I’d like to thank Susan E. of Dunedin, Fla., for this topic suggestion. Susan is a sole practitioner in Florida doing a lot of residential (new and renovation) work and has asked for an open discussion of “the going rate” for noncommercial architects. I need to put a few warnings on this discussion.
First, the AIA must comply fully with all laws, rules, and regulations of the federal and our state governments specifically for antitrust implications; that is, we can’t say how much we charge, only how we calculated it. When I’ve given presentations at conventions, I can use copies of my actual spreadsheets but I must blank out the actual fee (or hourly rate) that the fee was based on.
So, to be in full compliance and keep us all out of trouble, the AIA Antitrust Compliance reminder: “It is the practice of the American Institute of Architects and its members to comply strictly with all laws, including federal and state antitrust laws, that apply to AIA operations and activities. Accordingly this meeting (discussion) will be conducted in full compliance with those laws.”
I guess my first comment is what a drag that we can’t speak freely. My second comment is my two bits on how I calculate fees. On a residential project, I have standard things I do and then crunch some numbers to get to my “bottom line”:
• Figure out how much time for Concepts, SD, DD and CD, with CDs based on the jurisdiction.
• Set my proposal (and written contract; yes, all are written, at least a letter form of agreement) with retainer to cover the Conceptual portion; that way if the client and I don’t mesh, we can part ways no harm done.
• Set a range for SD, DD, and CD based on my estimated time expenditure bounced off the anticipated construction cost with a nod to the client’s budget (ever notice how they can be farther apart than a simple 10% construction contingency will cover?). Historically the fee range can be as low as 4% or as high as 12% depending on services offered.
• After the Conceptual work is completed and we gel (and agree that we can work together), I’ll provide a fixed fee for SD, DD and CDs in a formal contract. I usually list estimated for CCA, indicating that the owner and/or general contractor will request meetings; I won’t just show up. (I try to leave some extra funds in my CDs calculation for 1 site visit and 3 to 4 phone calls depending on size/scope of the project).
• To work with a client’s budget (and get the happy signal from my insurance carrier) on residential projects, I always get a Limit of Liability clause. Lately I’ve learned that the LOL holds up better during litigation if the architect specifies an amount but gives the client the option to attain higher LOL by negotiation (they can buy it). Apparently it has legal implications and more strength if the option to negotiate for higher limits and the client chooses not to—the choice is the biggest factor.
• Invoice in a timely manner
• Collect in a timely manner (or stop work and lien the project… sorry it does happen). I’ve found that by letting folks know that I have a strong defense I rarely need to rely on it.
—Lisa Stacholy, AIA