Without going into too much details here I would say most local design professionals and engineers overcharge and under deliver by a huge margin.
Especially architects design here without any consideration of a budget and also without any responsibility to meet any budget. This might be a little bit problematic all over the world but neither the architect nor the engineer will do any real budget or any cost estimation even though they are actually responsible by the law and they are also charging for it in their fees. The 10.5% fee on the CIFA value charged by the design professionals here in Costa Rica includes a 1.5%-2% charge for an construction estimate. Also the 2% additional architecture fee should at least include a basic budget I believe.
In 10 years I personally have never seen an estimate by either a architect or by an engineer! So perhaps “Budget” or “Estimate” are very flexible concepts here but just saying the house will be $350.000 does not really cut it at least in my view.
The main problem is than that this very important part of the construction process gets delegated to the builder or even worse to the crew building your house. We have seen it all over the place that a design gets made with an assumption of a certain sft price if at all. The engineer than goes over the plans and puts in addition his requirements which usually add substantially to the total cost. Then the client pays for the whole set of plans and the design process is finished. The client looks for a builder and he in turn bids on those plans. Some builders might have the expertise to really estimate but most don’t, especially on more complicated not standard “Tico” houses. So the builder does his best to try to come up with a price and then if chosen starts building. I would estimate that more than 75% of all construction projects have some sort of substantial cost overrun. On some projects the builder realizes his mistake and just leaves before finishing. Again no responsibility by the builder, the architect or the engineer also usually no legal recourse. This is one of the main reason why so many projects fail from whole developments to single homes.
Of cause we can only talk about the experience we had so far in the last 10 years with professionals in our area. I am sure there must be superior design professionals in this country!