An Interview With Nick Stockley At Resi.co.uk

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April 2, 2018

James speaks with Nick Stockley one of the co-founders of Resi.co.uk. They provide a more convenient and cost -effective way to Architectural services. We speak about the common mistakes people make with extensions and renovations, about why more and more people are choosing to extend their home as opposed to buying somewhere new.

Show Notes:

SHOW NOTES:

James: Hello and welcome to the next episode of the property renovation podcast. On today’s episode, I’ve got the pleasure of interviewing Nick stockley. He’s one of the co-founders of Resi.co.uk. I will leave that down to Nick to explain exactly what that is, I really love the new technology that is coming out at the moment and disrupting the way that things are being done usually, just to make it more convenient and more cost effective for homeowners.

James : So Nick, welcome to the podcast.

Nick :  Hey there how are you?

James : I’m good thank you very much. So can you just give us a brief understanding of Resi? What’s the backstory and how did you come up with the name?

Nick : OK, well basically, I set up a practice in London around 10 years ago and I met Alex through an existing client working on one of my existing projects. So what we have there really is Alex found the process quite frustrating. I hope that wasn’t a reflection of the services we will providing, but I think it was more to do with the industry and the jargon associated with that. So what we did, myself and Richard, another co-founder here at Resi, basically we came up with an initial kind of business plan for Alex to try and counter some of those negative thoughts that she experienced or had as part of the process.

Nick : So what we wanted to do really is attack the problems that arose within the industry and really wanted to simplify the process. We were initially set up as build path, taking clients on that journey, from design all the way through to completing the project on site. That ran for around 12 months and grew rapidly.

Then we appointed a branding team, which basically really wanted to focus on what we were trying to do here in the industry and how we wanted to simplify it for them. So we came up with the kind of short, punchy name of Resi.co.uk, obviously specialising in residential design.

James : Excellent I mean, yeah, the word Resi is a terminology that’s used by interior designers and architects and stuff like that is very shortened down. Ok, so I’ve seen your website, it’s very bright, easy to understand, but I’m sure it didn’t start that way and I’m just thinking what was the biggest struggle that you had like in getting your message across the homeowners in how this is going to work?

Nick : Yeah definitely, I think that obviously the architectural industry is really driven by highly qualified professional people and I think people are so used to that face to face interaction, the old school traditional way of getting an architect to come over and talk through their project and what we’ve found and with  my experience I’ve now worked on over 750 home owner elements, a lot of the time that isn’t a necessity. It’s not specifically required. A lot of our clients want things done efficiently, they want things done cost effectively and what we’ve designed here is a product to accommodate all needs. So a client in theory can utilise us, our expertise, our platform, and does it need to have that site visit and that kind of human interaction? and what that allows us to do is to deliver an architectural product very quickly and obviously being quick, enables us to be more cost effective and one of the problems we do have there, like I suggested, was that they still wanted convincing and I think what we’ve done over the last 6 to 12 months is integrate another kind of kick on in terms of our products and if they want an on-site visit, if they want us to come and collect the measurements and interact with them, then that’s something that we bolted on as well.

James : OK, good. Yeah, I mean it’s definitely, I could see that there was a niche in the market as such because homeowners don’t have much time anymore as well. They work in a lot more hours and trying to get a site visit scheduled in can be quite difficult sometimes using up the weekend or your evening. So yeah.

Nick : Yes

James : So can you, what common mistakes do people make with extensions and renovations do you think?

