Australian Architect Fees Guide: Typical Rates & Cost Structures

Finding the right architect for the job can be hard. Understanding how architects structure their fees can be even harder!

But we're here to tell you that it doesn't always have to be that way.

Determining architectural fees is a fundamental part of successfully building a new house within your budget. Without it, you just can't plan your expenses as accurately as you'd like.

To make things easier, this architect cost guide will take you through everything you need to know about architect fees. First we'll take a look at the three different fee structures of Australian architects, namely:

  • Fixed fees
  • Percentage-based commission
  • Hourly rates

Then we'll dive a little deeper to help you understand what kind of services you can expect in return for paying these fees, as well as offer some helpful tips to make sure that you don’t blow the budget.

By the end of this guide, you'll confidently be able to understand rates and cost structures a whole lot better. Let’s get started!

Guide to the 3 Different Fee Structures of Australian Architects

There are three different fee structures that can help you determine the cost of an architect in Australia. The type of fee structure that your architect uses depends on a range of factors that includes, but is not limited to:

  • the scale and type of project,
  • your budget,
  • their preferences, and
  • the general rates in place.

Let us take a closer look at each of these three fee structures so that you can start calculating architect fees in Australia.

Fixed Fees

Fixed fees are mutually agreed upon and they include costs for the entire project. You can negotiate these fees with your architect when you plan out your project and discuss the formalities.

This is a convenient fee structure since it gives you an idea about the overall fees right from the beginning of the project. Of course, it is possible for this fee to increase to a certain extent as requirements and plans change throughout the process.

However, having a fixed fee structure will prevent these changes from having too big of an impact on the final cost.

This can also be a good way to maintain transparency throughout the project between you and your architect, enabling you to build a healthy and professional relationship with them.

This kind of fixed fee is determined using factors such as:

  • How long it will take for the project to be completed
  • The resources required
  • The changes that might arise

Remember, that when it comes to fixed fee, there is limited scope for flexibility. Regardless of whether the project is delivered earlier than expected or uses less resources than anticipated, you will be required to pay the agreed upon amount.

Percentage-Based Commission

Like the fixed fee structure, the rate of a percentage-based commission is determined at the beginning of the project, usually during plan discussions. The difference, however, is that this fee structure has a greater scope of being impacted by changes that are likely to occur during the project.

In essence, both you and the architect agree upon a percentage that will be paid based on the scope of the work. Architects generally tend to charge anywhere between 5-15% of the entire cost of construction, depending on their level of involvement and the difficulty of the build.

This percentage-based commission leaves room for both you and the architect to make and suggest changes at any stage in the process. This can be a good way to determine more detailed costs as you go along in the process, which can benefit both parties involved.

While this fee structure provides flexibility to both the client and architect, it can make budgeting difficult.

If you don't have an estimated amount of your total build cost when you agree to the rate of commission, you won't know how much to budget for your architect. However, without knowing how much you'll spend on architecture, it is difficult to calculate your overall build spend.

A percentage-based commission is the most common fee structure in Australia, because of the flexibility it provides the client, in addition to the protection it offers to the architect.

Hourly Rate

An architect’s hourly rate is a fixed amount that you will have to pay the architect for every hour that they work. This not only includes the fees for their labour, but other overhead charges that might take place during the process.

It is difficult to calculate the overall cost when an hourly rate fee structure is used, making budgeting challenging. Throughout the course of a project, design revisions and many other unforeseen issues can arise that cause the time spent to skyrocket.

Typically, Australian architects apply hourly rates for small-scale projects, where it is simpler to make more accurate estimations of time requirements, as well as manage and track the hours worked.

An architect carefully designs the initial concept for the project.

What Do You Get for the Cost of Working with an Architect?

How much you pay an architect, and the services they provide, depends on the agreed scope of work and how involved you want the architect to be for the duration of the build.

When working with an architect, you may reap the benefits of having a skilled professional oversee the design, council submissions and build of your new house.

An architect can help you determine a plan for the project, while also setting up a budget that meets your requirements.

Listed below is a detailed breakdown of some of the services you can expect from an architect, depending on the agreed scope of work.

Designing the Concept

During the initial stages, your architect will consult with you frequently and develop a brief of the design that will roughly act as a starting point of the project. With the help of this, both you and the architect can discuss the time frame, the costs, resources, problem areas, expectations and changes to be made.

This brief will also cover the level of involvement of the architect in the project. For instance, if you want the architect to take care of the entire process, this should be specified in the brief. The same goes for a more restricted role of the architect.

Once everyone is on the same page, the architect will take it further and develop a more comprehensive and finalised version of the design concept that will confirm all the details of the project, such as the cost, materials, consultants, designs, and more.

Seeking Council Approvals

While the designs are being finalised, your architect may also help you with the applications that you must make and submit to relevant council in your area, who will then approve the project so that it can move forward.

This includes gathering the relevant documents, assessing risks such as health, fire, environment, flood, soil erosion, and more. All of this depends on the property on which construction will take place and the structure that you want to build.

Having an architect submit these applications on your behalf is helpful, as they have a greater understanding of the nuances of the application and approval process.

However, it is worth noting that in many instances a good local builder can also submit these application on your behalf.

Only after the design and the construction requirements are approved, can you go ahead with your project.

Managing Permits and Documents

Architects are well-versed in managing permits from private parties involved in the process, such as building owners and assessors, among others. This is usually done by submitting the relevant designs.

Other documents include the details needed to make negotiations with builders and contractors. These tend to include several drawings of the designs that clearly convey the scope of the project, the work to be done, amounts to be spent, and installations to be made.

These details are useful not only for permits but also for contracts with external parties, such as builders.

Selecting and Overseeing Builders

Getting the right people for the job is crucial. Luckily, with comprehensive architectural plans, you'll be able to easily select builders and contractors that will be able to work efficiently on your project based on their skills and experiences.

If you want to pay for the service, your architect may also take over the negotiations in the prices and contracts with these builders.

Once you select a builder, the architect may also oversee the building process to ensure the work is according to plan, on schedule and budget, and of good quality.

A busy builder working hard at the construction site.

Tips to Make Sure You Don't Blow the Budget

It's quite natural to want to make a number of changes throughout the construction process. Yet these, and any unforeseen problems that arise, all add to the costs of your build.

And when you're paying your architect a percentage-based commission, which is most likely, this means their fees increase too.

The following tips can help to ensure you don't blow the budget or significantly add to the cost of your project:

  • When setting a budget, consider all the potential costs in detail. You can make use of online calculators or compare prices from different architects.
  • Select a good architect with whom you can build a healthy working relationship and who abides by the codes of conduct, your requirements, and budget restrictions.
  • Make sure you check the work history of the architect so that you know what to expect from their assistance.
  • Figure out how much you want your architect to be involved in the project. To reduce costs, you can choose to use them for only a few tasks instead of have them manage the entire project.
  • Determine the rates with the architect at the beginning of the project. Clearly convey your limitations to them so that they have an accurate understanding of what you need. Agree upon a fee structure and rate that works for the both of you.
  • Hold regular meetings with your architect to keep track of the progress. This way, you can handle any extra costs well in advance and plan out how you can move forward with the process. Ask for estimates for each part of the project so that you can account for them ahead of time.
  • It is important to account for extra costs right from the beginning. You won't always be able to avoid these extra costs but setting some money aside just for this can go a long way.

While you should have some amount of flexibility in terms of your budget, set an upper limit so that you don’t end up going beyond that.

Architopia: An Affordable Alternative

Working closely with an architect you trust is the first step in bringing your vision to life. In a perfect world, all Australians would be able to find an architect who they resonate with, and who meticulously succeeds in building the house of their dreams.

Unfortunately, the reality is that 95% of Aussies simply can’t afford this.

This is where Architopia steps in. Our fixed fee packages start from just $1,950 — compared to an architect's commission of 5-15%, or $25,000-$75,000 for a $500,000 house.

We create energy-efficient, architecturally-designed, and affordable house plans that suit the Australian climate and landscape. Discover them for yourself today.