I absolutely love meeting with potential new clients: It’s exciting, it’s an opportunity to design something new, and a chance to meet new people. I walk into a first meeting wondering what they have in mind, and upon hearing that, my mind begins racing with ideas. However, at some point during the meeting my potential clients and I do a dance. Yes a dance. And whilst I love to dance, this one’s a little awkward, and takes place when I ask about the ‘B’ word…
You know the protocol around the ‘F’ word, when we can and when we can’t. But what about the ‘B’ word? From the reactions I get, I often feel I can’t use it around potential new clients. But i must.
So what’s the word? – BUDGET.
Talking about money will make most of us a little uncomfortable. Asking about money of someone I’ve just met, well you can imagine why it makes them feel so uncomfortable. The problem is that it’s a question I have to ask, and a question the clients know deep down inside is critical, but to get it out of them is when the awkward dance begins. I’m often met with these sorts of responses when I ask – What is your budget for the project?:
- “We have a good idea of what it will cost” – I can count on one hand the number of people who have been close.
- “My wife/husband and I have had discussions about this” <insert long silence here> and???
I could go on.
I understand why people are sensitive around this topic. I suspect they may feel judged. Sometimes they are too scared to find out in case they can’t afford it, and sometimes they have no idea. Most the time though, it is a combination of all three. Yet this is the single most important question an architect will ask their client. And it is no coincidence then that going over budget is almost always the single biggest fear of every client.
The building budget sets me a limit to work to, which is why it is so critical. The last thing I want is to send anyone broke. And let me tell you can so easily spend millions on a house, yet for most their budget will be in the hundreds of thousands. So you can imagine without knowing the budget, I can’t know what I am working with. Yet the client understandably feels uncomfortable talking about it.
Until someone has embarked on the journey of renovating or building a new home, most won’t know what it will cost. Totally understandable. This is another reason why this question is so important, as it will ensure everyone knows what the final bill will be.
There is nothing to be ashamed of, we all have our limits. Building is expensive, houses are big complicated things to build. I find smaller budget projects as rewarding as bigger ones due to the need to be clever and resourceful.
So the moral of the story is: don’t be afraid of the ‘B’ word. It’s there to protect you. It will ensure your expectations are met, and the process is an enjoyable one for all involved.