House Plan Reuse Fee


We're new here and have a question about architectural reuse fees.

Specifically, we're interested in a house design that was developed and built by an architect for his residence.  The home is in the $600K range and is 3100 sq. ft.

Before we approach him with a request to reuse the design and construction documents, we were wondering if there is a relative rule-of-thumb, or percentage so that we can determine if his required reuse fee is reasonable.

Please keep in mind that the architect will not be performing any work, just approving us to replicate the design.



Dec 13, 13 2:53 pm
Non Sequitur

No self-respecting design professional would sell off a design another client paid for. Legal and permit issues aside, I would show you the door if you were to ask this of my office. We have developers who specialize in selling mass-produced housing plans. Just think about it: someone spends real money on a custom designed home just to see the same thing pop-up elsewhere. If I were that client, I would be furious at the architect.

Dec 13, 13 3:38 pm

not true.

Non Sequitur

very true


a house design that was developed and built by an architect for his residence

It is the architect's personal house so no pissed off client involved.  I still wouldn't do it if I were him, but you never know....

Dec 13, 13 4:03 pm

Hmmm.  I've called 7 architects here in Md and all but one licenses their designs with a reuse fee when they're not prohibited from doing so.

Dec 13, 13 4:07 pm

Any house that can be plopped on a site is a poorly designed house.  A house must be adapted to the site.  Even if its a flat lot in a typical condition!  

Dec 13, 13 4:49 pm

zich6: " that we can determine if his required reuse fee is reasonable"

At the end of the day, this particular architect will, or will not, be interested in granting you this license. If he is interested and quotes you a fee, only you can determine whether you think his fee is reasonable and something you can afford -- why do you care what we think? Why don't you ask those "7 architects ... in MD" what they charge as a reuse fee?

My guess is that - because this is his personal residence - he'll probably be dis-inclined to grant you a license to make an exact copy of his house. More likely, since you seem to like the quality of his work, he'll try to convince you to hire him to provide a custom design that is tailored to your unique requirements, and the specific characteristics of your site, and your budget. 

As for your comment "the architect will not be performing any work" - you'll probably want to be careful about throwing that phrase around. Architects tend to be sensitive about the "value" of their custom designs, just like recording artists and movie actors tend to get pissed off when people pirate copyrighted CDs and DVDs.

Dec 13, 13 7:26 pm
Offer him $250. I'm sure he will appreciate the compliment.
Dec 13, 13 9:40 pm


is it me or has the profession been marginalized into joke?

this is a real question right?

Dec 13, 13 10:32 pm

"this is a real question right?"

Yeah.. It's a real question among people in the AEC industry.  You will =never= stop it being asked.  This is a business, not a philosophical fetish.


I consider about half my fee the 'intellectual property' portion.  The other half is the 'technical service' portion.  That's for residential work, at least.

So... If this guy is doing $600K budget houses for $20K, I wouldn't expect to pay less than $10K for a developed design.  You'll still need to adapt it to the site, which means you'll need a drafting technician to provide a site plan, and probably a bit of site engineering.  Also, you'll need a PE or Arch to stamp the structural drawings for the re-sited building.  You'd probably end up paying for structural as if it were a unique building.

I'd just approach the Architect directly and say "How much for a house just like yours on our site?" and see what he/she says.  He/she will be flattered, and that right there might get you a bit of a break on fees.   See what the Architect will quote you for a fresh design in the same opus, too... That might be darn close to what you'd end up paying to reuse a plan (unless you love that plan so much, that you just can't live without it!).

Hope that helps.  Glad to hear you'll be employing a gaggle of local tradespeople on the project. :-)  That's always welcome. 

Dec 13, 13 11:44 pm

Just to add....  I've been approached for this exact thing probably a dozen times in my career.  Half of those times, I ended up signing the client to a fresh design, after explaining the logistics of the re-use, and demonstrating, on the spot,  how I could deliver an optimum design for the site by starting fresh, and still meet their budget and schedule goals.

Try harder.  It works.

Dec 13, 13 11:49 pm
Very nice posts, DMS.

I will add that in my home state an architect *can* be held liable for any work s/he is involved in, regardless of whether they stamp drawings or are involved in construction or not. We're a "personal liability" state, which means as a Registered Professional I'm held to a high standard of liability where my design work is concerned. So even just turning over a set of pre-designed drawings exposes me to significant liability, and any fee I would demand would reflect that.