Nick : I think, well there’s a few, like I could probably talk about a lot of the questions you’re gonna ask me for hours. So what I’ve tried to focus on is the key thing is associated to the specific type of projects that a homeowner would embark upon, which is typically redeveloping the existing footprint is extending to the rear or to the site to create an open plan, kitchen, dining, entertainment space. It’s adding an additional bedroom to accommodate a growing family for example and I think for me, I always try to be transparent when I’m pitching for new business and also to give people that kind of professional guidance from the outset. I think the key part, first of all is to appoint the correct professional and what I mean by that is that there are various journeys that a homeowner could go down and the path that they could kind of proceed with and that could be going straight to a builder, it could be going to an engineer it could be going to a surveyor and for me, I think if you appoint an architect with lots of residential experience, understands the kind of nooks and crannies that needs to be considered and that’s a very important start of the process, and I think what that will allow them to do then, the architect, as long as they don’t over complicate the process, they can really kind of avoid the homeowner getting lost in the jargon which the industry obviously is commonly known for and that’s something that we’re trying to focus on education the homeowners, so they understand what they need to do and they can build up that trust in relationship from the outset, several mistakes of things like not understanding the whole timeline associated to the project, how long it takes, the various stages that paperwork involved, and also things like budget, the financial side of things and not understanding that the architect isn’t the only person here, that there could be a structure engineer, there could be a cctv surveyor to collect the existing information underground that we can’t see there will be a structural engineer to help them create that space and take out the wall and to design the steelwork, there could be a party wall surveyor and how they need to proceed down the legislation side of things and make sure that they aren’t having an adverse impact on their neighbors so there’s some of the common mistakes really I would say.

James : OK. I think one of the most favorite though is actually the budget isn’t it really? You can talk forever about that. There are hundreds, sometimes thousands of decisions to make in terms of materials and everything. You really have to be clear on what you can spend.

Nick : Yeah, on that, I think the counter balance, I touch on it kind of further on in this conversation really. I think that’s key.

James : Good. So what for what frustrations can people would expect to deal with?

Nick : Yep. Fine. I think again, I can kind of hit that point clearly.

Misleading information is one of the key things really, and lack of transparency in the process. There might be myself that gives a client a certain kind of advice on what they need when they need to do it. They might go to a builder who have a very different mentality and they’re more focused on being kind of direct and just getting them on site, but then kind of missing some of the key phases, people have, different priorities, which obviously my prority as an architectural practice would be very different to if I was a builder might mind is to create a good space and be, be professional. Whereas the builder might be thinking about how quickly they could construct this and, and, and kind of making things more cost effective in that respect, but obviously then the client’s left with not understanding the elements like engineering and building regulation compliance and party wall processes.

So for example, I’ve worked on a loft conversion in the past where a client might have gone directly to a loft specialist and then the loft specialist is very much focused on making the construction phase quick so they can get in and out, as we say in the industry, but then obviously their drive isn’t to maximize the potential of the space where mine would be, so I’m more always kind of trying to focus on making sure that the homeowner understands the decisions they’re making, the impact that decision has whilst considering not only the design but also the cost side of things. So yeah, a bit more transparency in government, a bit more professional integrity, I suppose.

James : Absolutely. Absolutely. OK and why are more people turn into extending their home as opposed to buying?

Nick : I think obviously becoming more of a common scenario should we say now obviously with Brexit, with the housing market being very flat, we’ve house prices have kind of increased dramatically over a number of years of foreign investment in London for example, so I think some of the key things really is obviously I know a common scenario again, will be a growing family who needs more space of what do they do? They want to go and buy a bigger property and it costs them an extra £150,000 and then they got to consider stamp duty. It makes sense to convert their loft, the benefit again of that would be that they may have set up a life in a community and they don’t want to have to move out to different areas where house prices are cheaper, but they get more for their money, but has an impact on their children being at school, for example, we’ve got a massive housing shortage as well here in the UK, which is we should driving house prices.

I think a lot of it is dictated by stamp duty, government drive in the, of costs up in that respect and it doesn’t work is what we call over capitalisation. So people have got to be very conscious of what they’re spending and how they can afford to do it from their financial perspective. Really.

James : What’s your background in architecture? How did you get into the industry?

