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how much does an architect cost?

A guide to architects’ fees

A common question that arises is always ‘how much does an architect cost?’ Architects typically charge for their services in one of 3 ways: 

  • A fixed lump sum fee
  • A time charge based on an agreed hourly rate, with an estimate of the total cost provided upfront
  • A percentage of the total construction cost

Sometimes a combination of these may be used for a project, with a time charge arrangement for early feasibility work followed by a percentage basis for the later stages of a project. 

I adopt a time charge arrangement for the majority of my projects – it is simple, fair and flexible. With an estimate provided upfront, this helps you manage your overall project budget. With percentage basis, by contrast, it can be difficult to know what the actual fee will be at the start of a project – if you choose to spend more on one aspect of your project, such as the kitchen, then the architect’s fee will increase accordingly even if the amount of design work involved is the same. If you want to make changes to the design at any stage, this is more complex as the extra design work is not reflected in the construction cost. A time charge arrangement makes this straightforward. 

How much you actually pay will be determined by a number of factors such as: 

  1. The size of the project.
  2. Whatever method of charging is agreed upon, the fee will inevitably bear some relation to the size of the project, as larger projects will generally involve more design work. 
  3. Whether it is new build or involves alterations to an existing building – as a general rule, for a project involving an existing building the fee will be higher as a proportion of the project cost compared with a new build. This reflects the particular challenges of working within the constraints of an existing building. 
  4. The scope of service, or what the architect will do for their fee – are they just submitting a planning application, or are they offering a ‘full architectural service’ including contract administration of the building contract and site inspections? You can read more about the architectural services available at Graeme Ditchburn Architect here.
  5. Whether there are any particular constraints which will increase the amount of work involved eg. projects involving listed buildings or awkward sites.  
  6. Whether the architect is VAT registered – it is important to clarify this at the start of a project. Unless stated otherwise, you should assume that VAT will be applied to architect’s fees in addition to the figure quoted. It is also worth bearing in mind that while some projects such as new build houses or conversions attract a reduced rate of VAT, this only applies to the construction cost – professional fees still attract VAT at the standard rate. 
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