Getting what you pay for - a look at what it costs to have a house designed and what you can expect for the fee.
Architectural designers generally charge around the same as architects. The respective fees will depend on the scope of the project and services required.
You should expect to pay less for an architectural draughtsperson, as they typically offer a narrower range of services.
The fees you pay to an architect or architectural designer may seem like a lot of money, but in reality they are a small part of the total cost of a building project, and have to be considered in the light of the cost-effectiveness and overall value that the architect or designer will add to your house.
Expect to budget between six to 15 percent of the total cost of the job, depending on its size and value and what services the architect or designer provides. The three usual ways of charging are:
- By the hour - but this could become very expensive for a big job.
- A percentage of the total cost of building - this is the most popular method. It means the cost of the design service remains proportionate to the final cost of the house and you have a better idea of your total costs. The percentage can range from as little as one-and-a-half percent for initial sketch plans up to about 15 percent for full design and administration services. Fees vary among architects/designers and according to the complexity of the project.
- Fixed fees calculated on an hourly rate.
What you get for the fee
Ask for a detailed breakdown of the costs for each stage of the design process, from the initial design work through to the contract administration fee. This should roughly break down to:
- 15 percent for initial sketches.
- 15 percent for developed design.
- 40 percent for final plans.
- 30 percent for periodic observation while building is in progress, and contract administration.
There are a number of factors that will affect the fee:
- The complexity of the project. You would expect to pay less for a basic three-bedroom house than for an innovative, multi-level design.
- The service being offered, i.e. whether the architect/designer will manage the project right through to completion or just parts of it.
- Applications for resource consent if required.
- Extra printing, photography, travel costs, and GST on the total fee.
- Fees are usually negotiable. However, don’t just look for the cheapest price – the fee should reflect the quality and value of the professional services being offered, and be fair to both parties.
Engineers - role and costs
An additional cost to factor in is where the services of an engineer are required. An engineer’s expertise is likely to be needed at two stages of a house-building project.
- If there is concern about the stability or compactness of the earth a geo-technical engineer will be called in, usually by the architect or designer, to do some testing. If there are problems a special design of the foundations will be required, with input from an engineer.
- To design difficult details imposed by the design, or to make certain elements more efficient.
Engineers may also provide expertise where there are other features out of the norm, for example, where weather extremes are likely. The engineer would calculate methods of developing lateral restraint, providing adequate support, and anchorage against wind uplift and snow loading, as well as overall stability.
Your architect or designer should let you know if an engineer is required and what the extra costs will be.
Renovation and alteration costs
Design and management costs for major alterations can be high. With a new house the architect or designer is starting with a clean slate and the design and build process can be quite straightforward. But when you are doing alterations, the architect or designer has to take into account the style and materials used in the existing part of the house and try to match them.
And when the work actually starts, there are sometimes a few surprises that appear when wall boards are removed. Sometimes the architect or designer has to return to the drawing board and start some of it over again.