Ashburn, VA

How much does an architect cost?

5% – 20% Percentage of construction cost
$100 – $250 Hourly rate
$5,000 – $60,000 Average total cost to hire

Architects cost $2,000 to $20,000 to draw basic plans or $15,000 to $80,000+ for full house design and services. Average architect fees are 8% to 15% of construction costs to draw house plans or 10% to 20% for remodels. Architects charge hourly rates of $100 to $250 or $2 to $15 per square foot.

Get free estimates from architects near you or view our architectural fees guidelines below.

Reviewed and approved on March 19, 2021, by Tom Grupa and 9 expert architects on HomeGuide.

Architect fees

Architect fees are 5% to 20% of construction costs for residential projects (custom homes, remodels, extensions) and 3% to 12% for commercial structures. The average cost to hire an architect is $5,000 to $60,000 to design house plans. Architects charge hourly rates of $100 to $250 to draw plans.

Architect fees - chart
Architect fees - chart

Architect fees
Fee type Average cost
Fixed fee (drawing plans) $2,000 – $20,000
Fixed fee (full service) $15,000 – $80,000+
Hourly rate $100 – $250
Percentage of construction cost (concept designs) 5% – 8%
Percentage of construction cost (custom house) 8% – 15%
Percentage of construction cost (remodel) 10% – 20%
Per square foot $2 – $15

How much does an architect cost to draw plans?

Architectural drawings cost $2,000 to $20,000 for a builder's set of house plans needed to obtain permits and accurately estimate construction costs. Adding detailed drawing specifications, construction documents, and project management raises the price to $15,000 to $80,000+.

Architect cost to draw plans - chart
Architect cost to draw plans - chart

Architect plans cost
Level of service Average cost
Basic drawing plans $2,000 – $20,000
Full service plans $15,000 – $80,000+

Full-service architect fees for designing and managing large homes or complex projects can cost $100,000 to $300,000 or more.

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Architectural plans are also called construction drawings, design plans, or blueprints, and may include:

  • Site plans, floor plans, and roof plans
  • Exterior elevations from each side of the structure
  • Basement or foundation plans, including footings and bearing walls
  • Detailed drawings of specific elements
  • Section drawings showing cross-section views of the structure
  • Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) system plans

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Average cost to hire an architect

The average cost to hire an architect depends on the job size and whether the architect draws the initial plans or oversees the entire project.

Average cost to hire an architect - chart
Average cost to hire an architect - chart

Average cost of architect
National average cost $15,000
Minimum cost $500
Maximum cost $150,000
Average range $5,000 to $60,000

*Based on 48 responses reported by HomeGuide members.

How much do architects charge?

Architects charge fees based on a percentage of construction costs, an hourly rate, a fixed price, or per square foot. An architect's fee structure depends on the project's size, the complexity of the design, location, and the extent of services provided.

Architect hourly rate

Architect hourly rates are $100 to $250 per hour on average, depending on the architect's experience, skill level, and location. Architectural firms charge $60 to $100 per hour for work by an intern and hourly rates of $160 to $350 for a principal architect or senior partner.

Architect hourly rates - chart
Architect hourly rates - chart

Architect hourly rates
Title Average hourly rate Experience level
Intern / freelance $60 – $100 3 to 8 years
Architect $100 – $200 More than 8 years
Principal architect $160 – $350 Oversees the architectural firm

Architects typically use hourly rates for smaller projects, and there's often a negotiated cap on the number of hours they can work.

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Architectural design fees as a percentage of construction cost

Architects’ design fee percentages average 8% to 15% of the construction cost, but range from 5% to 20% depending on the project's complexity and the services included. With the average cost to build a house at $155,000 to $416,000, architect fees add $12,400 to $62,400.

Architectural design fees as a percentage of construction costs - chart
Architectural design fees as a percentage of construction costs - chart

Percentage-based architectural fees guidelines
Service level Percentage fee Includes
Basic design & limited services 5% – 10% Includes plans and limited services only.
Moderate design & full services 10% – 15% Includes full design services, construction documents, bidding, and new construction administration.
High-level design & full services 15% – 20% Includes full design services, construction documents, bidding, and new construction administration for more complex projects.

