Worried about the cost of hiring an architect? Do you think working with an architect is expensive? Are you concerned that working with an architect will make your costs escalate?
This article looks at ways that you can work with an architect and keep costs down in a practical way and what you can do to help to maximise the value of using an architect.
Okay, so am sure that you have heard the stories about how expensive it was working with an architect, we’ve all heard them, we often hear – ‘But you are only giving us drawings so why is it so expensive?’
The truth is a good architect does so much more than provide just drawings. If you are looking for drawings for your extension with no real design input, the reality is that you are unlikely to need an architect, if that is the case it is likely to be a lot cheaper to use an architectural technician to prepare drawings.
So if you are looking for more than drawings, how can you keep your costs with your architect down?
1. Clearly define the scope of the project
Before starting the project, make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and communicate this clearly to the architect. This will help avoid any scope creep and unnecessary expenses.
Your architect should ask you lots of questions to define what the scope is and develop a clear brief before you commission them outlining what they are going to do and how much it will cost for their services. If there are multiple routes to explore, they may suggest that this is done with feasibility sketches and studies to define a design – the cost of this study should be considered and once you have a route forward they should tell you what the costs are for next steps.
In most typical cases, you will be able to know this at the outset before the study is done, however if you are looking for multiple routes to be explored to determine what you want in your home then the cost of the study will be a valuable investment to establish what is possible in the first instance before you proceed with determining how you would like to go forward.
2. Be selective about design changes:
Changes to the design can be costly, so be selective about which changes you make and try to make them in the early stages of the project. You may think that you are only moving a window or wall, but this can have a knock on impact on planning permission that may have already been obtained by the time you look to make this change, structural engineer’s design in case any structural design is impacted and any associated detail design.
It is always advisable to explore the design of the space before you look to go in for planning, that way you are clear that the internal functional layout works with the outside appearance and you can avoid further submissions for planning that can incur further expense.
Your architect should be going through things with you at various stages to ensure that you are happy and if you do change your mind going forward be able to advise what the impact of those changes are and associated costs with undertaking them. The more decisions you make upfront the less likely it will be to incur further costs.
Also, if you think you are likely to not be clear about things; explore ways that can help you to make decisions so that you can avoid changes later in the project – this can include having 3D visuals or fly throughs done if you struggle to understand plans and your architect is unable to talk you through these, or having sample boards or visiting showrooms to make selections to understand what you want and where.
Also define at the outset how many changes your architect has allowed for and what would be considered reasonable; for example if you originally said you wanted a ground floor kitchen extension it would be unreasonable for you to then say you have changed mind and would like a two storey to be added on top without costs being updated to reflect this.
3. Understand how your architect charges fees and what is included
Some architects charge by the hour or a percentage of build costs; in this instance if the cost of the works comes in higher than expected their fees also go up – are you comfortable with this and not knowing what the fixed fee would be at the outset.
If you are working with hourly rates, have you put in measures that allow you to know what is included and what happens if hours exceed what you consider to be affordable?
A cap on the hours expended is sensible in this instance so you can have an honest conversation when hours are increasing about why this may be. If you are working to a fixed fee be clear about what that covers and how any variations are costed.
4. Shop around
Compare fees and services from different architects to find one that fits your budget and needs. If the architect comes as a recommendation, remember what worked for your friends and family may not work for you – be clear on your expectations.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for past references from the architect and see how their customers thought their expectations were managed.
Know that all architects have different overheads and work to different rates, chose one that aligns with what you want, and you think will provide the best value to deliver your project and protect your interests.
5. Communicate effectively
Keep open and clear lines of communication with the architect and address any concerns or issues as soon as they arise to avoid delays and additional costs. If you think the design is not aligned with your vision, don’t be afraid to speak up – it is your home after all.
And if you are not completely sure what the architect is offering ask; all too often they may forget that you may have not used an architect before and need extra support to understand the process and terminology.
6. Be realistic about your budget:
Consider your budget constraints and communicate this to your architect. Avoid asking for services or materials that are too expensive or out of budget – if you like the look of something but know it is out of budget then your architect may know of similar products that work in the same way as what you may have seen in the glossy magazine.
If your budget changes as designs are being developed be transparent about this; and equally if your architect has advised that your budget may be unrealistic relative to what you want to achieve take heed on this – establish what is possible and work collaboratively to achieve what you need in a realistic way.
7. Be organised and prepared
Your relationship with your architect can last many months. If you get busy with life, and unable to respond etc then your project may drop out of their workflows relative to their resources – be mindful that when you are ready to come back to it you may be waiting to get back into the queue of other work.
To keep momentum going it is therefore important that you allocate time and resources to review and approve documentation in a timely manner, this will help keep the project moving forward, avoid delays and ultimately lower costs.
As you can see there are many things that you can be doing to keep your costs when hiring an architect down. If you find through the process that the architect’s fees are increasing and exceeding your budget the first step would be to have an honest conversation about this and re-align expectations.