My Modern Home No19-3-Front Yard
Oct. 13, 2023
Oct. 13, 2023

How Much it Really Costs to Design a House

Unveiling the Price Tags of Architectural Excellence

Unveiling the Price Tags of Architectural Excellence

Exploring Options for Discerning Homebuilders:
From Traditional Architectural Services to Affordable Predesigned Home Plans

If you are considering building a custom home design, you have certainly considered the question “how much does it cost to design a house?”

Many factors contribute to the cost to design a custom home. In this article we will focus on the cost to design a house associated with two options – a bespoke design created by an architectural firm, and a pre-designed home plan designed by, and customized by, an architect.

By the end of this article, we are confident that you will better understand how much it costs to design a house, and be better able to choose the option that best fits your needs and expectations.

Designing a dream home is a venture that requires careful consideration, and one of the crucial aspects is the cost involved in the design process.

For those with a discerning taste and an appreciation for architectural excellence, partnering with an architect is often seen as the go-to option. However, in recent years alternative solutions have emerged, catering to individuals seeking cost-effective yet aesthetically pleasing and well-functioning home designs.

In this article, we delve into the question that's on the minds of many prospective homeowners: "How much does it cost to design a house?" We explore the traditional route of working with an architect and introduce an alternative solution offered by companies providing pre-designed home plans – including My Modern Home.

Modern Courtyard Home Design | My Modern Home

The Traditional Approach:
Collaborating with an Architect

When embarking on a custom home design journey, enlisting the expertise of an architect is the epitome of luxury and exclusivity. These professionals possess a unique ability to translate your vision into a tangible, bespoke masterpiece. However, it's essential to understand how much it costs to design a house if choosing this option.

Architectural Design Fees

Architects charge design fees based on several factors, including the complexity of the project, their experience, and the scale of the home. For a luxury residence, architectural fees typically range from 8% to 15% of the total construction cost - that’s $40,000 - $75,000 for every $500,000 in construction cost. However, it's important to note that these percentages can vary depending on the scope of the project, location of the project, and the architect's reputation and level of experience – thus impacting how much it costs to design a house using an architectural firm.

The architectural design fees cover a range of services, including conceptual design, schematic design, design development, construction documentation, and construction administration. Architects invest considerable time and expertise in each phase of the project, ensuring that the design meets both aesthetic and functional requirements.

The Cost of Additional Services

Apart from architectural design fees, there are several additional expenses that may arise throughout the process which impact how much it costs to design a house. These additional design expenses encompass a range of services and activities that contribute to the successful realization of the design. For example:

  • Site analysis helps identify any constraints or opportunities offered by the site
  • Feasibility studies assess the practicality of the proposed design
  • 3D renderings provide realistic visualizations, enabling clients to better understand the emotive qualities of the design

In addition, depending on the home design, lot characteristics (such as significant lot slope), and local permitting requirements, the services of additional consultants are sometimes required. Specialized consultants play a crucial role in ensuring that various aspects of a home's design meet specific requirements and standards.

  • Structural Engineers are responsible for assessing the stability and load-bearing capacity of the building. They evaluate the architectural plans and provide recommendations to ensure the structure is safe and structurally sound. The fees for structural engineering services typically depend on the complexity of the project, size of the structure, and the engineer's level of expertise.
  • Electrical Engineers are involved in designing the electrical systems of the home, including wiring, lighting, power distribution, and safety features. Their expertise ensures that the electrical components are up to code and meet the homeowner's needs. The fees for electrical engineering services vary depending on the size of the project, the complexity of the electrical systems, and the engineer's experience.
  • Mechanical Engineers specialize in designing the plumbing systems (including water supply, drainage, and fixtures) and the HVAC systems (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning). They ensure that the plumbing layout is efficient, complies with regulations, and meets the demands of the household. Mechanical consultants also consider factors such as climate, energy efficiency, and indoor air quality to create optimal HVAC solutions. The costs for these engineering services depend on factors such as the scope of work, complexity of the plumbing systems, and the consultant's expertise and qualifications.
  • Geotechnical Engineering are responsible for studying and analyzing the behavior of soils under various loading forces, ensuring the stability and safety of the project. Geotechnical engineers provide recommendations on foundation design, slope stability, and earthworks to prevent issues like leaning, settling, or collapse of buildings. Their expertise ensures that the residential project is built on a solid and reliable foundation, minimizing the risks associated with soil instability.
  • Civil Engineers are responsible for planning, and designing, and overseeing the construction of the site infrastructure. This includes utilities outside of the building (water, sewer, power, gas, storm water), roads, site drainage, and stormwater management.
  • Landscape Architects advise on, plan, and manage the development of external land areas. Their work involves designing outdoor spaces, selecting appropriate plants and materials, and ensuring the functionality and aesthetics of the overall landscape. They collaborate with clients, contractors, and other professionals to bring their design vision to life.
  • Interior Designers assist in selecting materials, textiles, furnishings, and artwork for interior spaces within the home. Working with an interior designer who can collaborate with you architect will create the most cohesive design.

