additional items (changes) are at a per-disclosed hourly cost rate sheet. This is win-win for everyone.
Peter Foxley More than 1 year ago
Please note that the fees quoted are primarily small remodels. Clients usually start with a budget in mind. Stating what percentage soft costs are, include line items for required foundation and windstorm framing engineering/ MEP/+ misc. consultants, as a percentage of the total project cost would be more meaningful. Also providing a disambiguation of a draftsperson, home designers and architects, AIA, LEED, etc., would help new clients set expectations. Architects add value to a project in many ways; Kudos for referring to hiring an architect as an investment.
Custom Property More than 1 year ago
I worked in architecture firms for years.  Drafters cost $100/hr (over 10 yrs ago in MA) at least, billed thru an architecture firm.  I just completed a permit set for a house and it was over 50 hours of work for a 2,000sf and the client had handed me a floor plan and elevations he liked from an internet plan site (the house he gave me was smaller though and I redesigned parts of it). I charged $50/hr.   He has already balked at my fees, yet he's a mechanic who charged me $85/hr to put spark plugs in and change the oil in my car.  Sorry, my construction knowledge (I'm a licensed construction supervisor in MA) and 5 yr professional architecture degree should be worth more than his guy with a wrench.  It also took 6 months of client contact with him before he signed a contract.  I even met with him 2xs for free.  I'm going to up my fees to at least $65/hr with a goal of eventually charging $100/hr and getting an intern to help.
Jen Mosley More than 1 year ago
Hi there! My husband and I are trying to remodel our home and possibly add an addition on to the back of our house. Our house is approximately 1,500 SF and we live close to Pittsburgh, Pa (Coraoplis). We are hoping to get help with designing a new layout for the inside of our home and just dont know what to expect cost wise. Any suggestions or know of an Architect that works in our area? 

Thank you,
Jen & Mike
Judy Quasney More than 1 year ago
Your description was helpful and sufficiently detailed to allow a homeowner to get started with a custom home project. 
Leandra Pearson More than 1 year ago
Hi, this is a lot of good information. But I still ave no idea how much my project will cost.
Mark Demmerle More than 1 year ago
You need to issue a set of complete construction documents, plans and specifications, for whatever it is you are building to three builders. If your drawings are complete the difference from high to low bid should be about 10% provided your bidding field consists of builders that are all approximately the same size organizations. After the bid and negotiation process you will know what your project costs are. It is wise to set aside a contingency fund equal to 10% of the base bid to cover costs of unforeseen contingencies. These unforeseen costs usually occur at the beginning of the project.

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