How to Hire an Architect for Your Custom Home

March 23, 2017

Thinking of building a custom home, but feeling overwhelmed by the building process? Out of all of the concerns you may have, topping the list may be how to hire an architect to build your custom home.
Here are some questions that may be on your mind:

  • How much will it cost to hire an architect?
  • Should I hire an architect separately?
  • How do I find the right architect to design my dream home?

Those are all questions we’ll answer in this post.
We believe that building your dream home should be exciting and fun, but never overwhelming. So, we want to give you all the facts about hiring an architect, including whether or not you should work with a separate architect. Let’s get started.

How Much Does an Architect Cost?

There are 3 main pricing structures for architects (along with the risks involved with each):

Hourly fee (average $80-150 or more per hour) – Working with an architect on an hourly basis can be risky because you don’t know how long it will take to design your home. Once the designs are taken to the builder, you will likely have to pay your architect more to make changes. Minimize your risk by communicating a “not to exceed” price.

Flat fee (negotiated rate) – When you’re working with an architect for a negotiated, flat fee, there may not be as much incentive for the architect to remain engaged and fine tune the plans to the finish line. Once your architect passes a certain threshold for time worked, you could notice a diminished return on each hour worked.

Percentage of construction costs (8-15% of costs) – Your architect is likely to remain dedicated to the plan, but you may find that s/he has less concern for construction costs, as higher construction costs will also increase their fees. You can usually expect to pay between $8,000 to $15,000 per $100,000 of construction costs when you hire an architect with their fee based on construction costs.

When you hire an architect separately, expect to pay from thousands to tens of thousands for your plans. The price varies based on two main factors:

  • Experience: A younger, less experienced architect that’s looking to build a reputation may charge thousands of dollars less than an established one.
  • Scope: If you’re looking for the bare minimum (such as a basic drawing for obtaining a building permit), you’ll pay less than if you need drawings for an entire house.

All of these are factors to consider when choosing an architect.

Should I Hire an Architect Before I Meet With My Builder?

While there are a lot of fine architects out there, there are advantages to working with an architect who is on staff with your custom home builder. This team approach can save you time, money and headaches.
Here’s how:

Fee control – Because on-staff architects are paid by the builder, they aren’t concerned with making a living off of your individual plan. This allows them – and you – to focus on the design that fits your lifestyle and desires. In most cases, there is a fixed fee that will be identified for you in advance.

Budget control – Your on-staff architect works within a team that understands the costs of materials and construction procedures. For you, this means there are checks and balances in the infrastructure of the team that help you achieve your dream home, within budget. The architect’s goal is to build you a home, not just deliver a beautiful set of plans.

More open communication – Communication happens on a daily basis between on-staff architects and the construction team. Instead of your architect finishing a design, delivering it to your builder, and awaiting changes to be completed by the architect (and then that cycle begins again!), an on-staff architect means that hours worth of reworking can be avoided by making all necessary adjustments before construction progresses.

Here at Estes Builders, our architect is an integral part of the team. Many of our customers love the fact that our on-staff architect is right there at the table while we’re discussing building materials and budget.
Imagine having an architect who’s able to customize your plans and provide real-time feedback as you design your home. With the hundreds of product choices available to you, the last thing you need is to play a game of telephone between your architect, your designer, and your builder.
Avoid headaches and work with an on-staff architect who is part of your builder’s team.

Finding the Right Architect for Your Needs

More expensive doesn’t always equal better. If you decide to go with a separate architect, look at multiple bids. See what’s included (and what’s not) so that you’re not just weighing price, you’re also weighing value.
But, because you’re building a custom home, opt for an architect who works closely with your builder. With a full-service staff like you have here at Estes Builders, our on-staff architect knows the current pricing for materials and labor, and can create a plan that matches your budget and your dreams.
Not only is the design-build process a lot less hectic when you work with an on-staff architect, it’s also a smart financial decision. Save time and money by using a full-service team that works effortlessly with each other.
Would you like to learn more about the building process? Download your free planning toolkit that includes three planning guides: budget, design, and how to hire the right builder. Get it here.