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What to charge?

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#1 AJ Spino

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 03:46 PM

My SoftPlan hobby is starting to turn into an actual job and I need some advice on how to charge for my work.  I’m working with an engineer that has taken on more residential work since I can provide the design/drafting service he didn’t want to deal with.  He comes from the commercial/industrial side of things, so dealing with residential builders and homeowners is all new to him.  That being said, we have a few questions.


How do you price out the job for a client?   By the square foot, hour, project, complexity, something else?


Do you break the project fee(s) into phases ie., 1. preliminary design 2. working drawings?


Would you charge a different fee/rate to a homeowner than a builder? 


Since I pretty much work for him, how do I determine my fee? Hourly (too slow for that!), flat rate, percentage of the overall project?

#2 Sam Morgan

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 04:20 PM

I price everything by the square foot.   You can view how I price things on my website.  www.morganfinehomes.com


I charge a 20% deposit up front, 30% when preliminary drawings are done and ready to start construction documents, and the final 50% when its back from the engineer and ready to deliver.  


I'm happy to see more and more guys getting really busy.  I've been just buried with work for the past 3 years or so and was pretty steady before that.



#3 randolph cohn

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 06:02 PM

How do you price out the job for a client?   By the square foot, hour, project, complexity, something else?


A.  i never charge by the sq foot or hour > anymore,  i did when i first started doing projects first out

of architectural school mainly because i didn't know how long a project would take.

after many projects and lot's of years,  i had files on all different kinds of projects

and had a good idea how long it took me to draw a particular project and all the meetings

with clients, contractors,  building dept, planning dept, and community design meetings.


btw, these first projects were on "the BOARD"  (drafting board)


after i got into cad and learned it and felt comfortable with it,

i started charging a "FLAT FEE" and clients all loved doing it this way because they

knew what the final design fee with documents would cost.


i guess in certain parts of the country a lot of fees are determined by the sq. foot.

i've never done this way.


one problem with an hourly fee is 2 very good designers  may draw at very different speeds.

they both might give you a top notch design but one might take 10 times as long for

the same hourly rate,  i'm kidding about the 10 times as long but you get the idea.


a lot also has to do with how others in your area charge for design and con docs.




Do you break the project fee(s) into phases ie., 1. preliminary design 2. working drawings?



i break the total fee into 4 parts and get the same amount for each part.


1. preliminary / conceptual design

note:  i get 25% before i draw one line on the paper.

and another 25% about 1/2 thru the total design phase

and another 25% at the end of the design phase

and right before i start on the construction documents.

this way i get 75% before i start construction documents.

this is really what their paying me for > the design

if they want to hire someone who can do the construction documents

for less money.  than so be it.  at least i got 75%


sure, they could say i'm not paying you the 3rd - 25% and i could

say "i'm not giving you or your draftsman, the construction documents"

i have that clear in the contract.

i also state "CLEARLY" in the contract what i do and what i don't do.

this is really important.

i usually email the client progress prints so they can print them up.


btw,  i've never been screwed by a client "Except" for one who

owed me $ 400 at end of project.  i said to spend it and be happy.


btw,  my flat fee also is in line with a 3-5 % fee of the total construction cost.


btw,  i also includes the complexity of the project and the slope of the lot.


architects around here generally charge 10% and sometimes more.


we have to hire structural engineers, sometimes a civil engineer

and usually a soils engineer.




v10 to future 2016+ ;)

#4 Thomas Roman

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 06:58 PM

The AIA used to publish price guidelines for architects, but they were sued for price collusion... given that, I never understood why realtors are allowed to have industry standard fee guidelines..
Designer, architect, draftsperson prices are all over the map.. high end architects in Tahoe often charge 6 figure$ for a single residence... low end drafter may charge $1000 for small house..
Scope of services matter: Renderings or not? ... builder set or bid docs?... how difficult is plan check department?... interior elevations?.. cabinet elevations?.. engineering included?.. energy compliance required?... difficult lot or level pad?.. need to show BMPs on site plan?.. heavy snow loads or hurricane winds?.
Also, what premium can you charge for your design or technical talents over and above the firm down the street?.. how busy are you?.. how long does it take you to put together a set of plans?..
IMO, the subject of fees is immensely complex, fascinating, and important to us all as business owners..

#5 AJ Spino

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Posted 12 June 2015 - 10:04 PM

Thanks everyone, I knew there wouldn't be a one size fits all answer.  But I can start putting together a pricing structure that should work for our area.  WOW...six figure$ !!!  We're doing lakefront properties, but I don't think we'll be getting paid that well.

#6 Warren Ducote

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 06:21 AM

Send me an email and I will send you my contract so that you can see how I do things. It may help or it may not.



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