It's likely not really a significant a cost savings not to just hire him outright to design something custom for you, specific to your site, and in the style that you like. If you can afford a $600k house, you can afford the architect's fee to get what you really want from the house.
Dec 14, 13 5:53 am
Which reminds me of an article I having somewhere in my teaching files that shows how if you have a 30-year mortgage on a home, and figure in land costs and permits and interest and all the costs associated with building and paying for that house, over the life of the mortgage the 10-20% fee for an architect works out to like 3% the total cost. Isn't it worth paying 3% more to get a home that is custom to you and your family? That fits exactly the way you want to live and the kinds of memories you want to have of your home?
Dec 14, 13 5:57 am
I keep getting the question "can you redraw this stock plan cheaper than I can buy it online?" Cheap bastards.
Dec 14, 13 10:13 am

People pay realtors commissions with no problem.  

Dec 14, 13 11:17 am
vado retro

Please keep in mind that the architect will not be performing any work...

He DID do the work.

Dec 14, 13 2:15 pm

People pay realtors commissions with no problem

Realtors have the advantage of bringing money TO the owner rather than being an outlay of cash.  When all the checks are going around the table at closing, the seller is in a happy mood, rather than writing the first of many checks at the beginning of what he knows is going to be an expensive process.  Different frame of mind.

It also doesn't hurt that the Realtors have a monopoly on the multi-list which is pretty much essential to sell a house in a typical market.

A well-designed house should sell itself, but try telling that to a client, particularly if the client is your typical chiseling builder/developer.  Acchh, don't get me started!

Dec 14, 13 3:09 pm
I really wonder where people get the idea that architects don't do any work. As if the lines appear on the paper by themselves.
Dec 14, 13 3:33 pm

I would say it it is a design of an house for the Architect...I doubt if there is really a set of complete construction documents.  He most likely was changing things on the fly, and most of those changes were carried out by thumbnail sketches  or conversations with the master craftsmen he had  working on the job.  Sometimes it takes holding on piece of wood against another to get your point across.  So if his fee is really low you are going to be coming back to him for clarification time and time again and it will be  on an hourly based fee. 

Dec 14, 13 4:14 pm

I really wonder where people get the idea that architects don't do any work

Think about how architects are portrayed in movies and TV.  Have you ever seen them on charette or in unemployment lines?  They are always casually but elegantly dressed, sketching away or studying models in their spiffy office, living in cool houses and driving cool cars, and getting the hot ladies.  That's a big reason why the public thinks it's easy and why the kiddies keep pouring out of architecture schools despite incurring six-figure student loan debts.

Dec 15, 13 3:38 pm
Spent my Sunday drafting for a lo budget project. Now that its night im busy getting the ladies. I mean...busy ripping the crap out of my attic so I can build an office and guest room. Cuz I can't afford a contractor.
Dec 15, 13 5:38 pm

Spent my day shoveling snow, yet thinking about projects at the same time. Went to lunch feeling the snow shoveling.  Did some computer drawing, sent files and hopefully will get the big of from the "Architectural Gods"  Branding Architects.... the guys you love but hate at the same time....Think I'm going to go fart and  call it a day.

Dec 15, 13 10:07 pm

I want a custom designed house just like that one!

$600k buys a lot of stupidity. Not as much a $1m, but a boatload nonetheless.

Dec 17, 13 10:37 pm

Thanks, Donna... Nice talking with you again!


If you were trying to quote my scenario, you misquoted.  I said:

"How much for a house just like yours on our site?"

So, that implies it is =not= a custom home, but rather a duplicate of an existing home placed on a different site... Which may or may not work, and which may or may not be 'optimum' to connoisseurs like ourselves. 

Nobody asked about the other half dozen I'd been approached on... <g>

They were rejected.  Primarily on grounds that they were indeed custom homes for other clients, and I wasn't willing to even attempt to ask my clients if they were willing to have it duplicated... Because my clients are special.... Because they're MINE.

The half dozen I mentioned that did go forward were all spec houses to begin with.  All but one of those were for the same client I had originally done the house for to begin with... They wanted to 'do it again', as it were.  I'm skilled at creating marketable plans, and do a good number of spec jobs.  Like I said, except for the one, we started fresh on all of them, after a bit of salesmanship and horse trading on my own part.

For you folks just getting in this business:  If you want to have your =own= practice, you better be a natural salesperson... Because you're going to be selling a six-figure plus product that DOES NOT EXIST. 

