How much does an architect cost in Australia in 2019?

Written by in Buying

woman holding up architectural plans

Before you ask how much an architect costs in Australia, ask whether or not you need one. There is a raft of advantages to employing an architect in both new builds and renovations, but for smaller projects with less demands (especially design requirements), or even for simple builds, a draftsperson can be a great alternative.

Why employ an architect?

You can already read up on the various advantages of renovating with an architect vs a draftsperson here. For a long time, there has been a general impression that there is a large rift between architects and draftspeople. However, a draftsperson fills an important role in speeding up construction for many smaller and/or simpler home designs, allowing councils and planning authority greater opportunity to process more complex planning permits.

An architect generally has at least seven years of tertiary study under their belt. The scope of academic inquiry and a foundation in various design principles, theories and approaches that is a part of this education can translate into not only incredible designs but opportunities for you to achieve quality and novel results for an affordable price. Despite architects being seen as the more expensive option when designing a new home, a great architect will save you money in the long run.

An architect’s typical fee structure

It is impossible to say exactly how much an architect charges in Australia in 2019 because every job is different. With the cost of building a house ranging from roughly $1,200 to $1,800 per square metre, depending on the materials used, you can estimate that an architect will charge anywhere between 5 and 20 per cent of the total cost of that build. 

The cost of using an architect varies so greatly as a percentage of the total cost of a build because an architect can offer a range of services that differ in terms of the architect’s involvement. For instance, architects can often be employed to help manage the build of a home, working with builders to implement designs efficiently. Yet, this project management is an added cost that is not always necessary. On the other end of the spectrum, an architect can simply offer you their designs and not help in securing planning permits, amending designs, or implementing them through the build. For this service you can expect the cost of an architect to be down near 5 per cent of the total cost of the build.

Architects will often charge a fee based on the following structures:

  1. Charging per hour. This is less common and generally occurs for small projects or for something outside of the agreed scope of the architect’s employment with you as their client.
  2. Percentage fee. These are viewed as generally risky for everyone involved if the construction costs and budget are hard to calculate or unrealistic. It can leave the client with fees far higher than they can afford. It can provide the client with the opportunity to downgrade plans and save money on the architect’s fees if necessary.
  3. Fixed fee. This is seen within the industry as a strong choice as it provides the client with a certainty about one major set of fees, which can translate into a healthier and more efficient client/architect relationship. Even if plans change along the way, and they always do, having a fixed fee can help constrain the scope of these blowouts.

How to ensure you find the right architect

A good architect is one that helps you to feel assured every step of the way, from your first meeting until you put the keys in the door.

If an architect is not clear nor welcoming of any questions you have regarding costs during any preliminary consultations you may have with them, then you need to question why. Look for an architect that reassures you by even volunteering information about costs and demonstrating an appreciation for your budget. They may do this by showing you previous projects that relate to your own goals, and reveal in detail how budgetary concerns were upheld throughout the project.

Along the course of your build or renovation, be sure to ask questions of your architect as it relates to your budget, i.e. do the changes suggested by an architect maintain or even improve your budget, and if not, why else should they be implemented?