Understanding architect's contract

I am hiring an architect as both architect and maitre d’oeuvre for a property I am restoring. However, I am not quite sure I understand the contract and wonder whether anyone can give me a steer.

The contract sets out a budget, which is rather higher than I had expected (um, twice what I expected), and states the remuneration as a percentage of the budget.

I’m not sure whether that means the architect gets the fee thus calculated whether or not the money is spent, or whether this is at this stage a ‘best guess’ and the fee will be calculated on the outcome? I have read through the documentation several times but I must be missing something.

It’s normal practice. The m d’œuvre will let the contracts for you and will supervise the project from start to finish. He will (or already has done) obtained devis from approved contractors to do the work in order for the 10 year decennal assurance to be put in place, Many (if not all) these contractors) will be less expensive going through the m d’œuvre than you could obtain on your own from these contractors and the prices will be fixed so no nasty niffs at the end of the project.

Yes, it is more expensive than going it alone but you can be assured that the contract will be properly supervised and his fee is often geared to the whole project cost.

We employed a m d’œuvre on our contract but that was just to do the drawings and submit them for planning approval. We then supervised the contract ourselves but this meant being on-site every day to keep tabs on the builders and to kick *rse as necessary and source the materials ourselves.

No mean feat, I can tell you! Quite stressful so what you are paying for is peace of mind and that doesn’t come cheap!

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We’re a bit earlier than that; the architect is preparing a Relevé at the moment, which we’ll pay for separately, and we’ll be budgeting on the basis of that - no devis have gone out and we need to do a fair bit of work before we get there. Now, that’s a couple of grand or so for the Relevé, but on a large 17th century house I really do want an exhaustive survey together with a real architect to think through whether space and lighting can be better managed.

The issue is really that she’s put down a much bigger ‘envelope’ than we thought we needed, and I’m unsure whether we are signed up to that legally or whether it’s just a ‘serving suggestion’.

I think you should discuss the figures with your architect as soon as possible…explaining your budget and asking where/if savings can properly be made.

Our commune received a very high quote/plan from the architect (and he was expecting a good % on top of that)…the maire discussed things with him…(no movement) … and then asked another architect to take a look at the project…

Result is, we paid the first architect the fee for the plan…and are using the second architect, who has made variations which work and come up with other ideas as well… all costing the commune a lot less.

Similar in our commune for a new salle polyvalent, 3 architects submitted plans to the conseil municipal (with estimated costs), one was chosen and the architect sent out for quotes and suggested the maitre d’oeuvre, resulting in an increase in cost of over double.
Didn’t go down too well when I suggested there was a financial crisis (not just in Europe, but seriously in our Comcom)

We’ve had a chat with the architect. She’s already started the releve - they need another day at the house (yes, it’s big) - and we’ll sit down and talk about plans in more detail once we can see clearly what we’ve got. She stressed that the ‘envelope’ is just that - it’s an upper limit, based simply on estimating average cost per square metre, and not an estimate (devis). She was not at all shocked when we said we’d estimated quite a lot less; so she now knows I want interesting structural interventions but not necessarily expensive fitted kitchens or bathrooms!

The releve is crucial. After all, we’ve already found two ‘secret’ rooms that were not in the estate agent’s particulars… as well as an internal passage we didn’t know was there.

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Only just saw this post, sorry. I am an architect working here, member of the French Ordre des Architectes (and the RIBA). We use the O des A standard contract (which is also available in English) for renovation work. At the very start we estimate the budget (based on our experience of average renovation price per square metre) and this is what the contract is based on. My fees are set as a % of this; the % depends on the type and size of project. The budget is then fine tuned as the brief is honed down, and finalised when the devis (quotes) come in and are signed. My wife works with me and she keeps very detailed records of all costs, (devis, deposits, invoices etc). At the end of the project she provides final accounts which give total spent on the building works; my fee related to this is then adjusted up or down for my final invoice depending on how close the final cost is to the contract budget and thus the fees already paid based on that. If it is big or long project or the client adds on a load of things halfway, the fees are sometimes adjusted during the project. Make absolutely sure you have a proper contract with your architect, including the Annex Conditions of Engagement and don’t let them supervise any work that you have not signed a devis for. Then there are no surprises. And I hope no one is going to say that % fee is dodgy, encourages the architect to push up prices etc (which I have heard voiced)!! It is the standard way of charging in architecture and reflects the complexity of the work undertaken and the fact that the client often makes modifications or additions as the project advances. Any “collusion” on prices between architect and builder is completely illegal and one would be struck off. I have never come across it.
Hope this helps (rather late).

Thank you Sean!

We had an excellent meeting with our architect last month - yes, it’s the standard Ordre contract, which I do now understand a bit better. It’s the first time I’ve used an architect rather than a builder directly and I’m still trying to remember the difference between maitre d’oeuvre and maitre d’ouvrage…

Hi Andrea, I think that you will find that you will get value for money and it will save you a whole host of difficulties. The maitre d’oeuvre is the person who runs the building contract and the maitre d’ouvrage is the client whose building it is. Good luck with the project.

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