There are two types of profession that most of us in Singapore would encounter – an interior designer and a financial planner.
Both of them play important roles. An interior designer (for some, it’s a home renovation contractor, but we will lump home renovation contractors together with interior designers for this article) is engaged for the purpose of transforming our empty HDB flat into a dream home. The cost of renovating an HDB flat can average between $40,000 and $50,000.
It’s not cheap. And just like financial planning, a lot of things can go wrong if you work with the wrong person.
So what are some ways to ensure that you are able to find and engage a good interior designer? To help you with that, we borrow some useful criteria from how we would identify good financial planners.
1. Honesty Is The Best Policy
While it’s good to be talking to someone who is well spoken, this does not supersede the fact that we still prioritise honesty above everything else. Nobody wants to work with a financial planner that they cannot trust.
Choosing an interior designer works in the same way. We want someone who will be on our side. Someone whom we can trust to provide us with good advice, rather than one who just wants to sell us expensive renovation package.
Whether it is finding a financial planner or an interior designer, you should strive to find someone you could trust. Typically, word-of-mouth referral from close friends would work out better than engaging someone whom you just met on the street or at a road show.
2. Coming From A Reputable Company Is Not Enough
There are no shortages of interior designers or financial planners who claim they are from a reputable company. As part of their sales pitch, they would proudly showcase to you their company’s portfolio or the type of financial assets that their company manages.
These are important credentials worth highlighting. At the same time, remember that the biggest factor as to whether or not you will receive the high level of service that you expect hinges on the person you would be working with, rather than the company that they work for.
Don’t be charmed by the extensive portfolio of companies without first checking with them on who was it that worked on the projects. In fact, if the person who worked on the project is no longer working with the company but his project is still highlighted, it should raise some red flags for concern.
3. After Sales Service
When it comes to both interior designers and financial planners, after sales service is important. If there is a renovation fault in your house, you want an interior designer who is responsible enough to rectify it or ensure that someone gets it done.
In the same way, good financial planners should be around to support their clients’ claim in times of need. You want to engage someone who will be there for you, rather than a person who disappears after closing the sales.
4. Compare Proposals Before Committing
We all love comparing things. We try on different shirts before committing to a purchase. We test-drive different cars before buying one. We even compare different airline tickets before booking a flight.
So why shouldn’t we compare financial products offered by different agents? Or proposals from different interior designers?
In the past, we sometimes get lazy. Perhaps it takes too much time to meet up and discuss design ideas with 5 different interior designers.
However, laziness isn’t an excuse anymore with the Internet. With the click of a mouse, you can easily find thousands of design ideas on websites like Renopedia, which can give you with many different design inspirations based on your preferred theme.
If you prefer watching videos instead of reading, you can also watch renovation related videos on YouTube. More importantly, you can also check out many different interior designing companies within a single website and request free quotations from them based on your budget.
Likewise, for financial products, you can also compare products online without having to spend hours meeting multiple financial advisors from different companies.
For products such as travel insurance, you can use online comparison platforms such as Insurance Market to compare the best and cheapest travel insurance plan, based on your own needs. They even have ratings that show just how good each travel policy is.
Comparing proposals and products not only help you to better understand what it is that you are buying. It also helps ensure that you get the best deal for the money that you are spending.
5. Gain Some Knowledge For Yourself
When it comes to important matters such as personal finance, we are huge fans of self-learning. The reason is simple – anything important worth knowing is also worth learning. We should not just rely entirely on the advice of our financial planners.
In the same way, it is worth picking up some basic knowledge when it comes to renovating your own home. This gives you a much better idea of what are the ideas worth pursuing, even before you meet any interior designers.
Learning doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be as easy as having a lunch conversation with some friends who have been through renovation projects and who are happy to share their insights and tips.
6. Trust Your Gut Instinct: Walk Away If You Feel Something Is Wrong
Just because a consultant bought you coffee and spent a couple of hours talking through your financial plans or preferred design options with you does not mean you have to work with him or her.
A lengthy conversation is great because it gives you time to assess the person you are speaking to. Perhaps the great first impression the person made on you have now been replaced with scepticism, as he continues to throw in one expensive design idea (or insurance policy) after another, without any concern of the total budget that you actually have. Things like this do happen.
In such times, do not be afraid of trusting your gut instinct and walking away from the sales pitch, because that is exactly what it is.
A consultant spending time with you to discuss through your plans should be taken as an interview session, rather than an affirmation of your interest in going ahead with whatever he or she is proposing. Don’t make the expensive mistake of engaging someone whom you are not comfortable with from the very start.