Need help, how much to ask for, $ per sf...?


I was given an offer to do some work on the side, for a builder who designs and builds homes.  Now I was given the opportunity to give my own rate for $ per sf.  Not sure what I should ask for per sf, I will be doing permit working drawings for reno's and new construction homes.  I have 4 years experience but have always been either paid hourly or salary, so don't have a knowledge of what to ask for per sf.  I have tried doing research on a value but it varies greatly or its just very old obsolete numbers...  Should I ask for a different rate for reno's as apposed to new construction?

Apr 17, 13 1:00 pm

A family was asked me to design a home for them and pay me by the square foot, it was a terrible experience. If it's a must I'd work out a lump sum/fixed price for the risk and labour you're taking on with permit drawings and calculate the numbers that way.

I think when people ask for a square foot design cost they are showing their disregard for the amount of effort that goes into design and drawings and the variation. Throw a staircase in and suddenly it becomes a bad deal for you.

I don't know where you are, but in BC we have the tariff of fees on the AIBC website that outlines the common methods of payment for architects. Use similar documents to educate your clients.

Apr 17, 13 5:22 pm

Agree with Chris-chitect.  However, if you must do it, try to tie it to cost.  Work it backward, what is the cost per square foot they have in mind for a typical home (level of finishes, detail, quality).  How big is it generally.  What’s the total construction budget.  What is the typical percentage of construction for architectural fee in your area, for the same level of finishes of the type of homes.  Once you figure out the equivalent fixed fee, you can then divide it by area to get to the per sf fee.  This way you can at least get a somewhat realistic and reasonable number.  It also gives you a way to somewhat justify said number.

Be sure to specify in the agreement the definition of what is included in your basic scope of services, specific exclusions, and procedure for additional service. 

Apr 17, 13 8:21 pm

Thanks for the feed back, but in this situation I'm acting more as the drafter, in just producing the working drawings.  Not sure what design freedom I'd have starting off, but I'm sure they'll take input when I see its needed.  Just so confused as to what ballpark number I should use.  Also I'm in the Toronto area if this would help any.  Thanks again...

Apr 18, 13 10:26 am

why not ask to be paid by the hr?  sounds like the projects will vary a great deal in complexity. Sq. ft. isn't a good way to estimate costs for anything, esp. design/drafting fees

Apr 18, 13 3:43 pm

ASK FOR AS MUCH AS YOU CAN!!!!! NEVER SELL YOUR SELF SHORT!! ESPECIALLY NOT IN THIS PROFESSION. if you have 4 years experience you will know something that looks like a one and done turns into a one thousand and none (one thousand times of you redoing it and no $$compensation$$$)

Apr 18, 13 4:03 pm

I definitely don't want to sell myself short, already been through that when I still lived in the DC area. 

Well, revisions will be done by the builder himself, he's BCIN certified and CAD knowing, I would be just doing the first time working drawing set.  Anything there after, he will revise as needed, just doing the tedious work for him.  Haven't got started into any projects yet, just trying to prep myself prior.  Hopefully I can consult with him once again before getting started, try to figure things out more firmly. 

Thanks again for all the feed back its really helpful

Apr 18, 13 4:22 pm

Square foot price is developer mentality, meant to be chewed (pronounced "jewed" in some circles) down and calculated as a fixed cost for determining profit. Not that they won't chew down an hourly rate, but at the very least when you're asked to go above and beyond the scope of work you will be compensated. 

If you have to do it on a fixed fee, make sure the scope is very clearly defined *and* that you have an agreement for compensation for the work above and beyond it that you will invariably be requested to do. Some people, and developers especially, think they own you once you have accepted their money.

Apr 18, 13 4:26 pm

Good points, notes taken..

Apr 18, 13 4:29 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

Our standard fee is a percentage of the cost of the work, but smart clients are questioning % fees more and more these days, because they perceive a conflict of interest inherent in the structure.  It's a hard thing to sell sometimes.  Also, it's hard for them to understand why you should get 15% of the cost of that $1000/sf onyx slab in the kitchen, when it doesn't take any more time to detail than the $20/sf granite.  I wish I had a buck for every time I've had a variation of THAT discussion with a client.

I think $ per SF is a better fee basis than either hourly or a fixed fee.  With an hourly, even with a profit built into the rate, the upside is limited.  With a fixed fee, at least if you are efficient and spend fewer hours you will make more money, but what if the project goes from a 5000 sf house to a 7000 sf house in the design process?  That's where the $/SF fee works well, since it simply adjusts to the size of the project.

Think of the $/sf as a fixed fee that can adjust if the project scope changes.

Apr 19, 13 8:23 pm

"Smart client" is an oxymoron when they spend $1,000 sq.ft. on materials and nickel and dime the design fee. If they can afford the former they can most certainly afford the latter.

The onyx / granite argument is a red herring. A truly smart client understands that fine materials need to be used appropriately and detailed exquisitely rather than just plastered all over the place.

Some of this comes from the rich just being miserly, some of it comes from less-than-stellar experiences with those who charge way too much and produce far too little.

Apr 19, 13 9:25 pm

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: