When to get help from the professionals

I often meet investors who are considering engaging the services of an architect and or interior designer and my question is always the same – why?

So this month we are going to look at not only “why” you would involve an architect or interior designer in a project, but also when, how and what benefits or additional returns they can bring to the end result.

Property investing is a business plain and simple. So any decisions made should be based on two simple factors.  The first is the ability to enhance the value of the property and therefore the investor’s portfolio value, and the second is to increase or maximise rents.

No emotion should ever be brought into the equation when renovating investment properties- ever.

I sat with Tim Cameron at “Demand Architectural Design Services”, who does a lot of work for investors and developers and got his perspective on using an architect.

On the “why” question, Tim had some simple answers.

Architects offer new and original, creative design solutions that you may not be able to see yourself, for example extras bedrooms, adding living areas, or dividing existing spaces without compromising standards of living.

Importantly architects ensure your project is fully consented and legal.

So, not only can they help increasing rents but also adding value with every careful cent spent.

On the “when” question, Tim insists the earlier architects get involved the better, as the further you go down the project, the harder it is to make changes or deliver within a client’s budget or expectations.

“How” you get an architect is simple – you can Google one or go to the yellow pages, but Tim says there are two things you should always do.

The first is to check references from previous clients and ensure your architect is either an investor or works in the property sector so they can fully understand and achieve the brief you give them.

Secondly Tim believes it’s essential that your architect has a rapport with the council you will be dealing with.

Here are Tim’s top 10 tips on the benefits of using an architectural designer for your project to enhance your returns and I have to say, they all work for me as a person who works full time renovating property for investors and investing myself.

Tim’s top 10 tips
1. Have a clear brief on what you wish to achieve in your building project or don’t start it
2. Have a clear budget for your project and stick to it
3. Research, research, research
4. Make sure you are 100% happy with the final design before you sign it off
5. Never change your mind once you have done this
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions even if they seem dumb – that’s what you are paying for
7. Establish fees and cost structures up front and sign a contract
8. Check references and testimonials thoroughly
9. Make sure they have property investment credentials and understand return on investment
10. Make every decision with them based on increased equity and/or rent only – don’t personalise ever when using architects for investment properties.

So now let’s look at how an interior designer could be utilized when renovating an investment property.  I spoke with Bev Grant from” bg Design” about her process when working with property investors and developers.

Bev explained that there is a pre conception that interior design can be very expensive, however many companies now days,  including hers, have tailor-made packages for all budgets which means that even if you’re just looking at a very small project it can be cost effective to involve an interior designer to achieve what you want.

Bev told me that clients need to have a clear budget and clear expectations on what they wish to achieve from the end result and also understand that any decisions made at design stage will ultimately affect the cost of your project, so she tries to ensure clients stay focused on those parameters throughout.

She firmly  believes the best time to involve your designer is at the outset so they can dovetail in with your architect and renovation company or other trades involved to all being on the same page.

Communication from the outset is the key to keeping those costs under control and the timeframes kept to a minimum.

As to why you would use an interior designer, Bev believes she can create spaces and rooms that people or tenants want to live in cost effectively and that means her landlord clients have very few vacancies and happy tenants.

She can visualise opportunities that landlords often can’t see, such as a different kitchen design to create a dining area or dividing a large room without major building works to increase value.

A fresh pair of eyes is her motto when dealing with clients. It’s also prudent to understand how much time you as a client want to spend on your project, as this will affect the involvement of the designer as well.

Bev told me that many landlords and real estate agents use her as an integral part of maximising their properties sale price as do developers. She also works with landlords when renovating their properties, particularly in mid to high-end areas where tenants will pay much more for a well-designed and planned home rather than a box on the same street.

So in summary, both an architect and interior designer can certainly add enormous value to any property or help to maximise rents. The real key is to use companies that understand what you as the landlord and business owner are trying to achieve both in the short and long term.

These companies love to work with people and many are property investors themselves,  through their love for the property industry itself.

Tip
Choose 3 architects and designers who understand property investment

Mark Trafford Director “Maintain To Profit”