Architect cost per square foot

Architects charge $2 to $15 per square foot, depending on the architectural services included and the amount of work. Architects cost $4,000 to $30,000 on average for a 2,500 square foot house.

Architect cost per square foot - chart
Architect cost per square foot - chart

Architect cost per square foot
Service Cost per square foot Includes
Concept development $1 – $5 Includes the initial consultation and basic design plans.
Construction documents $1 – $5 Include detailed plans and specifications required for permit approval and an accurate estimate of construction costs.
Construction administration $2 – $5 Includes bidding and negotiating with builders and conducting site visits to ensure construction adheres to the architectural drawings.

Fixed prices for an architect

Some architects charge fixed prices for small projects where the scope of work is straightforward and can easily estimated upfront. Architects typically don't charge a lump sum for large projects due to the many variables involved in the design and construction process.

Combination fee structure

Many architectural firms use a combination of fee structures, depending on the project phase. Architects may charge on an hourly basis for the initial consultation and design phase, then set a percentage, flat fee, or per square foot pricing after determining the project's size and scope.

Additional building designer fees

Architects charge extra for building design revisions, add-on services, and reimbursable expenses:

  • 3D renderings cost $200 to $800 per image on average for interior and exterior images.
  • Architects bill separately for reimbursable expenses, including printing, photocopies, postage or shipping fees, courier service, travel expenses, and mileage.
  • Most architects charge for design revisions made at the client's request after construction has already started or changes due to issues during the construction phase.
  • Land surveys cost $1,000 to $1,500 for new home construction. Remodels and home additions may also require a survey.
  • Building permits cost $500 to $2,000 for new home construction or remodeling, depending on the location.

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Architect fees for residential projects

Architect fees for residential projects are 5% to 20% of the construction budget or $2,000 to $15,000 on average. Architect fees are 8% to 15% for custom homes or new builds and 10% to 20% for remodels. Some architects charge 5% to 8% for initial concept designs with no added services.

Architect fees for residential projects - custom home, remodel, addition, extension - chart
Architect fees for residential projects - custom home, remodel, addition, extension - chart

Residential architect fee calculator
Construction type Average fee
Concept designs only 5% – 8%
Custom home / new build 8% – 15%
Remodel, addition, or extension 10% – 20%
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Cost of architect for remodel, home addition, or extension

The cost to hire an architect for remodels and home additions is 10% to 20% of construction costs. An architect costs $2,000 to $15,000 to build a home addition. Architects also investigate the existing mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural systems, charging $100 to $250 per hour for research.

An architect costs more for house renovations than new homes because they must create Record Drawings depicting the existing structure before drawing new design plans.

Architects reviewing design plans for residential project
Architects reviewing design plans for residential project

Custom house plans cost

Custom home plans cost $2,000 to $20,000 for the design alone, which may not include detailed specifications or construction documents. By comparison, pre-designed stock house plans cost $500 to $5,000, depending on the home's size and style. Architects charge $100 to $250 per hour to customize a stock plan.

Custom house plans cost - chart
Custom house plans cost - chart

Pre-designed vs. custom house plans cost
Type Average cost
Pre-designed stock building plans $500 – $5,000
Custom house plans $2,000 – $20,000
When purchasing stock home building plans, have a local architect or builder review them to ensure they comply with local building codes.

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Commercial architect fees

Architect fees for commercial projects are 3% to 12% of construction costs, depending on the complexity. Commercial architects charge 3% to 9% to design simple buildings like warehouses or parking garages, while office buildings cost 4% to 10%, and complex structures like hospitals cost 5% to 12%.

Commercial architect fees by building type - chart
Commercial architect fees by building type - chart

Commercial architect cost by project
Building type Average fee
Warehouse, parking garage, or simple building 3% – 9%
Office building, school, or hotel 4% – 10%
Hospital, lab, specialized facility, or other complex building 5% – 12%

*As the total budget goes up, the fee structure slides down.