Nick : Mine’s a slightly different to the norm and so I’m very much kind of technology. architectural technician kind of driven, really. I got offered an apprenticeship scheme, at a practice called roberts Gardener, chartered architects in Gloucester where I’m from, I left school at 16 and I spent four years working with them, and while studying for my technical qualifications at college, that went very well, very well with the team there and they continue supporting me as I went to Leicester school of architecture, and so I studied there for three years, carried on working to support myself financially and then I went and worked in Australia for a large practice on the first Hong Kong Investment on George Street in Sydney. Then whilst I was out there I kind of missed home a little bit to be honest,  family and friends,  saw an advert on gumtree for freelance architectural technician in East Dulwich which is where I living now. I came back and then started doing some drawings and then it grew from there really. So then I kind of grew a practice and grew more experience in the industry and then carried that kind of journey.

James : What you really mean is that you miss the English right ha ha?

Nick : Yeah, yeah. English, especially at the moment where it’s kind of like minus five and lots of snow and.

James : Can you explain the process of a homeowner that needs to know if they decide to extend the house, what is the design process and how long does it take?

Nick: Yeah, I think on this again, this is where you get the inconsistency in advice. So I’m going to very much focused on what I feel a client should do and what people should be considering before they kind of embark on aa project basically and I think from the outset it’s very, very important for them to assess where they are, are they new? how much kind of handholding do they need?, what budget have they got and I think getting that kind of defined very early on in the process should allow everyone to kind of build a good working relationship and following on from that they really need to kind of talk to the designer, build up that trust and make sure they’re happy to work with them in terms of personality types and communication levels, mapping out the property and coming up with the design and also agreeing on fees, what’s involved in the scope, what are the costs going to be associated to that.

Then obviously they kind of go through the design process and then need to understand what’s called planning permission household or planning applications or understanding that permitted development rights and what that means is the government are allowing homeowners to do certain things to that property, to ex expand it, to make it more suitable for their needs.

Next step following on from that, I would say who needs to be involved?, Who’s going to be involved? Understanding the party wall act, do they need a party surveyor? Do they need a structure engineer? Why? and then once they’ve got all of that clearly defined onto the house with budgeting, there’s no surprises, and then they’ve gone through that exercise and they need to look at moving onto the building, who’s going to construct this tendering, they are the kind of key things really in terms of the process.

James : I think this is really good step guide actually, which I’d like to. I’m probably put into a pdf and put it onto the blog so that people can just go through it.

Nick : Yeah I’m sure we could, we could definitely provide that. Yeah, I’ll get that one set up

James: Getting the building process and undergoing is a whole other episode I think

Nick: Definitely talk about it for hours really the traditional route and tendering to multiple contractors. Why you should do that, understanding the cost side it. Negotiation in terms of playing off contractors against each other in terms of the contract sum, there’s various various techniques and things that we could cover there.

James : Great. Well maybe we can get you again. Ok so where does Resi fit into the design industry? How is it unique?

Nick : Yeah. OK good. Well traditionally architects are regional so a lot of practices will focus on the kind of properties in close proximity and generally that’s homeowners would have wanted because that’s, that was the norm, they want to know their architects a few doors down or a few streets away and I think that that’s not the case really,  what we’re doing here at Resi, is that you don’t need to be in close proximity to the site because of online data, the likes of the planning portal and local authority websites. There’s data available, Rightmove, Zoopla, we can get a hell of lot information associated to people’s homes without having the need to attend site and now we’ve got that kind of point across in I don’t know, 300, 400 hundred projects we completed already and once you explain that to a client demonstrating what information we’ve got.

I’ve got photographs of kind of people’s kitchens and the gardens available to me instantly that they’re really kind of like shocked, but they also are then convinced it that you don’t need that kind of specific local architect. So we’ve seen a gap in the market, that’s how we are unique. We’re working in Ireland, we’re working in Scotland were working in Wales, Devon, Brighton, London all over the place.

