Home Plan Design Fees

home design cost
With the popularity of stock house plans and the affordable price tag common to this product, future homeowners are often shell-shocked at the cost associated with a custom home design. While stock plans can range from a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars, a custom home can be as little as a few thousand for a small to mid-sized home. For luxury and estate homes, the price tag average from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

So what should you expect in the way of fees for a custom home design services? Fees are generally easy to anticipate but are still a variable in many instances. There are several ways in which these cost are structured and it differs among building designers and architects. Below are explanations on how fees can be set up for your custom home design project.

Full Architectural Service - This type of service involves the architect or building designer from the start of the design process to completion of home construction. Full architectural service includes designing and construction management. The designer's fee is based on a percentage of the total construction cost. Percentages can range from 7% up to 20% of the total construction budget; however, the homeowner and building designer often agree upon a lump sum with a guarantee not to exceed that maximum fee. Other cost may result in a hourly rate for design time and drafting time if such event occur outside of the scope of the lump sum agreement.

This service provides a complete and thorough set of architectural house plans (aka construction documents or house blueprints), which leaves little to question about the home construction. The house plans may contain several sheets that are just details alone. These will include construction (sectional) details, interior detailing (trim, moulding), interior wall details, and other special items that may need to be drawn to explain a construction method or finishes. In addition, a number of schedules such as window, door, interior finish, and appliance schedules will specify exact items to be included in the home. All of this helps to pin down a hard number when it comes to pricing the construction cost. Once the plans are complete or near a point of completion, the building designer will make the project available for bidding among several home builders. Because the plans are extremely detailed, builders are be able to make accurate bids (apples to apples) on construction cost.

Full Services Example: This will not include the cost of your land or assume whether or not you own property to build on. Your budget to build your home is $400,000. For full architectural services you can expect to pay at minimum $28,000 (7%) for the entire project. This is in addition to your construction budget. In cases were the budgets are much higher ($1,000,000+) and the homes are bigger (10,000 sq +), the percentage can go as high as the aforementioned 20%.

Basic Architectural Service - This type of service only deal with the design and construction drawing process. There are no services beyond just enough drawings to get a building permit. The designer only provide construction documents and work with the homeowner or with a builder determined by the homeowner. Plans are drawn to the specifications of the homeowner but at a lesser degree of detail. However, the amount of detail is only limited by the budget which the homeowner has determined for a set of house plans.

Usually governed by a per square foot cost, a set of drawings for basic architectural services will fall in a base range of $1.50 to $2.00 a foot for very basic plans. This will vary among designers and the dollar amount per square foot tend to increase as the size of the home gets larger. Some building designers charge according to total heated square feet, meaning air conditioned spaces within the home. Others may charge for square footage under roof which include garages, porches, patios, etc.

Another method which you may encounter is an hourly rate plus lump sum. In this case, the designer charges an hourly rate ($110 -$150 avg.) for design time. This covers multiple hours of designing several proposals of floor plans and elevations for the homeowner. Once the final design is approved, the building designer will complete the working drawings for a lump sum which is determined by the amount of detail to be included in the construction documents. This method is a little less concrete on cost, but most designers who use this approach tend to control the design cost with an agreed upon maximum time spent on the design phase. Below are examples of these two cost methods.

Per Square Foot Example: You want a home of 3,500 sq ft heated space on a slab foundation. At $2.00 a foot, the cost will total $7,000 for heated space. If using square foot under roof calculations, an additional 15-30% is normal and bring the cost to a neighborhood of $10,000 plus. If a basement foundation is desired, the cost will increase.

Hourly Rate Plus Lump Sum Example: We will use the same 3,500 sq ft home example. Here the designer will bill hourly at $120 and spend 20 hours working on design proposals. This totals $2,400 for the design phase. This is ultimately governed by the ability of the homeowner to convey their design needs and wants to minimize hourly design work. However, the designer and homeowner can agree to a maximum amount of time to be used in the design phase. The lump sum (agreed upon prior to beginning the design) to complete the construction documents is $5000. Total cost, $7,400.

Home plan design fees can vary widely amongst building designers and architects. Knowing what to expect help you to better prepare for the cost associated with commissioning basic or full architectural services.