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Besides, by hiring an architect you statistically have a better chance of being happier with the finished product and, in terms of the total lifespan of the buidling, the architect's fees acount to little more than 2% or 3% of the value. Below is an excerpt from Gerald Lee Morosco's book "How to Work with an Architect":
Land price: $100,000 (11% of total)
House construction cost: $200,000 (22% of total)
Closing costs: $10,000 (1% of total)
Lansdcaping: $12,000 (1% of total)
Mortgage interest @ 8% over 30 years: $443,220 (50% of total)
Taxes @ $4,000 per year for 25 years: $100,000 (11% of total)
Architect's fee (@15% of construction value): $30,000 (3% of total)
Total cost: $895,220
Personally I find the architect's fee at 15% quite high. I work for a very large firm and we typically charge 10% (depending on the project). I've seen single practitioners charge as little as 5% or 6%. Depending on your local laws, you may even be able to hire an architectural technologist to design your residence and get even lower rates. This practice is permitted here in New Brunswick and my personal rule of thumb is to charge 1% to 1.5% of solely the construction value (in this case $200,000, which works out to $2,000 to $3,000 which is very reasonable).
I realize that designing and building a house is all about "cash flow" but if you are serious about building a quality house that truly suits your lifestyle & needs, don't be afraid to put the money up front. It will pay for itself many, many, many times over. Think of it in these terms: if you pay $500 for a secondhand K-car, your expectations for a quality product shouldn't be too high, but if you are prepared to pay $30,000 for a new BMW you expect a high quality product. The same is somewhat true with building a home: if you only expect to pay $500 for a set of plans then chances are you will be missing that attention to detail that you need for a quality product and end up with an inferior product. If you want quality, don't be afraid to pay for it.
Sorry for harping, but I could go on and on and on about this subject...
flwright wrote:I wouldn't rule out an architect just yet...... Depending on your local laws, you may even be able to hire an architectural technologist to design your residence and get even lower rates.
Both points are good advice, and besides, you have to be assured that whoever does the work will give you the house you want. My experience has been that you have to be very clear about what services are to be provided if you do not employ an architect.
Most people think that all that's involved in designing a building is doing cartoons. An architect works on a percentage fee basis for good reason, hopefully covering costs and profit. I usually work hourly ($50) on the type of projects I do. I guarantee that as a residential designer, I rarely bill for the hours I actually spend, and most billed work does end up being time "on the boards" (computer). An architect does much more than drawings, but every project may not need the breadth of services an architect can provide.
I've found a niche providing design services for contractors and homeowners wanting simple buildings, as well as working on "off island" architects' plans and manufactured home plans to comply with local codes. The $2,000 to $3,000 fee "flwright" mentioned is about the same here, which can quickly increase with design changes, etc.
I do not iassume to offer the exact same services as a licensed architect (primarily their stamp, in my situation). Although I have experience and proven abilities, I do advise potential clients when they should employ an architect. I have a good enough engineering background, but do need to use an engineers stamp and calculations on most projects (as even architects do!).
A very good local architect has referred a number of projects to me, usually things he either does not have time for, or can choose to "pass" on. It works for both of us. In fact, he referred a kitchen remodel to me which the client decided not to pursue, and ended up buying a second property with fantastic views and wants me to design a new house on it. I'm providing full architectural design services on a $500,000 construction budget for $23,000 (less than 5%), which I can live with. The architect that gave me the referral would have easily charged $50,000 or more. My contractor friends think I am too cheap, but I am not exactly in competition with architects, who can justify the higher fees due to grueling license procedures, etc.
This client could certainly afford an architect, but we had started a good working relationship, and my abilities became apparent enough that he decided to risk saving some money (he is a high level Boeing executive, and no dummy). Even at such a "deal", it was not easy to justify the fee on an hourly basis, and I would not due the work required of a project like this billing hourly w/o a contract and guaranteed cash flow. Ask any architect how difficult it is to quantify the effort that goes into designing a building.
I don't get jobs like that too often, but bottom line, if services to be rendered are clearly defined - and you can find a qualified designer - it is not always necessary to employ an architect, especially when not required by statute. You architects can have at me!
The site will really determine whether a prairie style is appropriate, and a professional may be able to develope a more suitable "style" for your family and the site.
Stock plans do not respect the unique features and weather patterns of your site, nor can they economically meet the specific needs of your particular family. Worse yet, clients and builders usually try to redesign them at risk to the structure, aesthetic, and function of the home.
There are architects who profit by selling stock plans, and here is a sample: http://www.healthyhomeplans.com/ However, this is not an endorsement on my part. I would rather live in a tiny stone house of exceptional siting and design. (In fact, that is what we have spent the last ten years constructing, and my lovely bride is still with me!)
Doug Kottom, Battle Lake, MN