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What to expect—and what you're paying for—when you're hiring an architect

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Question:

What exactly are you paying for when you hire an architect? And what do you actually get for your money?

Answer:

When you hire an architect for a renovation, you're paying both for their design expertise as well as their experience navigating the city's labyrinth of permits and paperwork, say our experts.

Their expertise has to do with knowing all there is to know about layout quality, room dimensions, building code, engineering and more," says Corcoran's Deanna Kory. "They incorporate a lot of different disciplines into their profession."

As we've written previously, NYC architects can charge anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent of the total construction cost—around 10 percent is a safe general estimate. It's not cheap, but if you're doing major work to substantially change a space (or create something new from scratch), their help will be indispensible, both in the initial planning phase and in the execution.

"An architect can help in an advisory capacity to help understand what would work best in terms of the function of the layout," says Kory. For instance, if you are considering a complex project such as moving a bathroom to expand your bedroom, your architect can help draw up the plans and address technical logistics such as the plumbing.

More to the point, if you live in an apartment building, it's very likely that you'll need to hire an architect for the project anyway. "Most buildings require that you hire an architect to draw the plans of the new renovation, and submit them to the Department of Buildings or similar agency for review," Kory notes. "The architect is then often hired to supervise what is being built to make sure it's done properly and correctly." 

Expensive though it may be, renovations are generally not the time to go DIY.


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