Building a home is a big step. For many, it is the greatest investment they will make in their life. Therefore you need to ensure that you’re working with the right professional.
When you start looking for Building Designers, Geelong has plenty to offer however you’ll need to separate the scammers and the amateurs from the ones you really want to be working with.
If architecture is something completely new or confusing to you, here are some tips on how to choose and hire the right Building Designers around Geelong.
How to Choose the Right Building Designers
If you are looking to build a house you probably have it all pictured in your mind. The shape of the house, the interior, the landscaping around it. But to make it all come true you’ll need to hire a professional to create the detailed plans.
The plans for the house could be created by an Architect, a Building Designer, or a Draftsman. These are the three major professionals that you may consider to design and draw your home.
Which one is your best option depends on your preferences, scope, and budget.
To be an architect is a legally protected title. To have the right to call yourself an architect in Geelong, as well as Australia in general, requires you to have met multiple requirements including:
- Have completed a university degree, typically taking about 5-6 years
- Have completed a minimum of 2 years of professional experience
- Have sat and passed both a written and an interview exam
- Take the required hours of study annually
- Re-submit for board registration every year
When hiring an architect in Geelong, ensure that you are hiring someone with years of experience who can make the most of the design for your home. Naturally, an architect in Geelong tends to be the most expensive option of the three.
As a rough guide, many architects will charge between 8 and 15 percent of the total construction costs for a residential project.
Most architects explain their cost as a percentage of the total build cost – and that can be anywhere from 5% for just the plans to 15% for a full service, where they manage everything. – Realestate.com.au
Draftsmen are on the other side of the qualification scale. They know how to draw and document buildings. Draftsmen have either studied at TAFE or have learned on the job.
In any case, they have no formal licensing for designing homes.
Their skill set is not in creating and designing. Their skill set is documenting the plans from instruction. Appointing a Draftsmen essentially makes you the Architect.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you cannot find a skilled draftsman in Geelong.
If you are on a limited budget, you need to know that draftsmen usually have the lowest rates. Still, be sure to check their previous projects to be sure they will do the job right.
As a guide, the cost using a Draftsman to document is approximately $50/hr.
In between the Architect and the Draftsmen are the Building Designers. Geelong is one of the areas that require Building Designers to obtain accreditation in the form of license or registration.
Their license impacts the type of buildings they are allowed to work on. For example, apartment or public buildings, individual houses, etc.
Building Designers are highly skilled professionals that may have completed a university degree or specialised TAFE course however, for whatever reason they chose not to undertake a 6 year Architects University Degree.
As a guide, the cost to engage a Building Designer to create and complete your project is approx $15k. This is considerably cheaper than engaging an architect.
Choosing Who to Work With
Now that you know the difference between the three main professions that can be hired, you will need to choose one to work with.
A license and degree is not 100% insurance for great design or architectural skills. Still, anyone can draw some floor plans, but the one you want to hire has to know how things are going to work past the drawing stage.
For many people, the budget may be one of the leading factors in choosing a specialist. Still, keep in mind that what’s cheap initially sometimes becomes way too expensive. Just like paying huge amounts doesn’t guarantee a great result.
Instead, it’s better to focus on the job that needs to be done. An architect will not only draw the plans but will be able to maximise your investment in terms of functionality and space in the house.
The architect can provide you a complete concept even if you haven’t thought much about your future home.
A draftsman, on the other hand, is trained to draw, not to design. If you have everything planned and just need to put it into formal documentation they should be able to do the job just fine.
Last but not least, Building Designers do both. They create and design the building according to your vision but more importantly, their thinking about your budget and the constructability of the home and any potential issue that may arise.
How to Engage or Hire a Building Designer
One of the main issues clients face when engaging or hiring a Building Designer is that the Designer doesn’t start the project until both parties have signed a Preliminary Agreement. So how do you know that this is “your” Designer?
Here are some tips on how to hire the right Designer.
1. Do your research
Contact those working in your region. The Geelong & Surf Coast Region has a lot of specific requirements according to councils. They range from bushfire and flood overlays, trees, and many other specific items that may be unique to the area you will be building in.
