When getting ready to build a new home, many future homeowners will spend long hours looking over home designs, interior layouts, and other features of the dream home that they want to build. Even for the most visionary and DIY-inclined people, designing every inch of a 3,000 square foot home can be a major challenge. For example, is it possible to design an upstairs laundry room that doesn’t add an enormous amount of heat and humidity to the master bedroom that you want to place in the next room over? 

Many future homeowners decide to hire an architect to help them design the home of their dreams. While most architects can offer useful and valuable building plans that incorporate the visions of future homeowners, it is important to understand that hiring an architect will add a significant expense to any new home build or any major remodel. Below, we offer a complete review about when you absolutely need an architect for residential design, what you can expect to pay for architect fees, and how you can still design and build the home of your dreams without spending extra money on an architect. 

When Do I Need an Architect?

Architects are professionals that have experience and knowledge in creating detailed plans for residential and commercial structures (the blueprints). A good architect will also produce a final construction plan for a building that includes systems such as electrical, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), plumbing, communication, and sometimes even the surrounding landscaping.

While architectural services are certainly necessary when designing a new skyscraper or a massive commercial building, most residential homes do not require the hiring of an architect. A 2015 survey found that only about 10 percent of homeowners hired an architect during new builds or remodels. In most cases, homeowners entrusted the design of their home to the building or contracting company, and/or relied significantly on their own design ideas. Stock building plans drawn up by architects or home designers can be found on the internet and purchased for a fraction of the price that an architect would charge for original work. 

In general, as a homeowner, you only need to hire an architect in the following scenarios: 

  • If your local building authorities require an architect: The vast majority of building codes and regulations around the country do not require an architect. However, if you live in a densely populated metropolitan area, there may be a requirement for an architect. 
  • If you are uncomfortable making building choices on your own: If you don’t feel qualified enough to design your own home, and can´t find a local contractor or builder who has the ability to produce quality plans that suit you, hiring an architect might be warranted. 
  • If you want to free up space in an existing home without making an addition: Almost every home has some underutilized areas. If, for example, you want to add another bathroom to your home, but want to expand the square footage via an addition, an architect might be able to help you see your home more creatively from a different angle and come up with a strategy to reorganize the interior layout. Even for difficult remodels, however, many experienced builders and contracting companies will be able to help you come up with a plan to fit your needs. 

Architect Fees for Residential Design

Hiring another professional for a new build or major retrofit will certainly add to the final cost of your home. Most architectural firms and independent consultants will charge anywhere between 5 and 20 percent of the project cost. For a 3,000 square foot home that costs $350,000, homeowners can expect a bill from the architect ranging from $17,500 to $70,000. While some architects claim that they can actually save you money by recommending energy efficiency improvements and more inexpensive building materials, it will most likely be hard to offset the tens of thousands of dollars paid to these professionals. 

For smaller jobs such as renovations or retrofits, some architects may charge hourly, and you can expect a bill ranging from $125 to $250 per hour. Less commonly, architects charge on a square foot basis, usually between $4 and $10 per square foot of build or renovation. 

Do I need an Architect to Build a House? The Final Word

Unless your local building code absolutely requires an architect, most residential homes do not need to hire an architect. Part of the excitement of building a new home or doing a major retrofit is spending time creatively designing the space that you will inhabit. The solution? Find an experienced building company that can offer helpful advice, direction, and suggestions for the design of your home, to bring your vision into reality. 

In Western New York, Natale Builders is one such professional home building business, with over 50 years’ experience in building custom homes. This company is a leader in Energy Star and Green Build designs, and can thus help homeowners design homes that are not just functional and aesthetically pleasing, but also energy efficient and environmentally friendly.