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Hi there! Are you building a new home or have a renovation project in the near future? Before you meet with an architect read this! I’m not saying that architects aren’t necessary for designing a home, whether it’s a new construction or a remodeling project. Unless you are an architect yourself, they are. But a lot of people rack up high fees because they walk into the office without a clue about what they want or need. You can save money on architect fees in addition to time and regrets down the road.
Architects charge by the hour, as a percentage of the construction costs or by the square footage. According to HomeAdvisor most people spend between $2,084 and $7,927 on architect fees but it can easily go a lot higher! So how can you save money on architect fees? By walking into the architect’s office with your own plans! We saved at least 25% by having our own plans which our architect tweaked and made into blueprints. Cha ching! Also, our builder was able to use my plans to get a stucco variance from the city while we were waiting on the final plans.
Creating Your Own Plans to Save Money on Architect Fees
Before we even applied for our construction loan Sir CB challenged me to design our home. We had specific needs for aging in place as well as a specific architectural style in mind. Having worked in the past as a design consultant for a large furniture company, I was familiar with design software. But even if you aren’t familiar with it, it’s not difficult to master!
Home Designing Software
There are several home designing software programs available. I chose Chief Architect Home Designer® Architectural software. In my previous life as a design consultant I had used Home Designer® Interiors and found it very user friendly. The Architectural software has all the same features as Interiors plus more related to construction and landscape (if you want to design that too).
So, in addition to designing your house, you can also design your rooms and outdoor spaces! That is super helpful when it comes time to order lighting fixtures, furniture, etc. because you will know what size you need and you can start ahead of time shopping sales and open box deals. It also helps prevent costly mistakes – we found a dining room table on clearance for a fantastic price that had the exact look we were going for in our Spanish style home. The problem? It was too big! This not only saves you money on architect fees but also on the things you need for your home.
After you download the software be sure to check for updates and download all the libraries from the User Center. The libraries contain all the plumbing, HVAC, electrical, landscaping, walls etc. components that you will need. After opening a new plan and choosing the style from the ‘Home Styles Templates’ I went to File>Download Sample Plans.
This opened up my browser from where I could download sample plans & renderings. I chose one that best reflected the floor plan I envisioned. Don’t worry if it doesn’t match – you can change wall placements, windows, doors and pretty much everything! The User Center also has video tutorials & training webinars as well as a knowledge base and forum to help you. Googling questions will also bring up a lot of other resources too.
What to Do Next
After you create your floor plan save it. This will be the one you send later to your architect. Then add in all the furnishings and whatever else you plan on using in the rooms and save it as a separate file. This is the one you’ll use to figure out where you need floor plugs (important!) and other things that will add to the functionality of your home. These items are then added into the first plan for your architect to incorporate into the final plans.
Having the furnishings factored in will also give you a good idea of the flow. That allow you to make adjustments for traffic patterns, accessibility and any needs particular to your family. As a design consultant I always reviewed clients’ plans because it was inevitable that their architect didn’t account for furniture. Not taking into consideration a dining room buffet will result in the light fixture not centered over the table. “Floating” furniture (not placed against walls) need floor plugs for lamps. Otherwise you could have a tripping hazard!
Once you get comfortable with using the software, start exploring all its possibilities. You can import picture files of your fabrics and loads of other things into the program to customize furniture and accessories. There are even paint catalogs from Sherwin Williams and Benjamin Moore along with all kinds of products from leading manufacturers. This will help you see what your rooms will really look like, especially in the 3D walk-through mode!
Another very handy feature is being able to import a PDF floor plan (like from your architect) and tracing over it. Unless you are a brilliant designer, your architect will have some suggestions on how to improve your design. Some will be great and others not so much. Knowing what you want will help you decide what changes to make. The fewer the revisions the more money you will save on your architect’s fees! When the plans are finalized make sure you get a PDF copy. You can then import it and trace over it to recreate the plan in your program. This is super handy for positioning floor plugs and getting exact measurements for where they’ll be placed. This can be done for the whole plan or just one room.
Was this article helpful? Let me know your suggestions or questions in the comments below. Also, if you know of someone looking to save money on architect fees please share it with them!