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  1. #1
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    Sep 2011
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    Default hiring an architect...fees?

    So we are trying to put a second floor on our 1960s rambler in Washington state, adding between 800-1000 sq feet, plus remodeling the living/dining room without changing the footprint We happened to meet this architect, who seems wonderful, and has proposed drawing up the plans....for $13,000. This will probably be 10% of the cost of the remodel. Is this reasonable??? We have no idea.

    We are going to meet with another architect, too but did really like this guy. Some people have just told us to skip the architect and go to a general contractor but this makes me a little uncomfortable since we are adding a whole other story.

    Any thoughts??? Thanks in advance for the advice!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: hiring an architect...fees?

    you cant just goto a general contractor with you project, the general needs drawings to work off of both for the build but more importantly to come up with a price for material and labour

    seeing how this is going to be a renovation an engineer will most likely be needed to look over the existing to see what structure needs to be beefed up if any to support teh additional weight
    fire up the saw and make some dust

  3. #3
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    Default Re: hiring an architect...fees?

    I am not an expert, but pass on my experience . . .

    (1) My architectural fees for a 250 sf addition were about $8,500 (draw current layout, interviews with customer, 2nd/3rd revisions, filing with building dept., etc.). The exterior aesthetics were a deal killer for my wife so it wasn't going to done without one. Basically, they have a "core rate" for the core work and drawing, visiting your home, etc., and price something like $200-$250/hour for all other client services -- want your hands held ? that's $200 per hour. Fees of 10% of project cost is not unreasonable if you want the addition to VISUALLY look seamless.

    (2) Going to a GC ?? Have you driven around the neighborhood and noticed abominable-looking additions? those were probably done by GC's, and while they passed inspection, they reduced home value for the neighbors. You're not going to get Mike Holmes (HGTV fame) or Tom Silva as your GC so you’ll need someone else looking after you.

    Here are my thoughts . . . you want raw square footage, a GC can do that for you. If you have aesthetics requirements, you’ll need an architect. If a GC has a good result, it was more luck than skill or he had a simple base design that he couldn't aesthetically damage. I've seen Silicon Valley, CA ranches that were horribly done, which reminds me, an architect will also consider your "family flow" and living requirements. You will have to rein in an architect on costs, but a good one will always keep your budget in mind.
    I don't know about Washington, but if you are in Silicon Valley, I don't think you can do it for less than $200/sf. Also, if you have a slab, it is somewhat likely you will need the foundation reinforced to handle the size addition and weight. I can't predict the engineering needs if you have a basement, but I suspect reinforcement will be needed for 800-1,000 sf weight. In this process of building a 2nd floor, I suspect the structural engineer is more critical than the architect . . . he/she will tell you whether it will be within budget or twice as much (because of reinforcement, like jacking up the house) - maybe you will need to consider building out rather than building up.
    The financial calculus, I think, won't work for you unless you plan to be in the house a long time. If you believe the various "real estate experts", the best you’ll get is 80% back on any MAJOR improvement, so you are in the hole 20% at the beginning and with terrible liquidity (tying up more debt or cash if you need to sell). I'm not discouraging you, but your financial confidence is a major consideration.
    In 2010, we spent $40,000 on "updating" the kitchen & 2 baths (CABINETS were repainted, not replaced or refinished). In the middle, we had to move because of a job change.
    The update definitely helped to sell, but financially, it was either breakeven or recovered less than spent - - we more likely sold because our Buyers were French, looked for 5 years, and we had Miele ovens, Bosch DW, Philippe Starch faucets, and pristine maintenance that, quite frankly, only urban Europeans (the other interested buyer was English) would appreciate. Long way of saying these are interesting times to commit $150K.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: hiring an architect...fees?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brookworld View Post
    (2) Going to a GC ?? Have you driven around the neighborhood and noticed abominable-looking additions? those were probably done by GC's, and while they passed inspection, they reduced home value for the neighbors.
    I realize that you said "your experience", however I must take exception to this. Are there idiots out there who do this sort of thing? Absolutely, but I don't believe that it's the general rule, and it's certainly not true of myself. Additions should NEVER look like they're grafted on boogers, they SHOULD look like they've always been a part of the house. I not only strive for this, the building department usually has something to say about the curb appeal of all structures, particularly in "classic" parts of town.

