Architects: A Luxury Or Necessity For Landlord Developers?

Architects can add value and help a build run smoother for landlords renovating or developing property to rent out. 

With changes in planning that will allow two-storey extensions under permitted development rights (PDR) and a green light to convert the commercial property to homes, the spotlight is on maximising the return on investment – and an architect is the ideal professional to help with making the most of space and light on a budget. 

Many landlords miss opportunities because they feel their projects are too small or consulting a professional is too costly.

If you are considering a development project, from converting a home to a house in multiple occupation to build to rent from the ground up, here’s why you should seriously consider working with an architect.

Why Developers Need Architects

Every development project benefits from attention, management and advice from an architect. 

They contribute to the design process, bring fresh insight into choosing materials, supervise contractors, and manage the project from start to finish. 

Architects consider property differently from a landlord. Your mind is constantly churning cost against quality of finish, while the architect comes at your project the other way, balancing quality against the budget. 

How manipulating light and space combine to make the flow of property feel suitable for tenants is the primary aim of an architect. 

Of course, they want the building to look nice, but they will also seek the best contractors, materials and finish to suit your budget. 

Architects also take the strain of managing contractors away from a developer. A bonus is they are the go-to guys for sorting out planning permission and building regulations that seem to become ever more complicated.

How An Architect Works

Like any other professional, an architect qualifies after years of study and has a long-proven method of working that concentrates on detail. An architect’s way of work includes:

  • Visualising your property aspirations
  • Providing regulatory advice
  • Drawing up plans, designs and schemes of work
  • Carrying out surveys and inspections
  • Liaising with workers and contractors
  • Dealing with any issues that arise

With a well-managed and defined working system, developer landlords can relax knowing that their projects are in safe hands. These checks and balances ensure that budgets and timescales are followed carefully and any potential issues are dealt with efficiently before the project moves on to the next stage. 

Ultimately, projects are completed faster and on budget, and new rental properties can go to market and generate income quicker.

Architects Can Cut Through Planning Red-Tape

An architect is an excellent guide through the swathes of red tape that can threaten to bog down developments. 

They are the experts in unravelling problems with getting planning permission, compliance with building regs, negotiating party wall issues and navigating complicated HMO licensing needs. 

For example, suppose you intend to convert an investment property into flats or an HMO to maximise rental income. In that case, you must apply for planning permission and an HMO licence that specifies how many people can live on the property, fire and health and safety requirements. Working out room sizes, fire safety precautions and complying with other health and safety aspects of the project needs a professional hand on the tiller.

Checking Architect Qualifications

When contracting a professional to work with you on any construction or development project, it is sensible to double-check the authenticity of their accreditations and experience. 

Only those with recognised qualifications may call themselves architects, which can be verified by checking the Architects Registration Board (ARB). You can find details of registered professionals and members through the ARB and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) 

Other ways to select the right architect for you include:

  • Asking for recommendations and referrals.
  • Use an architect you have worked with before.
  • Select a professional familiar with your type of rental property.

Multi-occupancy properties can require a different skillset from commercial or standalone residential premises. Usually, you will be offered a free initial consultation. 

This is an excellent opportunity to discuss your ideas, ask for client references, and check the architect's portfolio to see whether it aligns with your plans for the property.

Writing A Brief For Your Architect

Working to a brief means that everyone should know what they are contributing to the development and set out all the details such as budgets and deadlines. You don't have to create a brief yourself, as generally, you will sit down and write the document with your architect.

It is essential to make this a collaborative process, as your architect might have some ideas about making the best use of floor space, how to cut down on budget costs, or efficiencies available to maximise the potential rental income from your investment. 

The brief should cover:

  • Total project budget and breakdowns of expected costs
  • The outcomes - what the property will look like and what purposes it will serve
  • How the development will be laid out, designed and built
  • The timescales and critical stages for review and surveys
  • What your top priorities are in terms of deadlines, materials used, or the finished aesthetic of your property
  • Who will manage each aspect of the project; for example, appointing contractors, supervising work and managing the budget

How Much Do Architects Charge?

The cost of an architect depends on the project; some factors that will determine the price you pay include:

  • The scale and location of the development
  • The job you want the architect to do for you is just the design and planning or additional tasks like sourcing and supervising contractors.
  • The project timescale
  • The project scope – the more complicated the project, the higher the cost

Fees can also vary and are agreed upon in advance. A letter of engagement sets out the budget and proposed costs. Typically, architects' fees are:

  • On average, between 15% and 20% of the total development budget
  • Based on the value of the project and the level of responsibility you would like your architect to have
  • Quoted as fixed rate, a percentage of the project budget or on a time basis

Architects: A Luxury Or Necessity For Landlord Developers FAQ

The big question for property developers is if the cost of hiring an architect is cost-effective. To help with the decision, here are the answers to some of the most-asked questions about architects from landlords.

How do I make sure my investment property conversion is high quality?

A quality project means happier tenants and higher rents. An architect will help by liaising with contractors, regularly visiting the site, raising issues with builders and only signing off project stages when they have confirmed the quality is satisfactory and meets specifications.

What is the property conversion workflow?

The process is systematic and detailed at each stage, so you can ensure you are hitting deadlines, keeping track of the budget, and retaining oversight. Usually, conversion or development will work like this:

  • Deciding what you want to do with the property and outlining the construction project
  • Creating plans and designs to visualise your ideas
  • Applying for any planning permission or approvals required
  • Having your architect produces the technical, structural drawings
  • Appointing contractors
  • Carrying out the conversion

What can I do if I am unhappy with my architect?

If a problem arises that you can't resolve, you can contact your architect's professional body. All professionals must adhere to a code of conduct and the requirements of their bodies. You can contact the ARB and RIBA if your architect is a member.

Will my architect know about investment property legislation?

Yes, mainly if you work with an architect experienced in this sector, they will be well-positioned to provide accurate advice. 

Architects deal with planning applications, ensure works comply with building regulations and will let you know which licenses or approvals you need to develop a rental property or multiple occupancy residences.

Who oversees health and safety?

When developing a rental property or carrying out a conversion, the landlord is responsible for health and safety practices on site. However, you can delegate this to your site manager or architect.

View Related Handbook Page

Planning Control

Planning approval is essentially about controlling the use of land and is required to alter, extend or change the use of existing properties, or to make changes to a listed building or to a property in a conservation area