So that’s a really kind of start pointing starting in terms of how we were unique, I would say we’re the first practice that uses technology, we have got a team here of code as in engineers that are allowing us to communicate efficiently. We’re instant in terms of our communication. We’ve got online chat, we’ve got screen-share, we’ve got obviously our standard telephone system, but the way we’re set up is we’ve got a really good clear communication method that allows us to be efficient.

Obviously that then passes on in terms of less time spent, um, while still producing a very high quality architectural product. Makes it more cost effective and they’re the key things really in terms of who we are and what we’re attacking and why we’re doing it.

James: I think two points that I just want to come back on that is definitely with the communication thing. I think if you’ve got the communication sussed, then you’re onto a winning rarely because that’s where I feel companies break down, that communication and passing it on to the rest of the team. I’m just talking about the experiences that you’ve had with these, 300 or 400 projects. The feedback that you’ve received from the homeowner must be pretty impressive right? Like they’re a bit surprised how well it can work.

Yeah, definitely. I think that I think the first thing we do which clients like is we offer a free consultation, which obviously you can get an architect out and wait two weeks and get that free consultation, but we’re pretty much if you phone us, that can be provided within half an hour or so and that’s what the consultation kind of team have set up here to do. Um, and then in terms of feedback, yeah, we’ve had some quite interesting words use of how kind of exceptional it’s been and how happy they are, that they found us rather than using that more conventional architect, the word of mouth is spreading quickly. We get a lot of inbound leads as we call them now, where people had been recommended, we’ve been recommended to them by friends that have used us, our reviews on Houzz are ramping very quickly, we get client feedback forms so we can look at improving things.

Generally all around our reputation is growing very quickly. We’re kind of heavily advertised on the home building shows and all the different expos that were attending. So yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of buzz around the concept and the business we’re now promoting and the growth we’ve got here is quite scary, but we’re still, we’re delivering an end of loving it.

So it gives us lots of confidence in what we’re doing.

James : Actually, whilst this has been aired, unfortunately we missed the slot where you were going to the be at the home building and renovation show at the NEC. Are you going to be at any other shows this year?

Nick : Yes. I’m actually on an expo tomorrow. I’m at home actually the home building and renovation show in London. Then we’re off to the NEC the end of this week we’re doing the property developer show.

We’re doing grand designs, so every show which is available for homeowners to attend in the UK where we’re at, we’re bringing in our VR, we’re bringing in the technology side of things so people can look at our interactive models and our products and come and use our google cards and speak to us where we’re providing free consultations so myself, some of the architects here, some of the kind of technical and planning team will be there so you can come talk to us about your project. It’s all free.

We can give you guidance on what you need to do, what needed to be considering. You can book in advice calls with us, you can really focus on who we are and have a chat with us or.

James : Fantastic. I mean with the blog, maybe we can just put on those dates that you’re going to be there, and your standard numbers so people can find you.

Nick : Yeah. Is we’ve got all that from our marketing team, so I’m going to send you that information, not a problem.

James: What questions should a homeowner be asking them to an architect.?

Nick : There’s lots again here, I think, and I got to try and focus on some of the key things really and I think I’ve touched on it previously so I think cost is important.

So how much is this going to cost me? and I think it’s always important for me that homeowners natural instinct, I think anyone’s naturally instinct when someone says, what’s your budget? and you come in under that just to try and play a bit of a game with them, but obviously I think, architects are professionals, they need to be advised correctly because when you’re producing a building or an extension or some form of development, the architect needs to know what their designing with, with budget in mind, and that’s really important because there’s nothing worse than going through a 6 month exercise or a 3 month or even a quick concept study that we can do within 72 hours to then see an overall cost which is well outside of your budget.

Then the homeowner thinking that they’ve just spent loads of money on something that they can’t afford to do. That’s important.