It's important to note that the fees for specialized consultants can vary significantly depending on geographical location, project complexity, and individual consultants' rates. It's advisable to budget for these expenses early on and consult with professionals to get accurate estimates for your specific project.

Don’t forget - Time is Money!

When building a custom home, many homeowners overlook the significant amount of time that it can take to move from purchasing a lot, to engaging an architect, and then ultimately reaching the construction stage.

Designing a house is an intricate and time-consuming process that requires careful consideration and collaboration between the homeowner and the architect. The duration of the design phase can range from a few months to over a year, depending on the project's size, complexity, and the efficiency of the collaborative process.

While this article is about how much it costs to design a house, it’s important to remember that the duration of the design and documentation phases of the home-building process can impact cost.

Firstly – most homeowners will need to anticipate the cost of their existing mortgage plus the interest or payments associated with a construction loan or other financial instrument while building their new home. Depending on interest rates, a drawn-out design process or construction phase will impact the bottom line for homeowners.

Secondly – designing a home is usually an iterative process. When engaging an architect to provide a custom home design, homeowners usually want to make changes to the initial design to realize their vision. And that’s ok – being able to direct the design is why you’ve hired an architect! But homeowners should be mindful that excessive changes, or design changes after working drawings have been started, will lead to extra costs to compensate for the time required to make these changes.

Likewise, changes to specifications, design decisions, or construction materials or methodology once construction is underway can lead to significant costs and greatly impact how much it costs to design a house. The adage used in the design and construction industry is that you will pay double for a scope addition but receive only half-back for a scope reduction. The saying would be funny – except that it’s true!

Modern Home Design | My Modern Home

A Great Alternative: Predesigned Home Plans

Recognizing the need for cost-effective yet well-considered modern home designs, companies like My Modern Home have emerged as alternatives to traditional architectural services. They offer an extensive range of predesigned home plans that cater to various tastes, budgets, and lifestyle preferences.

My Modern Home provides clients with a range of modern home designs created by our in-house team of architects – while also offering customization services so that customers can achieve a bespoke home plan at a fraction of the cost – and time – that it takes to achieve a custom home design using a traditional architectural services approach.

Looking for a modern home plan?

We can help! Explore our range of pre-designed modern home plans here.


Predesigned home plans provide significant cost savings compared to custom designs. These plans are carefully crafted by experienced architects, allowing homeowners to enjoy stunning designs without the high price tag.

Time Efficiency

The design process for predesigned home plans is streamlined and efficient, allowing homeowners to embark on the construction phase sooner. This can be particularly advantageous for individuals with time constraints or those who seek a swift move-in process. And – since time is money – this time-savings reduces even further the overall cost to design a house.


With a pre-designed home plan, the risk of uncertainty can be all but eliminated from the home design and home construction process. Obviously, you won’t buy a plan that you don’t love – so risk of a less-than-optimal final design is removed. And, because customers can bring plans to potential builders with a pre-designed home plan, you can also benefit from a high degree of cost-certainty for the construction cost for your new home.

Customization Options

While predesigned home plans offer a cost-effective solution, some companies still allow for customization within certain parameters. Homeowners can make modifications to suit their specific requirements, ensuring a personal touch to their living space. Starting from a pre-designed plan usually results in fairly specific customizations, making the work quick and efficient to execute as clients can study the plans online before engaging customization services.