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Architects fee structure and design schedule

The architectural design process includes five phases—known as the Architect's Basic Services—including the initial meeting and schematic design, design development and drafting, construction document creation, negotiation with builders, and project management or construction administration.

Architects fee structure and design schedule - chart
Architects fee structure and design schedule - chart

Architects fee structure and design schedule
Phase Percent of project Features and deliverables
Pre-design Varies
  • Initial consultation with the client.
  • Determine needs, goals, and priorities for the design.
  • Research and information-gathering.
Schematic design 20%
  • Concept design, sketches, and floor plans.
  • Exterior elevation plans.
  • Preliminary estimate of construction cost.
  • May include 3D renderings.
Design development 10%
  • Refine and finalize the design.
  • Select interior and exterior materials and finishes.
  • Finalize engineering system plans.
Construction documents 40%
  • Detailed technical plans and specifications.
  • Construction documents submitted for permits.
Bidding and negotiation 5%
  • Contractors bid on the project based on design plans.
  • The architect assists the client in selecting a builder.
Construction administration 25%
  • The architect observes construction to confirm compliance with design plans.
  • The architect handles requests for changes.

Many architects base their fee schedule on the design phases. Request a meeting at the end of each phase to review progress and ask the architect to address any questions or problems.

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Pre-design and information-gathering

The pre-design phase includes a consultation to discuss ideas, determine the client's budget and needs for the new space, review the architect's process and fee schedule, and possibly visit the property.

Schematic design

The architect creates initial concept designs that may include preliminary drawings, sketches, floor plans, elevations, 3D renderings, and a site plan, and presents the designs to the client for approval.

Architect drawing custom house plans and blueprints
Architect drawing custom house plans and blueprints

Design development

The architect refines the design, adds more detail to the drawings, specifies exterior and interior materials and finishes, and works with engineers to design the structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

Construction documents

The architect produces multiple sets of detailed technical drawings and specifications required to obtain building permits and accurate construction cost estimates for bidding.

Bidding and negotiation

Builders submit competitive bids based on the architectural drawings. The architect assists the client by answering contractors' questions, clarifying details from the drawings, and evaluating bids to ensure they meet all requirements.

Construction administration

The architect conducts periodic site visits to monitor the construction and confirm it complies with the drawings. The architect acts as the client's representative, working with contractors and structural engineers to answer any questions, approve changes to the plans, and approve the contractor's requests for progress payments.

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How to know if you need an architect

You may need a good architect if your project meets any of the following criteria:

  • You are building a new home and need construction documents for permits or financing.
  • You want an experienced professional to handle space planning and design a layout that works best for your family's needs.
  • You are adding a second story or large addition to your home.
  • You are remodeling a historic home.
  • You want an energy-efficient home that makes the best use of the location and surrounding landscape.
  • Your current home has problem areas and you want help reconfiguring the space.
  • Your project has unique or complex structural considerations.
  • You are building on a complicated site or a location with challenging terrain.
  • You're on a budget and want an architect to devise ways to get more features at a lower cost.
  • Your state requires building plans to be stamped by a licensed architect.
Difference between an architect, home designer, and drafter
Title Function
Architect Licensed and experienced in designing the structural, spatial, and technical aspects of a home.
Building designer / Home designer Specializes in designing private homes but may not have the structural or technical expertise of a licensed architect.
Draftsperson Creates drawings and plans based on the architect's design.
Interior designer Creates the look and feel within the home through décor selection and space planning.

Architect vs. drafter

A draftsperson creates architectural drawings after the architect completes the design. The drafter typically works with a licensed architect who oversees the project and stamps the final plans for approval. Draftsperson fees are $80 to $120 per hour.

Architect vs. home designer

Home and building designers provide architectural design services but lack the same licensing or training requirements as architects. Building designers specialize in private homes and typically charge less than architects but may not have the same engineering or structural systems expertise.

