This is a common fallacy heard too often not only among the expats but also among the Spaniards.
To start with, a firm of experienced architects are able to anticipate to any planning or construction problem before it occurs and will advise you well ahead of time saving you headaches and money.
Apart from good design architects have an overall picture of the project without losing site of the nitty-gritty parts.
We architects can save you much more money than the cost our fees. Find below just a few examples which could be easily amplified.
How can an architect save me money?
1. If we consider a simple rehab job for a home, if it is the architects who collects the estimates from local contractors and not "Mr. Expat John Smith" most probably will save you at least 10% of the total price just on the offset. It shouldn't be so, but unfortunately local contractors feel that dealing with none Spanish speaker clients would delay the works due to the lack of communication and cause possible confusions during the execution of the job. With an architect involved the contractor feels reassured that all the relevant construction info is available from the offset and most important, the main decisions about the works have been taken well in advance avoiding unforeseen circumstances and expensive delays difficult to charge the client once the work has started.
In our long experience when any of our clients have tried to obtain different bids from local contractors and then we have followed exactly the same procedure our prices have been at least 10% cheaper and in some cases much more.
2. A firm of architects worth their salts have big data banks of building materials and labour prices around Spain divided by provinces and locally by individual towns, so any tender prices from contractors can be scrutinized by our staff and renegotiated down to a standard level. On the other extreme we can detect when prices obtained are so ridiculously cheap that will represent a future problem.
3. When architectsprepare a bid it does so by presenting a full bill of quantities so that all tenders received are based on exactly the same materials and labour so that you can compare like with alike. Most often contractors prepare their own specifications and materials and it is terribly difficult for none expert to differentiate the disparity in prices and in quality.
4. When clients are told that they can obtain big discounts on materials, sometimes as much as 30% etc they think that with those savings they have made a good deal and by subcontracting the labour direct no one will do carryout the job cheaper. First, think if the building store will do that reduction in price to the one off client that most probably will never see again, what discount will give to a local contractor who has been buying materials for the last 10 years and probably will continue doing so for the next 20!!
5. Most expats have had construction works done by contracting directly without the supervision of an architect, and when I have ask them about the time they have spent supervising and managing the job and asked them to put a price on the hours spent, they become very surprised concerning the total amount of money that they could have saved by engaging an architect. And here I am not talking about the hustle and problems encountered in the development of the works.
6. Paper works. Yes, I personally spend 60% of my working time "lobbying" and managing building licenses, planning approval etc, and I know by their Christian names practically all the civil servants of all the town halls in Costa Blanca and Costa Cálida. After 25 years of professional practise even I have to armed myself with patience and breath ten times before I answer back (usually young technicians) at the town hall who do not know their jobs and pretend that my clients carry out absurd construction solutions. Let me quickly add here that the majority of civil servants (especially those who have been at the post for a number of years) are very helpful and try to provide fair solutions for both parties, the town hall and the citizen involved. However inexperience town hall technician may propose very expensive solutions that may be counter argued and thus making great savings.
There are many other ways which due to the limitation of this article I cannot extend on. There is in addition one more important factor; an architect can make the process of designing your home from cero, adding an extension or rehabilitating it in an enjoyable process. Now days we use very sophisticated software and it is very rewarding to see in 3D how your ideas take shape in front of your very own eyes or you can have a walk about through future spaces becoming aware of perhaps unexpected problems that by visualizing before it is constructed may also save you money.