You just bought a new flat and you're excited to turn it into the home of your dreams. Or maybe you're interested in real estate investment and are looking to redesign a flat to maximise its resale value. However, how do you turn that vision into a reality? While expensive, interior designers can be one such avenue if you decide to opt for professional services. By playing an integral role in everything from project management to choosing furniture fabric, interior designers are there to help you through the entire process of renovating a home. Below, we discuss what you can expect to pay for what kind of services, what you should look out for when hiring an interior designer, how to finance this undertaking and how to ensure your new flat continues to live up to your expectations.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire an Interior Designer?
In order to analyse the cost of hiring an interior designer, we gathered the final cost of finished projects from several major interior design firms in Singapore. We found that the average range of an interior design project ranges from an average of S$34,000 for a new 3-room HDB flat to S$234,000 for a landed property. We also found that resale HDB projects tend to cost around 25% more than new HDBs. This is most likely because new owners may need to spend more money to fix deterioration and damage as opposed to a new flat where gut renovations are not likely necessary. However, small scale projects that involve only the superficial redesign of your HDB flat can cost between S$11,000 and S$15,000. Hiring an interior designer for your condo will set you back an average of S$40,500 and S$106,000, depending on your condo's size, while landed property projects cost an average of S$200,000. These prices reflect the average total cost of projects, which vary in scope and comprehensiveness. For example, not all redesigns include a full gut renovation or alterations to every room in the home.
Some interior design firms also offer promotional packages. These packages include design consultations, space planning, project management, masonry, plumbing, ceiling & carpentry works and miscellaneous works such as painting and cleaning. Prices for these packages range between S$6,600 to S$20,600 for new HDB flats and between S$22,000 to S$27,000 for HDB resale packages. There are also "kitchen and 2 bathroom" packages, which involve only redoing those rooms of your flat and cost around S$15,000. One thing to note is that these packages offer only basic renovation services and may not be advisable for people looking for very specific services or those who are looking for the full interior design experience.
How Do Interior Designers Break Down Their Costs?
Housing type and size are not the only determining factors in how much it would cost to hire an interior designer. In fact, 3-room HDB projects can cost as much as S$70,000 and large condo projects cost as little as S$30,000. Thus, not only does the size and type of apartment matter, but also the project scale, the seniority of the designer, the types of materials you want to utilise and your interior designer's design fee, which can range from S$1,500 to S$6,000. Furthermore, interior designer firms have their own unique pricing, which can take the form of a flat fee, hourly rate, pre-fixed rate, or a "percentage over cost" rate (i.e. a markup on the goods ordered for your home). You should also be prepared to deposit 20% to 30% of the costs upfront. With that said, it may be a red flag the company is fraudulent if you are asked to deposit more than 20% to 30%, pay the deposit in cash or write the check out to anyone besides the interior design company you are hiring.
How to Find the Right Interior Designer
There are many interior design firms in Singapore, so finding the right one can seem overwhelming. However, as you begin your search, you'll find that certain interior design firms lean towards a particular style or offer certain services. Thus, it can help knowing what kind of design you want first before beginning your search. Once you find a few designer firms you like, you should compare them against each other by reading client reviews and looking at their past projects (as provided by verified customers). For this, you can use comparison sites like Home Trust or Houzz. You can also request a free quote on the design firm's website to compare pricing.
An interior designer does more than purchase and arrange furniture for your home. They are responsible for developing design sketches and 3D renderings, consulting with you on materials and color schemes and breaking down all your costs before commencing work. During this stage, you can also get a feel if you will get along with the interior designer—after all, the last thing you want to do is work with someone you'll butt heads with every time a decision needs to be made. A good interior designer will often suggest a group Whatsapp chat to keep you up to date with the progress and will check in with you after the project's completion to ensure that the project has met your expectations. If necessary, they will also hire contractors for specific projects, such as carpentry or masonry.
How to Make Hiring an Interior Designer Affordable
The best way to pay for interior design services is to pay only for the services and materials you can afford. This means having realistic expectations of your budget and setting aside enough money to cover unexpected costs (usually around 15% of your overall budget). However, that may not always be realistic and you may have to resort to getting outside financing. When it comes to renovating your home, you have two loan options: renovation loans and personal loans.
Renovation loans are usually a cheaper option because they charge much lower interest rates. For example, the average interest rate of a renovation loan is about 5%, while the average interest rate of a personal loan is about 12%. However, renovation loans have much more restrictive terms than personal loans, limiting how they can be used for your home's redesign. For instance, you can't use your renovation loan to fund your furniture purchases and there is typically a loan cap of S$30,000. Nonetheless, while personal loans are more lenient with what you can use them for, renovation loans may be more cost effective in the long run due to their lower rates and loan caps.
Alternatively, you can consider cutting costs by finding substitute materials or cheaper variations of non-essential furniture items if you don't wish to take out a loan and only use your savings. While it is not advisable to cut costs on items that are expensive to replace or can cause structural damage to your home (i.e cheap appliances), easily replaceable furniture such as accent chairs or decor can be bought on the cheaper side as they will be quicker to replace and pose less of a financial risk should they break. You can also consider switching to less expensive but equally as aesthetically pleasing materials. For instance, if you can't afford marble countertops, you can consider quartzite or quartz, which provide the same durability and classic look but cost around half as much.
Ways to Keep Your New Flat Protected from Damage
The best way to keep your renovated flat protected from any type of damage is to purchase a good home insurance policy. Home insurance will cover not only your contents such as your furniture and artwork, but also all your renovations and fittings, including kitchen renovations, flooring, ACs, fitted wardrobes and bathrooms. Some insurers also offer home assistance, so if you ever run into a plumbing or electrical problem that requires professional help, your insurer may be able to provide these services and cover them up to a limited number of times per year. Furthermore, you may even find a home insurance policy that will cover not only your basic furnishings like your couch and coffee table, but also all the artwork, valuables and antiques that you and your designer spent so much time sourcing. This is a great deal, considering the average home insurance policy for a 4-room HDB flat costs S$169 per year for tens of thousands of dollars of coverage.
Beyond simply buying insurance, you can also keep your new home well protected by thoroughly cleaning and identifying warning signs of faulty appliances such as leaks and abnormal noises. By conducting maintenance checks a few times a year, you can also save on your utility bills by making sure that your appliances are running efficiently. For example, you should check your fridge for leaks and take the time to clean out your AC unit's filter a couple times a year.
Alternatives to Hiring an Interior Designer
As we've mentioned in this article, renovating your flat can be very expensive. However, there are certain alternatives you can consider if hiring an interior designer is completely out of your budget. For instance, if you bought a new condo or HDB flat and you don't think you want to do a complete overhaul, you can just look to upgrade smaller things like faucets, shower heads, door knobs and cabinet hardware. These can be done inexpensively on your own and with minimal risk. Furthermore, these small upgrades can be easily switched if you get bored or want to go for a new look.
Alternatively, those who know what they're going for in their flat, seasoned homeowners and those looking to renovate only a small part of their space can hire a contractor. Contractors are generally cheaper than interior designers and only do the work they are instructed to. They don't provide design advice and will generally only voice concern if your instructions would lead to something that can be an issue (fire or safety hazards, for instance). Regardless of what you choose to do, it pays to do thorough research on what you'll be putting into your home since it will be one of your largest and most important investments.