Cost of Design

What does it cost to design a house? This is a question that I get fairly regularly. There is no real straight forward answer. This question usually followed up with an answer that no one likes. It depends.

So why does it depend?

There are a number of factors that Architects take into consideration prior to determining a fee for any project and it is important to ask questions and understand how those fees are determined.

For my firm we look at a number of major factors that can directly relate to the cost of us to produce the design and documentation that are required. Those factors include but are not limited to:

The site
  • Where is the project located?
  • What is the topography on the site?
  • Does the owners program and design aesthetic fit with the existing lot?
  • Are there Local, State, or Federal design requirements, or extra submission requirements?
  • Setbacks or available building area?
  • Has the site been selected, this means there is time spent by the architect assisting in selecting the site.
The project
  • What is the program? How many rooms, floors, etc.?
  • What is the design style?
  • Does the client what unusual or custom designed features?
  • The project team
  • Has there been a contractor selected?
  • Is the contractor familiar with custom designed homes?
  • How much information does the construction team need to complete the project?
The project delivery method
  • How is the project to be delivered?
  • Design – Bid – Build
  • Negotiated Bid
  • Design-Build
  • Integrated Delivery
The level of service requested
  • Design only
  • Design and interior design
  • Computer Modeling
  • Renderings, Animations
  • Physical Models
  • Construction Administration

The client and budget

  • How decisive is the client?
  • Does the client know what they want?
  • How willing are clients to compromise?
  • What is the budget of the project and how flexible is it?

So how do these questions relate to the design fee. The short answer is time. Most architects determine fees based on the amount of time it will take to design, and produce, and coordinate the required documents for construction. Architects have a limited amount of time and that time is often divided amount multiple projects. So if your project has a lot of time intensive criteria to work with, it will likely cost more to complete that work. An architect may either be required to hire additional help or alter the work load to accommodate more complex projects.


So when you talk to an architect about how much your project may cost you can see without lots of specifics it is hard to give a straight forward answer. The more information that you give the architect ahead of time the closer they can come to giving you an accurate design budget for your project.


If you have questions about a specific project please feel free to email me or give me a call. I am always glad to help or point you in the right direction.