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finding an architect (and avoiding being ripped-off!)

(16 Posts)
thebellsofsaintclements Fri 14-Sep-12 13:58:42

We are planning a loft conversion and so I found 'local' architect from the RIBA website and he quoted me c.£10,000!! (this would include an initial scope, drawings, liaising with the council etc). Is this a complete rip off?? Or am I living in dreamland to think I could get away with paying a couple of thousand for some advice and drawings that I could submit to the council in order to get planning permission (I can do my 'liaising' with them directly thank you very much!)

So how did you find a reliable architect? Is it a must for them to be RIBA-registered? Or if you can recommend anyone (am in SE London), all the better? smile

mistlethrush Fri 14-Sep-12 14:00:36

My MiL got her lovely ex-neighbour (builder) to do her loft conversion and he dealt with the whole thing for her including getting the relevant consents - I think she just needed building regs though.

Pourquoimoi Fri 14-Sep-12 14:16:16

We're in the midlands and we got an architectural technician to do our drawings. Cost about £1,000 all in for our large extension 4 years ago.

SofiaAmes Fri 14-Sep-12 14:29:02

A good architect will make sure that your loft conversion is done in a well thought out and attractive manner that will meet your needs. Getting a builder to do the conversion without an architect is like buying a dress from Primark vs. getting one from a designer. Architects generally charge around 15% of the construction budget for small residential projects. I am not saying that you have to have an architect, but they do provide a service that you will not get with a builder or a technician. And you have to make the choice about whether that service is one you wish to pay for....(personally I buy my clothes at Primark, because a designer isn't worth the extra money to me, but an architect would be). And please don't think that architects are raking in the cash. If you calculate out how much the 10,000 works out to per hour it probably doesn't even make £10 an hour. Considering how much education and training an architect has to do to get licensed (and remain licensed) it's not a lucrative career. In case you hadn't guessed, I am an unemployed architect (in the USA). I finally got a job as an assistant to a psychologist because it pays better and has much more flexible hours.

thebellsofsaintclements Fri 14-Sep-12 14:37:51

Thanks everyone for your prompt replies!

Mistlethrush - that's exactly what I might end up doing, given that the council doesn't actually require professional architect drawings.

Pourquoimoi - actually I never even thought about that, it would certainly be something worth exploring.

Sofia - I appreciate your point (my job also pays 'well' per hour, but when you factor in all the extras it's actually minimum wage). However, part of the quote was c.£250 per hour for communicating with the council! Hence the rip-off comments. But yes, if you're going to spend thousands on a conversion, it might make sense to pay extra to ensure it really works for you.

mistlethrush Fri 14-Sep-12 14:47:30

thebells - I can put you in touch with Town Planning Consultants who charge much less than that per hour who would be much better at talking to the planners if you really want to get the heavy gang in. however, if you have a house which is pretty straightforward, and know what you want (or have seen another house with what you want) an experienced builder that has done loft conversions in the area can often give you what you want. If you have a victorian mansion, you might want an architect to get it looking spot on, but if you live in a Victorian Terrace it might be a much more straightforward job. Its horses for courses really....

drcrab Fri 14-Sep-12 14:50:01

which part of SE London are you? My DH is an architect and we are SE....!? smile and I can assure you he does not earn/charge the 'rip off' rates! :D

Pendeen Fri 14-Sep-12 14:56:18

Sofia is right, architect's training and education takes 7 years so clients do get a little extra by engaging an architect although I couldn't imagine anyone taking 1,000 hours to design a loft conversion!

Sorry but I am nowhere near the south east so can't help directly but a a guide as to what I as an architect would usually charge - around £1,500 to £2,000 for an 'average' loft conversion prvided there were not too many structural complications or protracted negotiations with the local authority. Added to this the client would have to pay the application fees for Building Regulations apprval (and planning consent if required) direct to the LA.

For such a fee, a client would get an hour's free initial consultation, measured survey, production of sketch proposals followed by drawings and calculations sufficient for the application. In addition I would include purchase of the ordnance survey CAD file, a design and access statement (if required), fill in the forms - sometimes these can be very confusing for clients - and allow a little time to help with Party Wall notices.

Finally, I would deal with any queries from the LA free of charge.

As I said, if there were complex structural or other specialist matters then I would ask the client to engage an engineer or specialist to assist.

If the client wanted additinal services e.g. detailed construction drawings and a specification, then I would agree a further fee.

Hope this helps.

(BTW I can only dream of £250 an hour! smile

irregularegular Fri 14-Sep-12 15:40:06

That sounds too much!
We've just engaged an experienced, higly recommended RIBA architect to do a rather complex 1st floor extension (much more complex than a loft conversion - it will cost over £100K. She is charging £55 per hour and estimates it will take up to 40 hrs to do the design, drawings and planning application. These will not be detailed technical drawings for building - those will come later. So up to £2200.

£10K sounds like far too much for drawings and planning for a loft conversion.

MadameCastafiore Fri 14-Sep-12 18:10:07

We have a fab friend who has had his work mentioned in the times property pages. He is an absolute gem. Specialises in listed properties and is a complete perfectionist. I can pm you his details if you would like and I am sure he would be happy to show you his portfolio and chat with you about what exactly you are after.
He lives in a listed property and it is beautiful as are all of the properties he has worked on.

tricot39 Fri 14-Sep-12 19:29:27

250 per hour sounds like you have a practice principal (lord foster??) so probably too high for a loft conversion.

Up to 100 per hour would be more likely.

But the overall estimate would normally be about 15% of the build cost based on the standard riba fee curves.

You could dig deeper and ask why they are not using the curves but it sounds slightly like they might be an architect just setting up a new practice (having worked on big commercial stuff) and just doesnt have a clue!! In which case they will be the last sort of person you would want as you will have to suffer all their beginners mistakes.

Find a kitchen table architect who has few years experience. I can reccomend some if you are in london

thebellsofsaintclements Fri 14-Sep-12 21:30:06

Thanks so much everyone for all your replies, I was starting to doubt myself! I think tricot is right, there was lots of big commercial stuff on the website, but nothing as pedestrian as an attic conversion!

Dr Crab, I am in Rotherhithe, is that anywhere near you? Could you pm me your husband's details, that would be really useful! smile

thebellsofsaintclements Fri 14-Sep-12 21:37:18

Madame, just saw you pm and replied! Thanks thanks

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