Sarah is a licensed residential builder, who found that the Undercover Architect online course helped her in understanding client issues.
Sarah often found herself helping disgruntled homeowners who did not fully understand the construction process.
She had listened to Amelia Lee’s ‘Get It Right podcast’ for a long time and she decided to dive into her program to help to fully understand all the steps a homeowner goes through in building their forever home.
The expert advice she gained has empowered her to work more effectively with her building clients.
My name is Sarah Heys and I live in East Maitland in New South Wales, in Australia. So I’m a licenced builder, in New South Wales. I do residential projects, and I do co-housing projects.
I joined the course, because I could see that clients coming to me had a lot of stumbling blocks. They had a lot of expectations. Some didn’t have much experience in building previously. People were coming to me with problems that they needed solving, and I was looking for a way to direct clients through a process so that we could start at A and finish at Z, and guide them through that.
And I started following Amelia, maybe, I don’t know, twelve months beforehand, or eight months beforehand or so.
And I just thought, that looks like a really solid course that would inform me of the issues that clients typically have. And it will also give me a good understanding of where they’re at in terms of their knowledge, their wishes, their wants, and, and what’s blocking them in moving forward.
So during Amelia’s course I was able to, I guess, use her system in part, to guide my own clients through the build process and to look at it from the client’s point of view, instead of the builder’s point of view. To be able to understand both sides of the equation, so yeah.
What are the typical challenges you see when starting a project?
What I see in the residential building market, where I live, is a lot of lack of education with people who are embarking on a build, in terms of design. They’ve really, they have, they might have a whole heap of photos or a mood board, an idea. They think they need, you know, five bathrooms, or five bedrooms and three bathrooms. But you know, there’s only two people living in the home.
So is there a real disconnect between what people thought they wanted and what people probably actually need. How to achieve really good, long term sustainable design outcomes for their home. And also a big disconnect between the budget that they had and what they wanted to build.
So I found Amelia’s course really takes them through a multi step process that is sequential in order and really gets them thinking about what they want to achieve, and also gets them to be quite realistic about how they can achieve it.
Always takes longer than you expect. Always! I think a lot of people, you know, might watch reality TV shows and think that it just happens, you know, in a few weeks.
I believe that 80% of everything needs to be done upfront. Your brief, your budget, needs to be determined first. You need to do a really good site assessment to see, and town planning to see, what you can actually achieve with that site.
Then it comes down to your actual building envelope. And then it comes down to, what, how your family lives, how you want to live your life, and then it comes to budget. So it’s tying all those things together.
And I guess the main thing is, you’re doing it by yourself as a homeowner, and you’re, I guess, essentially project managing your own job. It does take a significant amount of time just to get to the development application stage. And then often, in our, where we live, a development application can take quite a significant amount of time to get approved.
There’s obviously different ways. You can do compliant developments. Which, you know, a building certifier will verify, but if you’re going through the local government, planning organisation, they can take a lot of time, so people have got to be realistic.
I think Amelia really spells out the steps and the processes, and digs down into why these things take time and why it’s so important that you get your decisions right.
So you’re doing things once, you’re doing them properly, you’re doing them well.
Yeah, it always takes longer than people expect. But yeah, Amelia’s course guides people through this process, and sets their expectations as well.
Did the course give you more confidence in terms of helping your clients?
Yes, I do. I’ve been using Amelia as a Brief Builder with quite a few clients. And I find that a really comprehensive starting point for a lot of people. And she makes this document available in her course. And it’s very comprehensive. And it really nuts out where people are at, at the beginning.
So I have sort of preliminary meetings with clients. And before I actually meet them, I get them to fill it in and give me as much information as they have into it. They give me their brief that explains in detail, you know, what they’re hoping to achieve. And I will say things like, “how do you, how do you want your house to feel?”
Yeah, it’s an emotional thing as well. And how … and we often use that process to educate people, and give them options to say, your briefs here, and your budgets here, and your lifestyle is here. So how are we going to marry this all up and make it work, through the design process and the build for you.
So yes, it has assisted a lot. It gives me structure on that end of the build, essentially or, you know, before we get to construction. And we get some really comprehensive documentation generated from that brief, that’s in play for the whole job, essentially.
How did you first discover Undercover Architect?
I can’t even remember now. I’m a bit of a scroller, you know, online, just looking out for you know, like minded professionals, I guess, who I think are doing good work. And that’s right, I started listening to Amelia’s podcast. I think I was painting a ceiling somewhere one night, you know, randomly, ‘what can I listen to?’
And yeah, I listened to all of Amelia’s podcasts. And I just really liked her approach.
And I applaud the work she’s doing because it is so badly needed.
This education programme for homeowners, to understand, you know, construction, industry and building and design. Her emphasis on design is critical given that we’re facing climate change, and, you know, we’ve got all sorts of issues with waste and resource, and the need to be climate resilient.
And, you know, it’s really, she’s providing an amazing service.
What have you learned from the Undercover Architect courses?
So she talks about volume and light and indoor / outdoor connection. So you have a house that a family can live in, that serves for toddlers, teenagers, grandparents, guests, you know, maybe an adult child living in that house. So, um, and using, using space well, and not wasting space.
So, I think she’s very good at getting people to think about how they live their life.
She will give, I think, standard room templates and linen sizes, and you know, the ideal bathroom and she talks about ergonomics.
