Where to start: the first conversation with your potential designer

A question from Julie, a member of the UA Community, who is starting on her project and thinking about working with designers and builders. She’s wondering how to have that first conversation …

“This is the part I’m most nervous about.

Is it as simple as picking up the phone and speaking to an architect or design consultant or builder with design services, and saying ‘Hi, can you give me a quote?’

Do I go guns blazing and let them know our budget and ask what they can do with that, or is that a stupid question to ask these professionals?

We know what we want, we have the idea, and we have a fixed price we can afford (before we have to stat eating baked beans until all the kids are out of the house!)

I just don’t want to sound like a fool when I first speak to someone, so how do I best initiate that very first conversation??”

I prepared a video to answer this question in more detail, and to help you with navigating that first conversation. In it, I shared my three main tips to do it well.

Here’s the video (If you want the summary, keep reading …)

My three tips to help you navigate that first conversation …

Tip #1  Don’t worry about sounding silly

As nervous as you may be to sound like a fool, you are most likely a novice when it comes to renovating or building your home. Most people only do it once or twice in their lives. You are not meant to know what to do!

There’s more. You don’t know what you don’t know. And you probably don’t even know the actual questions to ask to find out what you need to know.

That’s not your job, though. The industry professionals you’ll be speaking to do this every day. They’re the ones with the info, experience and expertise – and it’s their responsibility to fill the gaps for you.

If it feels easier, preface your conversation with “This may sound silly, but …”.

I actually have a rule – there’s no such thing as a silly question. It’s all part of the journey.

By admitting you don’t know, it helps them know how to meet you (and your needs) where you are.

Use it as a filter as well. Those who treat your lack of knowledge as an opportunity to patronise you, or be arrogant with their advice, can be dismissed quite easily through this process.

Tip #2  Do your homework before you pick up the phone

The quality of the advice you’ll receive will be dependent on the experience and expertise of the professional you ask for advice.

And your ability to trust the advice you’ll receive will also be dependent on how much you value their experience and expertise.

So do your homework. Ask friends and locals for recommendations. Research those who work in your area.

Look for professionals that do the type of work you’re seeking for your project. There’s no point speaking to the architect who always designs contemporary glass and steel homes if you’re planning a timber cottage with character. The same can be said about builders – look for those who do work similar to what you envisage for your home.

Ask them what do they suggest you ask them. Ask them to lead you, and to provide advice about what you should be doing next.

Tip #3  Share your budget, but be general and clear about what it has to pay for

Whilst it may feel like you’re giving away leverage, or a big secret to share your budget, it is an important part of your project plans.

It also helps those providing advice to tailor it specifically to your project, as different budgets will mean taking different opportunities and routes to your finished home.

Build in a buffer and talk about it generally. Reduce it a little to give yourself some contingency, and indicate a range – something like “mid $200K range”, or “in the high $400K mark”.

Also be clear about what your budget needs to cover.

There are many ancillary costs when renovating or building, such as consultant fees, approval fees, inspection costs – and things you don’t even know about yet.

Often when you speak about your budget, those in the industry hear it as a construction budget only. If it needs to include all costs, be sure to let them know.

Finally …

Getting started can feel overwhelming and tricky to know what to do. It’s a time of researching and collecting info. Before you know it, you’ll be moving forward and making decisions about your project, gathering your team around you, and getting excited about what’s ahead.

Other blogs to help you get started with your project, know what to prioritise and help you create a home that makes your life better …

I don’t want architecture with a capital ‘A’ … but I do want great design

Get an Agent … or Get Ready to Fight

The decisions that matter when you design a home


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