Local Council Resources:
- See Geelong City Council’s Building or Renovating Info
- See Surfcoast Shire’s Building or Renovating Info
There are also many horror stories of houses stuck in “design limbo” because the Building Designer could not get the planning approval from the council.
A true local professional will know about councils requirements and how to include them into the project, while an inter-city or interstate designer may not have the required knowledge.
If you are looking to hire a Building Designer in Geelong, be sure to also check their state-issued certificate beforehand.
2. Contact them to discuss your project
After you have shortlisted several suitable Geelong Building Designers, you’ll need to arrange a meeting to discuss the project.
A face-to-face meeting is always preferable, but a phone call or email correspondence is also an option if you feel more comfortable.
Get to know them and understand their process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A reputable Building Designer will make you feel at ease and shouldn’t mind answering all your questions.
It’s worth noting that discussing your project with a Building Designer does not necessarily mean that you have to hire them. Meeting with several professionals will help you make an informed decision. And be wary of anyone who tries to pressure you into signing an Agreement on the spot.
3. Trust your intuition
When you have met several potential Building Designers, think about which one you feel most comfortable with. Do you feel like they actually listened to what you were saying? Did they ask about you, how you live, how you want your home to feel? Do you feel that you can trust them?
The Building Designer is someone you’ll have to communicate with a lot. Sometimes even sharing some intimate details to ensure your home will be exactly what you have dreamed of.
So if you’re choosing between several qualified designers that meet your requirements and budget, better trust your intuition and hire the one that you feel most comfortable talking to.
How Much Does a Building Designer Cost?
Estimating the costs to design your home is a tough task as there are many variables associated with the final fees.
There are three ways contractors usually charge for building design:
- Flat fees. This option is the most popular as it is suitable when you don’t know your exact construction costs. The fixed fee depends on the size of the house plus a base rate. Any extra work like planning changes or incidental costs is to be charged separately by the hour. To get an initial estimate, contractors may show you examples of similar previous projects and the fees associated with them.
- Percentage fees. The main factor here would be the size of the project, i.e. your budget. The percentages are based on previous work and may vary when changes are required after the project begins. Such fees however, are commonly avoided since they may be hard to calculate or turn out to be unrealistic.
- Hourly fees. Charging by the hour is most common when working on small projects or when working on additional or unplanned tasks on a project with flat or percentage fees.
The rates also relate to the level of experience and certification of the contractor.
Compared to the other two categories, architects are the most expensive option. As a rough guide, an architect will charge between 8% and 15% of the total build costs of a residential project. On a home with a budget of $600k, the additional fees over and above the build costs would be somewhere between 50k and $100k.
The vast range between the lowest and highest fee is because of the range of services an architect could offer to the project. An architect could prepare the designs and documentation for your home, as well as securing permits.
On the other hand however, they could be hired to manage the building process by working with the builders and ensuring that everything is executed according to the plan.
Such a project management role of the architect could add up to 5% of the total costs of the project.
The type of building material also reflects on the fees when charging by the square meter.
When working with an architect you could expect to pay the amount as Progress Payments, meaning payment will be expected after each project stage.
In terms of process, Geelong Building Designers are charge considerably less to architects. On a home with a budget of $600k, the additional fees over and above the build costs would be somewhere between 12k and $18k.
The tasks you can expect from your building designer include:
- Assessing the site in terms of access, view, location, neighbourhood, etc.
- Communicating with the local council for obtaining and submitting planning permissions, building approvals, and other required documentation
- Providing design concept and preliminary design
- Providing working drafts and specifications for the building stage
Draftsmen are your least expensive option. However, their role in the project corresponds to the low fees. The job of the drafter is to draw the scaled plans and prepare a specification for building.
Draftsmen often work as support for an architect. As a separate professional they are suitable when you are planning a smaller or simpler project.
If you have decided to work with a Geelong draftsman, they usually charge around $50 per hour.
Keep in mind that these fees include the documentary side of the project. Should you wish to involve your Geelong Draftsman in communicating with the local council, altering the plans, or consulting with a structural engineer, these tasks will be often charged separately.