When hiring a home designer, look for a Certified Professional Building Designer who is a member of the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD).

Architect vs. interior designer

Interior designers focus on the look and feel within a home while architects design the structural, technical, and safety aspects. Interior designers make indoor spaces functional and visually appealing by improving the flow, presenting furniture and décor suggestions, and overseeing the decorating process. Interior designers cost $50 to $200 per hour on average.

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Frequently asked questions

How long does it take for an architect to draw up plans?

Architects take 2 to 6 months on average to draw up plans, including all the construction documents necessary for building permits. First drafts of conceptual or schematic designs take 2 weeks to 1 month to complete after the initial consultation.

Communicate often with the architect throughout the project. Timely responses and decisions from clients speed up the process.

How much do architects charge for blueprints?

Architects charge $2,000 to $20,000 for blueprints for a house, not including design revisions or construction administration. Blueprints are also called architectural drawings or plans.

Why are architectural drawings important?

Architectural drawings are critical in ensuring the final construction matches the design. Detailed drawings allow homeowners to visualize the finished home and get accurate cost estimates. Inaccurate drawings may cause misunderstandings between the builder and homeowner, resulting in higher costs and delays.

How are architect's fees calculated?

Architects' fees are calculated as a percentage of the total construction costs, an hourly rate, a fixed lump sum, or square footage. Fees depend on the complexity of the design, the project size, and the services included. Architects lower their rates for larger high-budget projects.

How much does an architect make?

Architects make $50,000 to $140,000 per year on average, depending on experience. Architect hourly rates range from $60 to $100 per hour for interns or junior architects to $160 to $350 per hour for principal or senior architects.

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How to hire an architect

Follow these steps to ensure you hire the right architect that is the best fit for your project:

  1. Find out which architect designed other homes you admire. Look at photos of their past work. Confirm the architect specializes in designing residential homes.
  2. Read their reviews on HomeGuide, Google, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Request references from previous clients.
  3. Request an initial consultation. Discuss your needs, goals, and ideas for the project. Look for an architect who is enthusiastic about your project and gauge your rapport to ensure the relationship will be positive.
  4. Determine the budget. Discuss budgeting options with the architect to ensure you have a realistic understanding of exactly what you get. Get the budget written into the contract to protect you from budget overruns later.
  5. Confirm the architect's fee structure. Ask the architect to specify in writing which services are included in the fee. Request a complete list of additional services to avoid unexpected costs.
  6. Hire the architect before selecting a builder. Accurate construction estimates and competitive bidding from general contractors are only possible after an architect creates drawings and detailed specifications.
  7. Read the contract carefully before signing. Ask for clarification on any points you don't understand.

Questions to ask

Ask these questions from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) upfront when interviewing architects.

  • Are you a licensed registered architect?
  • What is your design philosophy and process?
  • What projects have you worked on that are similar to my scope of work?
  • What is your fee structure?
  • Which services are included in your fee, and which services cost extra?
  • Do you charge for an initial consultation, and if so, how much?
  • How long will the design process take?
  • How will the plans be delivered? Do you provide 3D renderings?
  • What challenges do you foresee with my project?
  • What is your strategy for bringing in a project on time and on budget?
  • How much involvement will you have in choosing and buying fixtures and finishes?
  • Do you work with a specific builder?
  • How often can we meet on-site with the contractor?

Ownership of the plans – According to the standard contract from the AIA, the architect retains copyright ownership of the plans and can sell to other builders or homeowners unless specified otherwise. The homeowner is granted a non-exclusive license to use the plans for only one construction project.

Design and construction errors – The architect or builder may be held responsible for building errors, depending on the contract's terms and the cause of the error. Consult with an attorney near you to address any liability issues.

  • The architect is typically liable for construction defects that occur due to improper designs or miscalculations, or for failing to discover defects when inspecting a home for compliance with the design plans.
  • The builder is typically liable for errors caused by not complying with the plans and specifications.

State requirements – Check local requirements to confirm whether building plans need to be stamped with a licensed architect's or engineer's seal to get a permit.


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