    Further, a good many Generals who specialize in additions and remodels have in-house drafting and design skills. For the reputable ones that don't, they know when to hire a draftsman or architect to help them out.

    In the end, the key is to find a competent, reliable, and scrupled General who has your best interests at heart. The cheapest guy out there is usually the cheapest for a reason ... all the reasons you stated.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  5. #5
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    May 2011
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    Northern Virginia
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    Default Re: hiring an architect...fees?

    Hey Spruce, no need to debate it . . . there's good & bad & indifferent.
    Having an architect is also not a panacea . .. ours missed a critical point and was no where to be found during the building (since it wasn't billable hours).
    My thought, then, to the OP is that she would need to find an upper end General. She will need drawings, etc. I've seen so many bad 2nd story additions (literally, a hat on a ranch or rambling) that someone obviously didn't care or was done on the real cheap.

    Having said that, I would suggest she visit specimen additions from Generals to guage the aesthetics & interior quality.

    I also suggest that the structual assessment will drive whether the project gets off the ground, and predict the cost of structural reinforcement will give sticker shock.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: hiring an architect...fees?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brookworld View Post
    Hey Spruce, no need to debate it . . . there's good & bad & indifferent.
    Having an architect is also not a panacea . .. ours missed a critical point and was no where to be found during the building (since it wasn't billable hours).
    My thought, then, to the OP is that she would need to find an upper end General. She will need drawings, etc. I've seen so many bad 2nd story additions (literally, a hat on a ranch or rambling) that someone obviously didn't care or was done on the real cheap.

    Having said that, I would suggest she visit specimen additions from Generals to guage the aesthetics & interior quality.

    I also suggest that the structual assessment will drive whether the project gets off the ground, and predict the cost of structural reinforcement will give sticker shock.
    Agreed!
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  7. #7
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    Sep 2011
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    Default Re: hiring an architect...fees?

    $13,000? That's too much money but they say quality comes at a price. Have you seen his previous and ongoing project if there's any?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: hiring an architect...fees?

    Quote Originally Posted by kolbywhite28 View Post
    $13,000? That's too much money but they say quality comes at a price. Have you seen his previous and ongoing project if there's any?
    There are stories in our area (Wash DC) that contractors visit a prospect, say it'll be $200,000 without doing a software estimation, and once in a while, the customer will sign on. So, no, big price doesn't guarantee anything. At the other extreme, flippers and RE agenst have a rolodex of "jobsmen" (mostly latino and freelancers) who are cheap but you need to know what you getting into.

    On the $13,000 fee, I paid $8,500 to have a basic project (with 2nd/3rd revisions, you pay for having choices or changing your mind). My friend paid $22,000 for 3/4 teardown house renovation that cost $600,000 . . . both in Silicon Valley and not Podunk, US. $13K is 75 hours @ $175 blended rate . . . not cheap, but that's the cost if the project takes 75 hours, but at that price, I wouldn't want getting billed a penny over and expect a 2nd or 3rd draft and some hand holding.

    My other advice to the OP is to do the structual first. Architects, any service provider like a RE agent, etc. don't get paid unless there's a transaction. If the customer goes 1/4 way into it, and then finds the structual engineering will double the cost, hassle or time, you'll still owe the $3,000 for having the work done, and you'll get regrets like, "sorry this is happening to you" but absolutely no financial forgiveness. They typically draw you into the process and hope you'll be able to overcome any problem/issue on your dime.

    An example with my dinky 250 sf addition in Silicon Valley -- there are Calif. energy laws that prohibit me from having the amount of glass (picture windows) I wanted -- it took another $1,000 in fees to get an "engineer" of some sort to issue a Title 24 energy consumption doc that was required for permitting. You pay for solving your problems; there are no freebies and everyone will tell you that; squeeze a contractor, and he may not buy a cap to a cutoff pipe that animals will find to enter your house (they may just stuff the pipe with rags even if you pay a wad).

    It also shows that if an homeowner doesn't have the right people (i.e., have no documents) or is mainly a DIY, stay away and don't buy the house; it may end up on a Mike Holmes show (if you're very lucky). (My experience is also an home inspection is necessary, but definitely not fool proof -- I have $10,000 of damage that wasn't noticed, besides the musty odor on rainy days, after an isnpection on my current house.

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