Questions to Ask a Building Designer
What qualifications do they hold?
Having the right qualifications means that at least the person or company you are about to hire has spent years trying to improve their skills.
Architects have passed through years of learning about the requirements and specifics of structures. This doesn’t mean however, that you cannot find a top-notch Building Designer without an architectural degree.
Before signing the Agreement, be sure to also check the designer’s licensing as this is a requirement in Victoria.
Does the designer have experience in projects with similar requirements?
Some designers have specialised in a specific type of buildings. If your dream home includes modern aesthetic, hiring someone who specialises in cosy country houses may not be your best option.
There are many specifics associated with each building type and hiring someone with experience will help things to run smoothly. Check if they have similar experience in regards to style, number of storeys, terrain (slopes, coastal, etc.).
Their portfolio/website may give you a pretty good idea.
Ask to see previous houses they have built
If they don’t have an online portfolio with previously completed projects, you should insist on seeing at least several examples of houses they have built.
Refusing to show you examples of their work is a red flag for a scam or a lack of experience at the very least.
Ask if you can contact any of their previous clients
If you have the chance to talk directly with previous clients of the contractor this could give you a unique perspective that you won’t find on their website or portfolio.
Were they satisfied with the project in general? Were there any issues during the design or building stage? Were there any delays or extra costs that they believe could be avoided?
Still, some professionals may not be able to give you contact details of previous clients. But if you work with a local contractor you may ask around yourself. Searching for online reviews on neutral third-party review sites is also a good course of action.
Has the designer worked on projects in the same region?
As mentioned earlier, some regions have specific requirements regarding building in the area. These requirements are enforced by the local council and the building designer you choose to work with should take them into account when preparing the detailed plans and specifications.
It’s also worth mentioning that most people who do not build an Volume Type ‘off the shelf’ home and choose a Custom Design will need a Building Designer who has experience with communicating back and forth with the council.
The lack of compliance with the requirements may lead to rejected permits, multiple design amendments, and/or delays. Such issues would significantly increase the final costs of the project.
If you’re hiring a company, who will be working on your project?
People building a new home may engage a Building Designer to draw up the house or hire a building company with in-house designers.
In this case, it is only natural to show interest in the qualifications of the specific people that will be involved with your project.
Pivot Homes is a ‘One Stop Shop’. It has teamed skills of in-house Building Designers, Estimators, Interior Designers all under one roof. This ensures a smooth flow between the designing and building stages of the home.
Do they hold any insurance cover?
Professional architects are obliged to hold a professional indemnity (PI) insurance cover. The insurance protects you as a client in case they have made a mistake that could threaten the whole project.
It should be noted that some contractors offer a 10-year structural warranty. This is a different product and often doesn’t cover issues occurring before the project completion.
Ask what will be delivered
Since different Architects, Building Designers, or Draftsmen in Geelong may have a different level of participation in any project, it is very important to know what to expect from the given professional.
Will they prepare the complete design and documentation package? What will be included in it? Will you need to hire a separate structural engineer? Will they communicate the designs with the local council? Do they understand the costs of building a home?
Don’t assume anything and ensure that the complete scope is included in the Agreement.
Ask for a written quote, time frame, and completion date
Having everything in writing is crucial when you wish to avoid any potential problems in the future.
Ask for a written proposal on all costs that are expected, how would any incidental costs be charged. When is the project going to start and end, what happens if the project is delayed on your behalf or because of the contractor?
Such issues may sound trivial at the beginning of the project; however, having them in writing may protect you from malicious intent on a later stage.
Provide your requirements in writing as well
Aside from asking for everything in writing from the contractor, a good rule of thumb is to provide your written requirements as well. Whether it would be a formal part of the contract or just an email, it could help you stand your ground in case arguments arise.
Trust Pivot Homes For Your Custom Home Design
On your hunt for the best Building Designers Geelong has to offer, we hope you’ll consider Pivot Homes. We’ve been designing stunning custom homes for the people of Geelong for over 30 years, and we would love to add you to our long list of happy clients.
Reach out today to tell us about your dream home, or complete our custom home cost calculator to get an idea of what your project will cost.