Look, people... You can still do well in this business and maintain your ethics and self respect.  It's not really that difficult.  I can guarantee, however, that poverty will accompany any dogma you may harbor.  Listen to the proposal before you reject it, at least.... Unless you hate money. <g>

The original poster framed the situation very succinctly, and in his scenario there were no visible breeches of standard practice ethics I could see.  I was simply responding to the issue in the precise terms it was presented.  Whether or not it serves 'Art' wasn't on the table... And unless he was talking to Ray Kappe or something, it probably wouldn't be an issue, anyway (though I don't know that for sure, of course).

The World will continue to be mostly utilitarian and un-inspired, as it has mostly been over the current 50,000 years of human history.  Once in a while, small glimmers of genius will be seen, and noticed by some... But mostly unseen and ignored by the vast mass of said humanity.

Now.... Back to my soon-to-be-failed-like-every-other-conceived Utopian housing plan!!! <wrings hands like Dr. Evil>

Dec 17, 13 11:41 pm

Donna said,

"...over the life of the mortgage the 10-20% fee for an architect works out to like 3% the total cost."

Yeah, that's quite true.  However, for a spec builder it's all front-end... That kind of amortization is not a factor.

My sense is that the original poster was approaching this as a spec builder.  If that's not the case, then Donna's comment is spot on, of course.  That said, it's just like explaining how the Federal Reserve Bank counterfeits our money... Too much math for the average rube to wrap their head around.

This is what it's like living during the Fall of Rome, folks.  Sad but true.

Dec 17, 13 11:47 pm

DMS-USA, I like your writing.  Nice posts!

Dec 17, 13 11:59 pm

DMS - my comment was an observation on the OP.

Dec 18, 13 12:42 am


Oh - Then my mistake, my apologies.

However, he did not have 'custom' in his post, I see, except in terms of creating a new design, as I had also illustrated.

Dec 18, 13 12:47 am

Specifically, we're interested in a house design that was developed and built by an architect for his residence.

Sounds custom to me. 

Dec 18, 13 8:55 am

My golly, so many of you are so colossally negative. Yes obviously 'a custom house for all' is ideal but what about modular? And I am not talking about crap vinyl sided box modular-  but good, evolved, beautiful modular. Efficient and well designed. Obviously every site is different but you can take a handful of really well designed modulars and pick the one that is most suitable to the site and create a site specific foundation and turn the house appropriately for solar orientation and then you are done. Isn't this the basis of so much of what we are tying to do? Is what this person is asking for really so awful Do architects have to be so damn negative all of the time? 

Yes of course the architect should get paid a decent amount for a good design but anyone who has done work for a developer knows that you can build the same house more than once. And you can do it well.

And you can also take a pre designed house and sell it to a client and then charge for modifications. It's a fairly nice business model and especially since not everyone in the work d can afford a custom designed home. 

Oct 11, 18 1:07 pm
Non Sequitur

you see negativity, we see reality. Also, this is a 5y old discussion. No need to resurrect the dead horse only to beat it some more.


Hey trillium, I hope you're not Syre, nothing but bad reputation from that family and company.


It isn't just about orienting windows. Efficient homes employs as much passive solar design as possible to minimize active systems. Part of it is A) sizing thermal mass. B) sizing aperture. Optimizing for the year round season. Implementing the right amount of insulation at the right location. Appropriate floor plan and good design thinking. You don't need big open windows and glass areas in a private part of a house. Houses have two types of spaces.... private or personal spaces and "public spaces" or we can call it "social spaces". While homes are inherently private but homes are places people may socialize like when you have friends or guests over. What part of your home do you want people to enter? Probably your living room/great room. Maybe kitchen area. Maybe the "common" bathroom. Not your bedrooms or your bathrooms which generally requires access from the bedrooms to enter. Homes are designed so there are these two general broad kinds of spaces. You'll want some smaller windows that allows light in in the morning to let them know its morning and not entirely depend on a clock but you may. An appropriately designed home optimizes (where possible) these elements of domestic life yet also optimizes heat gain & loss throughout the overall year. Stock house plans (which house plan reuse entails) is counter-intuitive to optimal efficient home design of any kind because reuse has to sacrifice something in the process of being site neutral. The best and most efficient homes can ONLY be designed to the optimal level for the specific site location. It is scientific law, behind this.

Non Sequitur

Ricky, see my point above about beating on dead horses.


I didn't read your point above but good point.

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