Insider Secrets to Negotiating Fees With Your Architect

Insider Secrets to Negotiating Fees With Your Architect

An architect’s fee proposal can take many forms. It can be a casual conversation at dinner with someone who wants to renovate their home or a formal request that contains legally binding contract language.

The key is that you and your architect must agree on the amount before work begins. This will be spelled out in the contract that both of you sign.

Know Your Limits

Many architects find that their time is spent preparing complex proposals in response to client requests, including resumes for proposed team members, examples of past projects, work plans, schedules, and breakdowns of design fees. In addition, these requests often ask an architect to submit concepts or preliminary designs.

One of the most important things when negotiating fees is knowing your limits. A solid understanding of your architectural rate will help you avoid getting caught off guard by a client’s demands.

Knowing your limits also means being aware of how much flexibility you have. For example, some architects may negotiate a fixed fee that includes a maximum number of hours for the project. This allows the architect West Chester to communicate the scope to the Client, reducing the likelihood of disputes over what is and isn’t included. By contrast, some architects will choose to develop a percentage-of-cost fee that gives the architect flexibility to shift hours as project requirements change.

Know Your Architect’s Limits

Pricing your services is essential for the success of an architecture practice. While you want to be competitive and entice clients, charging too low can be detrimental over time.

It’s also important to understand your architect’s limits regarding fees. It’s only sometimes true that the most expensive architect is the best, and selecting someone based on their fee alone may lead to cost overruns.

A percentage of construction cost is one of the most common ways to determine an architect’s rate. However, this method can need to be clarified for clients, as architects vary in how they calculate their fees. For example, if one architect groups FF&E selection with the construction cost and charges a 6% fee.

In contrast, other architects group FF&E selection with basic services and charge an hourly rate; the difference in total project costs can be considerable. Evaluating each proposal carefully will help you make an apples-to-apples comparison.

Know Your Goals

When negotiating with your architect, establishing and maintaining goals is crucial. While having a long-term goal in mind is great, it is equally important to set smaller, short-term goals that can keep you on track throughout the process. This strategy will help you stay focused and provide structure to the negotiation, helping you arrive at your desired result.

During the interview process, be sure to ask your architect what their approach to negotiating fees will be. Avoid a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ approach, which engages the ego and often encourages hostile fee negotiations. Instead, propose various solutions based on the Client’s interests (options for mutual gain).

When comparing fee proposals, understand how your architect’s firm structures their fees. For example, some firms include contract administration in their basic percentage fee, while others charge it hourly. Understanding these differences can help you make apples-to-apples comparisons between different firms.

Know Your Architect’s Goals

Your architect’s goals are to provide you with a high-quality project that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations. They are not in the business of making a profit at bargain-basement prices. It is a good idea to vet each architect’s fee proposal thoroughly, but don’t base your decision on the lowest rate alone.

Your architects will want to understand your building and its operations thoroughly. They may engage everyday building occupants in user-needs interviews to learn more about your culture and conduct precedent research to explore analogous projects that can inspire or steer design decisions.

They will also likely solicit your feedback through regularly scheduled meetings and present you with drafts at the end of each design phase. They are creating value not as you define it but how they can help you solve your problems and reach your goals. Those are the values they’re selling, and it’s up to you to decide whether their value proposition is right for you.


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