Timeframes we need to be realistic. we need to plan our life. A lot of homeowners have families and schools and lots of different things to consider. So I think that you should always get a clear kind timeline from the architect to understand that design process, planning applications permitted, development, a building regs, tendering construction, is it even important because some people will tend to plan the holiday holidays around moving out and coming in at certain stages of the project, that’s very important and then also who else is going to be involved, one to understand the professionals and who else is needed and also the costs associated to it for financial planning,

I think they’re the three key things where the homeowner knows they can plan and that maintains a good relationship and helps plan lives basically.

James : Can you give us some tips of how people make sure that they stay within their renovation budget?

Nick : Yep. Yeah, I’ve got some good, good kind of tips that I think obviously, like I said, just be transparent with your needs. So identifying clearly what you want to achieve here, obviously some architects can be very creative and then they come back. They can kind of stamp their personal preference on a scheme and that’s not always what the homeowner needs. Obviously you need to have flair and you need to be able to give them the opportunity to create the best space or maximize the potential, look at the environment that we’re going to kind of allow the homeowner to kind of exist in but I think yeah, being transparent and clearly defining what’s wrong with it at the moment and how would you like it to be improved, and then also how much you’re willing to or you couldn’t afford to spend on this.

That, that, that’s a good kind of initial tip. Um, another thing is, well, it’s kind of one of my pet hates. I think sometimes people cut corners. Obviously there is, there are fees associated to a lot of the different parties involved, but one of the common things I always find frustrating is that if, for example, we’re doing an extension on the ground ground for property and then the extension is going over a drain. What’s underground? We can’t see it. So our [inaudible] surveys surveys should be completed so we know how to design around it where we can relocate that manhole and it’s the same structural investigation works honestly. Some houses are hundred years old, things are hidden and we can’t see them. And then to avoid kind of variations as a result of what we call our knowns and investigating what’s underneath the basketball. So I think a bit more investigation were being allowed to kind of do that and trust in your architect if he wants to see certain things, let them drive that forward because it really will protect people’s investments

James : You just mentioned about the unforeseens and that’s always within a project I think. Do you think that home ownership plan a contingency something to put aside just in case things happen down the line?

Nick : Yeah I think continuously is clearly needed because obviously the last thing anyone wants is coming towards the end of a project and there are a few grand or sometimes more, more than that short and they’ve got to try and find that money with the stresses of a project and relocating back into the property for example could become quite an intense exercise. I think one of the things to try and reduce the contingency, just say typically someone would say allow 10% contingency, for me I would say that you could reduce that to 5% if you appointed a good architectural team there was allowed to do their job, was allowed to bring in the engineers and the other professionals associated to it to compile our detail design package to tender it to multiple contractors to clearly define responsibilities, what’s included in the price, what isn’t and all of this would allow for a clear understanding of the financial situation.

Speaker 2: I think a typical scenario is someone would find someone to do a quick kind of a back of a fag packet set set of drawings,  doesn’t get any detail drawings done, goes straight to a builder. They think the builders allowing for everything. Then the builder says, well, we didn’t allow for supply and your tiles or your kitchen or your bi-fold doors. All of a sudden the clients committed to the contract and then they got to find a lot more money. So contingency needs to be used correctly and I think in short, detailed design package good setup professionals, and give yourself a 5% buffer that if you want to cut corners, give yourself a lot more.

James :  What friends have you been seen in the last year and a request that keep popping up again and again?

Nick : Yeah, well, the way I’ve interpreted it this really is that a lot of it is to do with the housing market being both very fragile moment. Everyone’s kind of aware that there was after the ramp that has been dip, people are insecure around the brexit. So I think what we’re understanding now as people want to still create the square meterage additional footprint, but they’re spending less on the specification and the finishes they want the space, with a nice fit out, but not spending tens of thousands on the German kitchen or high quality finishes because it’s not going to give them any more space is going to look nicer so I focusing more the features that don’t do value basically.

James :  So the planning process, is filled with architect jargon, what five words should people know and listen out for?

