Important Things To Ask Your Architect

When working on a new-build, buy to let property or development, finding the right architect is crucial. Even more important is being able to ask the right questions so that there are no surprises on the cost or outcome of the project. When applying with our bridging lenders or development finance companies, it will certainly strengthen your case for a loan if you have a good team of architects on board and can show blueprints etc. In our guide below, we tackle the most key things to ask your architect.

Understanding Price

Determining the price for your property’s design is essential. Common questions include:

  • Does it fit within your budget?
  • Is it worth adding an extra 20% for contingencies?
  • Does their price include VAT?
  • It is paid in one-lump sum, stages or upon completion?
  • What is included/excluded?

The reason for getting bridging finance is so that you can make a profit on the resale of the building or when renting it out to tenants. But overspending on design for architects in London could compromise your margins. When speaking to a firm of architects, the communication and fees need to be clear – the last thing you want is your architect or contractors walking out on you mid-built because of blurred lines.

One needs to determine what is included in the price such as the project manager – will they use their own or hire an external one? If you do need to source a PM, can they recommend someone good or will you have to find them yourself? If you do have a project manager, just how much time of theirs do you receive each day, week or month – and will it be sufficient?

A good question is asking if the company includes business insurance within their package. In the event that there is a structural default or they missed something crucial, you could be liable for any damages caused to the property, the neighbours or any builders on site. The insurance should cover things like contents, public liability and employers liability to make sure that all stakeholders are protected against any potential harm – and you will not be required to cover any potential injury claims or physical damages. So does this responsibility of insurance fall on you or the architect? This will need to be discussed.

The Timescales

Useful questions include:

  • When can they start?
  • How long does the design process take?
  • How many designs are included in the price?
  • How long should the build take?
  • How does planning permission play into the timeline?

Understanding the time it takes to carry out the development job is so key because you will also need to be paying for other things like builders and potentially rented accommodation whilst it is being built. It is common for build jobs to take longer than expected so if you are renting in the interim, it is worth having a longer contract to give you flexibility for any delays.

Making The Most of The Property

This is where you need an architect with a good eye, because having a vision and the ability to see potential and add extra things can make a huge difference. For instance, that vision to add a loft conversion, basement, grand staircase, wine cellar, driveway, front and rear garden can add significant value to your home. A basement can add 30% to your home, a loft conversion (extra bedroom and shower room) can add 20%, an extra driveway can be worth £50,000, conservatory is 10% and even solar panels can save you £300 per year. See our guide on how to increase the value of your home.

solar-panels

Of course, if you are refurbishing or renovating, you may not have the space for all these things but working them within the budget can be useful, especially if they make a bigger profit upon the sale of the property.

The Joys of Planning Permission

For any major development work, you will typically need the help of the local council to grant you permission to make amendments to the house. This is because they are conscious about it being an eye-sore for the neighbours and whether it restricts their personal space or sunlight. Fortunately, some things do not require planning if they do not change the outside of the house such as turning a garage into another family room. You can also add a conservatory to the side or end of your home provided that it is no bigger than 10 feet.

But applying for planning permission and getting it approved is a big deal – and if they don’t approve it at first, you can resubmit it. So the question is whether your architects can help you with your application and tick all the specifications so that it will be in a better position for approval.

One common issue is if your property is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) because there are greater restrictions for preserving the area. This can involve the style, look and presentation of the residence. For instance, Hampstead Garden Suburb in North London requires all homes to have a front hedge in their driveway or garden at a specific height, as requested by the council. So having an architect who understands and appreciates Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be very useful.

hampstead-hedges

Suggesting Other Good Partners To Work With

In addition to good architects, you need good interior designs, builders, contractors, kitchen specialists, solicitors and more. It is worth asking your desired architects if they can recommend any other good people who they regularly work with. In fact, there may be a discount or deal on the cards if you do, due to a long term standing relationship.

In conclusion, finding the right architect can be vital to the success of your development project and something that lenders will also take on board when reviewing your application. To highlight the main points, it is essential to find out the fees required, timescales and having these in writing prior to going ahead. You want to limit any extra costs, downtime and reasons why the project won’t go to plan – so being efficient and sometimes just asking the right questions can help you achieve this.