Architects fees – how do architects charge?

Architects fees can be tailored to suit your project.

The fee is usually structured in one of three ways:

  • as a percentage of the total construction cost;
  • as a fixed fee with a stipulated sum; or
  • as a reflection of the number of hours needed to do the work.

There are advantages and disadvantages for each of these arrangements.

Percentage Fees

Probably the most common method when the architect is to provide full services, with a realistic project budget. Generally the fee for new homes is usually a lower percentage than additions & alterations, and small projects command a higher percentage than larger ones. As a preliminary guide, the fee for FULL architecture service on a new residential project – including design, documentation and contract administration – could be 9% to 15% of the cost of construction, depending on the cost and complexity of the project. For partial services the fee would be reduced accordingly.

An advantage of the percentage fee is that, if the scope of work represented by the project’s construction budget grows because of changes in the brief or because the design evolves, then, under the agreement, the architect is automatically covered for the cost of the extra work.

However not everyone wants to commit to an apparently large fee at the beginning of a project. Furthermore, some clients – perhaps those who are paid by the hour themselves – feel that the under the percentage fee arrangement the architect’s fees are related to the cost of the project, and not necessarily to the amount of work they do if measured by the hour (but these people are often surprised by the low pay that architects accept).

Fixed Fee

Probably the most common method when the scope of work is clearly defined at the outset, with a realistic budget – the architect can then provide a quote for the work, broken into stages. Although it is called a ‘fixed fee’, the agreement must allow the fee to be altered when there are significant changes to the scope of work.

Clients often appreciate having a firm amount to budget for the fee, but it can be difficult to come to an agreement to cover additional fees if or when the scope of work changes. A project can end up being done ‘to a price’ rather than ‘to a quality’.

Time-based Fee, or Hourly Rates

Probably the most common method when there is some uncertainty at the outset of the project, perhaps relating to scope of work, budget, or even extent of the architect’s involvement. For example, often at the beginning of a project the exact scope of work is not settled as there can be a tension between what the clients want to do and the amount of money that the clients want to spend. In these cases it may be good to work through some design options on an hourly rate. The architect’s hourly rates are agreed, accurate records are kept of time worked on the project, and invoices are issued monthly or at the completion of a stage.

An advantage of this arrangement is that the client does not have to sign up for a large fee at the beginning, and can see how the costs develop over the course of the project. However, if used for the full project the client can be up for higher overall fees, particularly if they make a lot of changes.

Hybrid Fee

Sometimes the fee can be a hybrid where we propose to bill for the open-ended portions of the work on an hourly basis and the more finite portions as a fixed fee. As noted above, if there is a tension between what the clients want to do and the amount of money that the clients want to spend, it can be good to work through design options on an hourly rate then, when the exact scope of work is agreed – and affordable – negotiate a fixed fee for the latter stages of work.

Other stages that can be a cause of some uncertainty – and may therefore be done on an hourly rate – include negotiations with council during the assessment of the development application; or negotiations with tenderers during the tender assessment stage; or provision of contract administration services during the construction stage.

We tailor our fees to suit your project.

We incur some out-of-pocket expenses on projects for printing and copying, postage, etc. which are itemised separately from fees for services. Invoices are usually issued monthly and payment is due upon receipt. Consultant engineering services are an additional cost, as are council fees.

Contact us to talk about your project.