How Much Does A Self-Build Architect Cost?
When you decide to build your own home, one of the first and most crucial decisions you will have to make, is to choose the right professionals. Surprisingly, we feel that the most critical is the Architect… Ok, we would say that! However, it is not an easy task to choose a specialist perfectly suited to your needs, coupled with the added pressure that this decision will be fundamental to your project’s success.
This article will aim to address one of the most common questions we are asked by potential clients: how much does a self-build architect cost? This is not surprising as it is one of the most important points.
When planning your initial budget you need to prepare a breakdown of all of your expenditures. One of the first questions you have to ask yourself is: How much money should I allocate to my architect’s fee? We understand the importance of this and this is why we have written this article!
THE FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE AN ARCHITECT’S FEE
As every self-build project is different, it is not easy to answer the question – how much does a self-build architect cost? Architects provide bespoke services and the final price for their work is not easy to predict prior to the planning of your project.
However, we can distinguish several factors that affect the architectural fees. The first factor is the extent of the architect’s services. Some clients come to us with drafted drawings and only need the technical drawings. Others want to project manage their Self Build and take on some of the responsibilities.
This obviously affects the final fee. The fee presented in this article is based on a full self-build house design service by ACA. Other very important factors include; the size of the project, it’s complexity, and whether the client has any unique requirements. Also, is it an empty plot that requires the installation of all services or is it a replacement dwelling? Is it a historic building or located in a conservation area? How complicated is the design and what is the degree of its repetition?
All of those factors – as well as the experience and expertise of the architect or the company can influence the final fee for their services.
THE WAYS OF CALCULATING AN ARCHITECT’S FEES
Architects’ fees vary depending on the complexity of the project, the level of the services provided and the location in which you undertake your self-build project. There are also several different ways of paying for their services. In the UK, we have three recognised ways of calculating the architectural fees.
The first one is based on a percentage of construction costs (usually between 5% to 12% depending on various factors). The second option is a fixed price lump sum in which you know exactly how much you will pay to your architect, agreed at the outset – based on a fixed project brief. The last one is based on an hourly rate, for example, £60 per hour of work. The architect calculates how much time they will have to spend on particular tasks and sums the hours up multiplying them by their hourly rate.
ARCHITECTS’ FEE BENCHMARK
In the past, The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) provided the Architects Fee Scales, a comparison that you could refer to, based on the type of project. Pre-recession these were between 8-10% for a new build dwelling, and 12-14% for a renovation project.
Last year the Architects’ Journal conducted a survey on Architecture fees in the UK (click the survey link to read a more indepth review).
The average charge-out rate per hour for an Architect in the UK with over 5-years experience is £65 (£80 in London). Average % fee for projects within RIBA stages 1-7 (design to delivery) for a new build project with a budget of £251.000-500.000 (the most common range for self-build projects) is 7.5% of the total construction value.
THE ISSUES WITH PERCENTAGE BASED FEES
The vast majority of architectural practices in the UK work on a percentage cost, so they will charge you between 5-12% of the construction cost for their service. This is common but also a flawed practice in the UK.
The main problem with the Self Build sector is that the self-builders have to set their budgets precisely, in order to get their mortgage and sustain the tricky project cash flow. If they do not know the exact architect’s fee because it is based on the percentage of the final build cost, they cannot plan ahead.
The second issue with this way of calculating fees, is there is no incentive for an architect to save you money during your self-build project – as it will reduce their fee! Obviously, we are far from accusing people in our industry of doing this, but it may logically raise this kind of suspicion. You can often have the scenario where an architect completes the design for a house, which once tendered, comes in way over budget. This can then trigger a larger invoice from the architect to make up for the increased construction cost – and the client is left with a design they can not afford!
At ACA, we always offer a fixed fee, based on our calculation of how much work we will need to do. So if we make a mistake in our calculation and it will take more time, we will not come back to them and ask for more money. We would only ever charge more money, for additional works outwith the agreed scope – which would be agreed in advance.
HOW MUCH WOULD ACA’s ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES COST?
The answer to this question is obviously difficult, and the answer is: it depends. As self-build architectural services revolve around one-off and individually tailored designs, the fees for our services are different every time because there are no two identical projects.
In the previous articles, we explained what a self-build architect does and how to choose the best one for your project. You could also read about what you get for the money you pay. To give you an indication of how the costs are made up on an average self-build project, we have also prepared an indicative fee breakdown below.
This fee proposal is based on a 4 bedroom 2 storey 200 square meter house with a budget of approximately £280,000 ex VAT (based on a self build cost of £1,400 pm2). We divided the fees into the 6 stages we use regularly for our self build projects:
- Stage 1 – Initial Design Development – £6,000 (ex VAT)
- Stage 2 – Planning Submission – £5,000 (ex VAT)
- Stage 3 – Detail Design Development – £7,000 (ex VAT)
- Stage 4 – Production Information – £5,500 (ex VAT)
- Stage 5 – On-Site Supervision – £250 per visit (optional service)
- Stage 6 – SAP & EPC – £400 (ex VAT and optional service)
Total fee £23,500 (ex VAT and optional services)
Note that application costs and other consultant’s fees are excluded and paid directly by the client.
BUT I THOUGHT SELF BUILDS WERE VAT EXEMPT?
Yes, technically all new build houses are Zero VAT rated, however this does not include Professional Services. So you must make sure that you include for the additional 20% VAT charge on all professional invoices (including architects, engineers and other consultants that are VAT registered).
WHY DO ACA COST THAT MUCH?
As you can see, a simple calculation shows that our fee is around 7.6% of the total build cost. Do we cost a lot? We believe that the phrase “you get what you pay for” is accurate.
You can easily find a cheaper practice, more general practice, one which doesn’t understand the self-builder. A lower fee may mean that you don’t benifit from 3d visualization and a VR tour of your future home. They may not be specialists in modern methods of construction or have any idea about the fabric first approach to designig low energy homes – all of these areas will add significant costs to the overall build and running of the home.
Some practices still provide basic hand drawings (which is fine for initial designs), this will affect the speed and accuracy of the construction and will make it more difficult to make changes. A cheaper practice will not provide a SAP calculation which means that you will have to outsource the design work and then pay extra for the service.
We cost that much, because we have completed over 250 projects across the UK and have built up a reputation for being one of the top self build specialists. But this reputation comes with the service we provide:
• Our designers will never progress with the project if they are not certain that you are delighted with the design.
• You will be able to view the design options we prepare in our 3D drawing package and you will then get a feeling of your future home with the Virtual Reality tour we will take you on.
• We provide SAP calculation, EPC and PHPP Calculation (if you are aiming for Passive House standard) in house and make sure that your future home will be as energy-efficient as possible.
• ACA have a team of qualified specialists to provide the service that exceeds our clients’ expectations. We genuinely have a dynamic, multidisciplinary, collaborative team that guarantees every element of our service will be performed with the highest attention to details.
• Our fees are also based on our clients’ budget and requirements. We believe that our fees provide value for money, and will save far more on the build cost than we will ever cost!
We hope that this article has answered your questions and helped you to develop a better understanding of the importance of an architect, their role in your projects
We would love to hear your thoughts – what is your experience of choosing an architect for your project? Do you have any other tips that may be useful for a self-builder who is looking for the right architect? Maybe you have more questions? If so, do not hesitate to ask them in the comments section.