How Much Does it Cost to Hire an Architect?
How do the fees break down and are there likely to be extras? This advice from Houzz professionals explains each stage
Professional advice from: Lydia Robinson of Design Storey; Chris Jones of Jones Associates Architects; Annelise Penton of Penton Architects
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“Typical architects’ fees can vary quite significantly, as there are no standard fee scales,” Lydia Robinson says. She explains that some architects will charge fixed fees if the scope is clearly defined and the project isn’t too complex.
“Others may charge a fee that’s a percentage of the construction cost, or work on a time-charge basis, where you pay per hour of the architect’s time,” she continues. “Equally, the fee may be a combination of the above, where different methods are used for different phases.”
“For full architectural services in connection with a high-quality refurbishment or extension project, I would expect an architect’s fee to be between 12% and 16% of the construction cost,” Chris Jones says.
The price you’ll pay for an architect’s services depends on the nature and scale of the project, Chris says, “plus the extent of the architectural services provided”.
“If it’s a complex existing building or a listed property, the fee would be more,” Lydia says. “Costs also depend on the size of the practice, their workload, and their reputation – be prepared to spend more for a ‘big name’, award-winning or highly publicised architect.
“For a standard residential renovation with a small extension, budget 12% to 14% for the full service,” she continues. “Smaller projects command a higher percentage fee, as the overhead of a small project is similar to that of a larger one.”
The price you’ll pay will depend on how long you want to use the architect. Some homeowners hire someone to take them to the planning stage, while others work with them for the duration of the project.
“I like to group architects’ services into three broad stages,” Chris says. He lays these out as the scheme design stage, the pre-construction stage and the construction stage.
“The scheme design stage is when the overall concept and layout options are explored and defined, and a budget cost estimate prepared,” Chris says. “This usually concludes with the submission of a planning application.” The proportion of the total fee payable for this stage is around 20% to 30%, according to our experts.
Annelise Penton says fees for this stage can range from around £2,500 for an average extension or refurbishment to £7,000 for a new-build house.
The technical design phase takes around 30% to 40% of the overall fee, say our experts.
“This is a critical pre-construction phase when design issues such as materials, lighting, joinery and finishes are addressed through in-depth discussions with the client,” Chris says. “A comprehensive package of detailed drawings and a specification or schedule of works are prepared for accurate pricing by the contractor.”
“The fees at this stage vary according to the level of input a client wants in respect of selecting materials and finishes,” Annelise says, “but we suggest that these stages can range from £9,000 to £12,000, depending on the scale of the project.”
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“During the construction phase, we maintain a close involvement with the work progressing on site and also administer the building contract, including managing the costs and certifying payments,” Chris explains.
This phase costs around 30% to 40% of the total fee. “It’s worth noting that more than half of the total fee is payable before any building work starts on site,” Chris adds.
“The site stages are much more difficult to estimate, as the cost will depend on the scale of the project and the competency of the contractor,” Annelise says. “We’re often only called in on an as-and-when basis, when we would charge an hourly rate.”
She points out that many clients don’t retain an architect for the construction part of their project, as they’re happy to deal with day-to-day queries and payments. “Although paying additional fees at this stage might seem uneconomic, having an independent professional to value the works and make sure the details are correctly delivered by a contractor can make a huge aesthetic difference, plus save the client money in terms of keeping the project on cost,” she says.
Chris highlights a few statutory fees that need to be paid on top of the architect’s costs. The first is the planning application fee. “The standard fee payable to the local authority for a Householder Application [relating to a single dwelling house] is currently £206,” he says. You’ll need a full planning application for works relating to a flat, although the fee is currently the same at £206.
“A fee will also be payable to either the local authority building control department or to an approved inspector for the assessment of your design and site inspections to ensure compliance with Building Regulations – which are quite separate and distinct from planning,” he says.
This fee will depend on the scale of the project, but Chris gives a recent example of a fee of around £2,000 for a substantial renovation and extension project.
“Other consultants that might be required are a structural engineer, a quantity surveyor and an ecologist if the proposed project has an impact on protected species,” Annelise says. “Also, [you might need] a surveyor to carry out a measured survey of the land and buildings plus any trees, as many local authorities make a tree survey a requirement for a planning application.”
“It’s important to be aware that building professionals tend to talk about build costs as net figures,” Chris says. “Generally, refurbishment and extension works are liable to VAT at the full 20% rate.
“As a rule of thumb, I advise clients that this means they need to add 40% to 45% to the net build cost to get to the overall project cost (to include fees and VAT),” he says.
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When asking for quotes from professionals, our experts recommend giving as much information as possible. “Architecture is a service-based industry, so anything that affects the amount of time taken to do the design work will affect the cost,” Lydia says. “Anything you can do to define the scope of the architect’s involvement, the risk, and the complexity will assist with providing a fee.”
“Remember that cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better value – you need to be sure you’re comparing like-for-like,” Chris says. “My own practice’s fees tend to be at the upper end, as we provide a comprehensive package of services, and I often have to point out to potential clients that lower fee quotations they may have received from other practices do not include the same scope of services.”
Chris recommends you establish details such as how many layout options you’ll be presented with, what level of design detail will be included, and whether you’ll have an experienced architect or junior working on your project.
He also suggests asking how closely the architect will be involved in the building work and how often they’ll attend site meetings.
Are you planning to use an architect for your project? Was this budgeting advice helpful? Share your thoughts in the Comments.