SINGAPORE: If you’ve just bought a new home, chances are you’re planning to do some renovation works to get it to look just the way you like it. You’ve pinned photos on Pinterest and bookmarked pages on Houzz and you’re all set to transform your humble HDB into a Scandinavian haven. But the journey to a picture-perfect home can be fraught with pain if you don’t start it right.
We’ve all read horror stories of home owners stuck with half-done renovations when the firms they hired absconded with their money. This leaves them with the dual headache of not only having lost a big chunk of cash but also now having to hire a new firm to complete the work.
Choosing the right interior design (ID) firm is key to ensuring that not only do you have the home of your dreams at the end of a long process, you would also have achieved it with minimal stress. To avoid being a cautionary tale, make sure you address these five questions before signing the contract.
IS THE FIRM HDB-LICENSED?
According to Andy Tan of The 80’s Studio, this is an important step for an HDB owner. “There are a lot of rogue ID firms that could be out to scam you and this affects proper interior design companies,” he warned.
Being registered with HDB means the firm has undergone training and understands the dos and don’ts of renovating HDB flats. You can check if a firm is licensed here or call 1800-2255432. Alternatively, you can send an SMS to 90112222 in the following format: <RRC> <space> <company registration number> or <RRC> <space> <company name>.
To go even further, Mike Ngin of nOtch lifestyle + design suggests that you check on the company’s financial credibility on BizFile. “Legitimate and responsible ID studios would not be a $1 start-up capital company, and good indie IDs would have registered as sole-proprietors. This means there would be proper channels for recourse, and financial reserves set aside in case of disputes.”
WHAT IS THE FIRM’S AREA OF EXPERTISE?
Be it contemporary or bohemian, every individual has a personal style and preference. The same goes for ID firms – they may be better at some designs than others so pick one that is comfortable working with the style you want. Roystern Goh of 0932 Design Consultants (they specialise in minimalist designs) said: “If you approach us for a classical design, I will tell you that we are not the best people for the job as we won’t be fully utilising our design potential.”
To that end, Goh added that it’s important for the client to not be a completely blank slate when it comes to design ideas. Jason Ng of Voilá agreed: “A client should have some ideas of how they would like their place to look, what are their priorities and if it’s feasible and legal according to HDB rules.”
WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PROJECT?
According to Ng, the client should know if the designer will be the one handling the whole project or will it be assigned to a site coordinator. You may have gotten along swimmingly with the designer you initially spoke with but if he’s not going to be the one handling the day-to-day aspects of the job, ask to be introduced to the project manager whom you can speak with regularly.
WHAT IS THE FIRM’S PAYMENT SCHEME?
It’s important to know how the ID firm will be charging for the work. Some firms charge upfront for their design and management fees, while others may choose to work in the profits with every line item.
One potential red flag, according to Ngin, is if the firm claims they are waiving or absorbing all fees because “ultimately, ID work needs to be a viable and profitable business.”
Another potential issue is if a firm asks for a 50 per cent deposit as the normal procedure is progressive payment, said Tan.
WHAT IS THE TIMELINE FOR THE PROJECT?
Ngin recommends that clients ask for a detailed project timeline in the form of a Gantt Chart. “While it may be a projected timeline, it allows the client to conduct occasional spot checks to verify if the works on site are in progress, or delayed. This also allows for timely intervention if works are totally non-prevalent at the site.”
However, in the case of delays, Ngin advises that clients should not micro-manage. “They should ask what’s causing the delay, how soon it can be resolved and if the initial timeline will be affected. This allows them to better manage expectations and assess the ID’s capability,” he said.