Nick : On a day to day basis I’m speaking to homeowners and really understanding, what they don’t understand, what they need to know and I think the kind of keywords that I use often, and there’s actually four, so it’s one is called permitted development rights, so that’s something that the government set for homeowners in certain areas and what they’re allowed to do to the property. So if I’m a homeowner, really understanding what my permitted development rights are and what’s involved in that process, how that could have an impact upon you in the future if you sell the property. I think in short, under permitted development, you could build a loft conversion and then an extension in certain areas here in the UK and you don’t, you don’t need to apply for that permission, what you should do is apply for a lawful development certificate, and then if you sell the property in the future, that’s what it is, is they’re going to ask for and that helps smooth out the process. Building regulations, people tend to think that set of planning drawings are all you need and you can go and build this and nothing else needs to be considered, it’s not correct, building regulations is a requirement for certain types of projects. Typical projects like extensions, loft versions of the common types of developments, what that basically is, it confirms the work’s been completed, conformed to the building regs and at the end of the project you’ll get a certificate of completion, which again is a requirement in terms of future resale, so again, homeowner needs to really understand what the building regulations involve, not just from a financial perspective, but in terms of protecting their interests and making sure the quality of the work is up to scratch.

Another good one, tendering process, quite commonly I’m explaining what that means. I would say that a lot of homeowners, generally just think, I’ll get some drawings together, I’ll bring over a builder that I know and they can go ahead and build this for me. I would always advise that they get a competitive edge and they look to use the architect’s contact base and go and see the work or projects that they’ve worked on. Architects recommend them. Builders obviously very conscious of their reputations and you don’t want to recommend the building’s not going to do a good job because the client will say, well, you recommended the builder sought out for me kind of attitude, and then the tender inside of it, it’s more about the financial control. So making sure that the builders are aware they’re bidding against each other and that, that makes it more cost effective. I think that’s very important.

The last one really is the party wall act, it’s not a requirement for every single project, but in short,  if you will build them within three meters of a neighboring property, if you’re building on the boundary or taken out a chimney, breast etc, which is very common with terrorists, semi detached houses for his own, for the party wall actors or requirement neighbors need to be notified. There’s a cost associated to it and it’s designed to enable home owners to build is also designed to protect the neighbours, the structural integrity of their property, they are kind of four very important architectural jargon words homeowners should really understand before they embark to fall into the process.

James :  Just come back on that tendering process, the traditional is get three quotes and I think, if the tendering process, if everyone did that, then I think a home owner would benefit heavily from the financial aspect of it and I think it also flags where one builder would quote for a certain thing, a cover for certain area and that might bring you an idea,  that you could then go to another building with. So it’s kind of, you’re getting free ideas in a way.

Nick :Yeah, no, definitely. I think what you’ll find with the tendering process is that obviously there’s only so much you can cover in a design package and builders extensively experienced in constructing, so that’d be picking up things that exist in book boiler?. What what do with these radiators? and all of these things can kind of get discussed and determined to make sure there’s there’s consistency and also then when you kind of dive vulture collected all that information that could then go back out to the other builders. So the homeowners got like for like comparison, obviously an architect with generally manage that exercise if a client’s happy to invest in in their kind of fees, but not all people are willing to do that for various reasons and homeowners should be aware of that. Basically.

James : I just think something sometimes that when homeowners do get quotes, because especially if they’re doing it for the first time, they’re putting all of their faith into the builders, so it’s always good to just get some professional advice as well from an architectural point of view in the.

Nick :  Yeah, definitely these are common things we eat even as part of our consultation here. Yeah. Even decides to work with us. We’re, we’re covering a lot of this off for them from the outset just because we are building up that trust I think. I think it’s really important.

 

 

Here’s some links to most informative pages and blogs that link to Nick’s answers:

 

You can go and see Nick and his team at the following events this year.

Abi Bacon