At My Modern Home, most of our customers take advantage of our customization services to some degree. Some simply wish to make a small change – such as adding a dog shower to the laundry room. Others make more extensive modifications – such as adding additional floors, interior elevators (to create an age-in-place or multi-generational home), or attached garages.

We’re here to help – for changes large and small!

Quality Assurance

At My Modern Home, we ensure that our predesigned home plans meet rigorous quality standards. These plans are created by our in-house team of experienced architects who pay attention to detail, ensuring that homeowners receive designs of exceptional quality.

Understanding the Costs

When purchasing a predesigned home plan, the cost is significantly lower compared to the fees associated with an architect's involvement in a custom design. Predesigned home plans from My Modern Home start at about $2400 – a fraction of the cost of traditional architectural fees.

It's crucial to consider the overall value provided by predesigned home plans. These plans are created by experienced architects who have already invested considerable time and expertise in developing designs that balance aesthetics, functionality, and affordability. By purchasing a predesigned home plan, homeowners can access high-quality designs at a fraction of the cost.

Making an Informed Decision

If you are building your dream home, the decision between traditional architectural services and predesigned home plans ultimately rests on your preferences, budget, and desired level of customization. Here are a few key factors to consider:


If budget is an important consideration for you, predesigned home plans offer a cost-effective option without compromising on style and quality. These plans provide an accessible entry point into the world of architectural excellence.

A pre-designed house plan not only reduces the costs to designing a house, but also provides certainty regarding construction cost before you embark on your home-building journey. My Modern Home’s pre-designed plans can be provided to prospective builders so that you can obtain construction quotes, and My Modern Home also provides Cost to Build Services, partnering with experienced quantity surveyors to provide you with cost estimates to construct our plans - estimates that are specific to the location where you plan to build.

Unfortunately, when working with an architectural firm in a traditional model, it is usually difficult to achieve budgetary certainty until the design process is significantly progressed. Budgetary “surprises” can lead to the need to undertake a re-design which will again increase how much it costs to design a house due to additional design and consultation fees.


For those seeking a unique and tailored home design, collaborating with an architect allows for a higher level of customization and creative input. Architects have the expertise to turn your vision into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. While predesigned home plans do have some limitations on customization, they can still offer significant opportunity to create a bespoke design. Many, but not all, companies offering predesigned home plans offer customization. At My Modern Home, we offer extensive customization services and employ experienced architects on-staff.


Predesigned home plans offer a streamlined process, perfect for those looking to expedite the construction process and move into their new home quickly. This can be advantageous for individuals with time constraints or those looking for a swift transition.

Lifestyle and Taste

Consider your lifestyle needs and aesthetic preferences when deciding between traditional architectural services and predesigned home plans. Predesigned home plans often cater to specific architectural styles, allowing you to choose a design that aligns with your taste and lifestyle.


Both traditional architectural services and predesigned home plans can incorporate sustainable design principles. If environmental consciousness is a priority, working with an architect who specializes in green architecture can ensure your home is eco-friendly and energy-efficient. If you choose to purchase a pre-designed home plan and sustainable design is important to you – work with your builder and LEED certified (Passive House or Energy Star) professionals and other consultants to achieve a sustainable home. Some pre-designed home plans will already take sustainable design and energy-efficiency into account.


Courtyard homes offer many advantages if designing an energy efficient home is important to you! You can find more information about the benefits of courtyard house plans in our article, Why Courtyard House Plans Are Becoming So Popular.

Modern One-Storey House | My Modern Home

Designing a house is a journey that requires thoughtful consideration of various factors, with the cost to design a house plan and budgetary certainty when it comes to construction often being critical factors. While collaborating with an architect ensures personalized designs and exceptional attention to detail, predesigned home plans provide an enticing alternative for discerning homeowners seeking affordability without sacrificing style.

Ultimately, the decision rests on the individual's preferences, budget, and desired level of involvement. Whether you opt for the traditional path or embrace the cost-effective alternatives, the prospect of building your dream home is within reach, transforming architectural aspirations into a tangible reality. Choose wisely and embark on a homebuilding journey that brings your vision to life while aligning with your financial goals.


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