Why you shouldn’t begin your renovation with an architect – do this instead

I know you’re super excited to jump head first into grand designs for your reno project, but take it from Neil and I, there’s some essential work you need to do first before hiring a renovation architect which will make your life (and theirs) easier – and could save you a lot of money.

If you’re reading this and you haven’t hired an architect yet, I’m so glad you’ve found this post in time. This mistake cost us £3.5K!! Follow our advice below and it could save you money you could put towards the build instead.

Of course, if you’re reading this and you’ve already engaged an architect, don’t worry because some of the tips we’re about to share with you are still things you can work on prior to taking the next step with your architect on board.

The biggest mistake we made – don’t do what we did 👇🏻

Back in 2016, we were newbie renovators just like you.

We got the keys to our first 1930s renovation project and like you, we were a cocktail of emotions. Excited, nervous and overwhelmed with the unknowns and the possible work ahead…

Looking back we can see exactly how naive we were.

It’s taken hindsight, hands-on experience and my career change to become an interior designer to teach us ‘the right way’ to approach a renovation and this was not it.

Neil and I originally had grand plans that revolved around knocking down walls and building a large extension to the rear of the house – with a tight budget!

Like a moth to the flame, we instructed and paid an architect’s fees to draw up all the plans for it but little did we know a few months later, after implementing the tips in this blog post, we ripped up those plans that cost us £3,500 and went our own way with the layout instead.

It ended up saving us nearly £80,000 which we were able to spend on the rest of the house (and a few holidays!)

Truthfully? Our naivety had us instructing an architect too soon.

We don’t want this to happen to you.

It’s such a common mistake. It’s why we’ve made it our mission to help UK renovators who are taking on renovations for the first time, start the right way and avoid expensive hiccups, this being one example.

Years later, we’ve supported thousands of first time renovators through our free guides and online renovation course, saving them a lot of money in mistakes – guiding them through every phase of their renovation.

We’ve also been super fortunate to work 1-on-1 with clients’ homes in London, Brighton, and across the South East (like Nick & Amy’s 1930s detached in London)

Do this instead 👇🏻

I’ll keep this short and sweet because I know you’re busy and have a whole lot going on purchasing a fixer upper! :)

The 3 tips that are essential before you hire your architect.

These tips will get you moving in the right direction before you part with any cash. Do the ground work and I promise you, you’ll go into your project more clued up, confident and savvy with how you spend your money.

1. Clarify how you like to live before you start discussions with an architect

Too many renovators rush into making layout decisions and don’t pay enough attention to their lifestyle first.

It leads to layout changes on the fly which is never good when you’re submitting a planning application and need to get it right first time.

Making constant layout changes can compromise the overall look which could leave you feeling ‘meh’ about the finished room or worse, regretting choices.

Every time I start a new client project, I dig deep to unearth how they like to live as a couple or family. Rather than immediately thinking about adding space (which costs £££!) I clarify their needs to determine how the space can enhance their life and go from there.

As I mention in the next point, it’s not always essential to add footprint to your property in order to get it working for your needs.

Every course and free guide we’ve ever produced for our community revolves around making your layout and design work for YOU.

Don’t follow trends or resort to huge loans to double the size of your property.

An architect isn’t going to understand you like you do, so do this excavation work now to ensure you’re clear on your goals.

If you’re lost on where to start, consider looking at the How to Renovate a House Online Course for an in-depth structure to follow for a successful renovation.

2. Sketch out every layout possibility using the 4 walls first

If you’ve not put pen to paper yourself yet, you’re at risk of missing opportunities to save some big money. Why? Because when you hire an architect for a renovation project, it’s almost always because you’re adding space, converting or majorly reconfiguring the building. Which costs £££s!

What if your existing building will give you everything you need in a home?

This is exactly what we realised too late. And we don’t want this for you.

We hired a renovation architect then realised we could get exactly what we want within the walls we had – we didn’t need the drawings after all!

These aren’t decisions you can make overnight.

In our How to Renovate a House Online Course, we get people thinking deeply about their project to limit any regrets.

We teach you how to draw to scale and hold your hand to determine whether there are layouts within your existing building that could give you everything you need from your home and cost a significant amount less in build costs.

A successful renovator is someone who knows what to spend and what to save on. This will only come when you do the up front work to investigate your options. Don’t pay for an architect’s (or any contractor’s) fees until you know who you need to hire.

I’m not suggesting you scale back your ideas just to save a few pounds either. Remember, we’re all about helping you clarify your needs for your renovation and sometimes the existing layout of a property needs extra footprint added in order to give you the light, space and layout you need.

Sketch out all possibilities with the 4 walls first, throw away ideas you know aren’t right for you – that way if and when you come to hire an architect you have a clear brief and ideas to start from (and you know you need their services!)

3. Work on your interior design now, not later

As a new renovator there’s a tendency to decide on walls, windows, doors and stairwell positioning first and design later.

I can understand it.

Normally people are in a rush to get planning applications submitted so that you can start build work asap but the trouble I see people run into is when there has been no real thought going into the interior layout.

Important areas of the home like the kitchen, bathroom, or furniture positioning becomes an afterthought which is a real shame because the best renovations take a holistic approach to both the architecture and interior design.

Approximately 75% of the clients I work 1-on-1 with come to me after planning is approved, eager to get support with the interior layout and I spot so many opportunities to enhance light, space and design features too late – planning has already gone through.

Worse, sometimes I’m asked to design kitchen layouts for clients. They send over their approved drawings and when I start drafting interior layouts there’s a lot of redundant space that could have been prevented if the client prepared interior design / floor plan decisions alongside.

When you’re spending tens or hundreds of thousands on a renovation, you need to prepare fully to give the project the best chance of success.

No cutting corners.

This is exactly why everything we do comes from a holistic approach. Design, Budget, Plan, all in one.

If you’re lost on where to start, then look at our renovation course and community for guidance. We’re all supporting one another within the private community and we’d love you to join us.

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I hope this post has given you some food for thought prior hiring an architect, or as you work with one to form the plans for your renovation property.

Thanks for reading!

Fi (+ Neil!)