One of her things that she does, is she has this thing she calls the home command centre, which I’ve actually adopted with my clients. Somewhere to put your laptop, your keys, charge your phones, put your homework, you know, it’s all in that one spot, you got a home command centre. If anyone’s looking for anything, it’ll be there. Um, and I guess that’s, you know, more directed at families, you know, with busy lives and lots of kids and whatever, but I think it can be applied to anyone really. Just keeps you organised.
Did you consider joining any other course out there?
I don’t think there’s anyone like her in the market, to be honest. I don’t think anyone … She has such a strong value set and such affinity with our homeowners. She’s, you know, she’s very, very clever person. And she’s very, um, her courses are really well structured.
And she’s obviously put a lot of legwork into it. And she’s very, very thorough, and comprehensive. And she’s not trying to sell you something.
She’s, she’s trying to show you how you can have a better life, essentially, and how you can achieve the build you want. So she’s in a great position of trust, and she deserves that. She’s, she’s exceptional.
And I think she’s got that unique perspective, because she is an architect. Um, you know, she’s highly tertiary trained, she’s had a lot of industry experience working for, you know, a big developer essentially. Um, so she’s had a lot of exposure to a lot of things, so she can see the big picture.
And she can see where homeowners are falling over. And she’s really providing, you know, an act of service in running her, her business, the Undercover Architect, to, not just to the homeowners, but also for sustainability and for the construction industry as well, to lift their level of builders, you know, to get them on board.
Because a lot of builders struggle with this sort of stuff massively. They’re, they’re taught their trade. They’re not taught how to communicate with homeowners or their clients. They’re not taught the business background necessarily. So a lot of them fall over. And they don’t know why.
And I think a course like this can, you know, point them in the right direction. Give them lots of tips as to how to avoid difficult situations and how to streamline their business, and meet the client’s expectations and set the expectations also for the client. So yeah, she’s doing remarkable work. Really important work.
What made you decide to join the Undercover Architect online courses?
I just thought it was value for money, to be honest. It’s all neatly wrapped up in a bow, everything you want is there. Um, and it’s a complete system. And I think it’s, it’s great value for money.
And I was happy to pay and there was a Facebook group. And you know, we’ve got a little floorplan review, which was really useful. At the time, I was working on my own place.
So it’s good to get Amelia’s feedback, and I actually implemented some of that feedback that she gave me. And that’s, yeah … A lot of people, I think, would like to work with her one-on-one. And she probably doesn’t have the time or people may not have the budget or whatever. But during that course they get to have Amelia review their floor plan (as a member upgrade).
And she just goes boop boop boop boop, change this, change that. Nope, start again. whatever. And, you know, she, she’s, she would have looked at hundreds and hundreds of floor plans. And she’s just like, tweak that, change that, look at this, you know. So, yeah, a skilled eye.
What concerns did you have before you started?
Not really. Only the time factor, because I’m a pretty busy person. You always think that, oh, yeah, I’d love to do that, but have actually got the time to do it properly.
And it was, I didn’t … It wasn’t a big time commitment. And it was enjoyable. I think if you, if you’re passionate and enjoying it, you know, you’re going to make it happen. If it aligns with your value set, and what you’re interested in, you’re going to make the time to do it.
And sometimes people will pay for things, like gym membership, and they never rock up. Yeah, they do it out of, you know, whoa, because they should get fit or whatever.
But yeah, she made it really easy. And the times were suitable and yeah. and you could always, I think there were playbacks or catch ups or something. If you miss something, you could go back.
What are you doing differently because of this Undercover Architect course?
Um, I refer to her room templates quite a bit. Standard room sizes. That was a really good tool.
And the builder brief, or the Brief Builder as well. I get my clients to use that. So it just pulls everything together at the front, we’ve got all the information at the outset. And that makes a really big difference. And it makes them think. It’s a really good tool.
How have you benefitted from doing Undercover Architect’s courses?
I guess I’m probably a bit more assertive with clients. And I’m very much taking the lead with the client. As opposed to them telling me what they want. And I’m also vetting the client as well, I do a lot of that these days. Because we’re all pretty busy. And we’ve got to get the right fit between client and builder, and make sure it’s going to be a successful project from, you know, both sides of the fence, essentially.
And I think I picked up, you know, that information from Amelia and some other parties, and from her podcasts as well. Yeah, and just being straight with people, you know, it’s like, ‘oh, sorry, I can’t help you in this instance. But, you know, there’s other people out there that can help’.
Did the Undercover Architect course save you drama + stress?
Definitely, definitely. Because we set the expectations at the start. And they’ve had the opportunity to have a really good deep-dive think, using that Brief Builder, of what they want to achieve.
And so that sort of, that gives a snapshot of the job at the beginning. And that, that drives the project, essentially. Because it’s everything in one document. And we use that to, you know, do the design, do the finishes, do the budget, do this, that, everything else.
So yeah, it’s like, it’s like a, I don’t know, it’s like the mission statement of the build, I guess. This is, and we nail it down, this is what we’re trying to achieve, this is what we’re going to achieve. Yeah, it helps you drill down to what you’re doing.
What would you say to others thinking of joining this Undercover Architect course?
I would say, you don’t know what you don’t know, and go and do the course.
Because it will have an enduring impact on your life. It will have an enduring impact on your build, on the quality of your build, on the quality of your design, and it will improve your life.
And you won’t even … you … if you get it wrong, it’s disastrous, and you live with it forever. If you get it right, that’s magic. So go and do it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the course?
Um, I just think, yeah, like I said before, Amelia is doing work that really matters.
Um, I think it’s, it’s a really straightforward, simple, comprehensive course to do. And anyone looking at building will benefit from it immensely.
She should be very proud of herself, and I’m thankful and grateful for her.