95% of the clients we design for, when asked what their budget is, respond with a confused look. 

It wasn’t until I bought a new car many years ago that the car salesman asked me the same question and I look at him the same way as my clients. My response, “I don’t know what it costs to purchase the car that will fulfil what I am looking for”. – So here I will discuss how to help you best establish your budget if it is unknown to you.

A question I ask on occasion is, “what price tag would have you asking me to leave, at least it is a starting point! From there I can lower the cost until the client seems to have less fear and lower blood pressure and expresses, “yeh that would be about as much as we would go”

The best way I have found is, have a concept design created and then a rough estimation of costs put together upon that. Now you have an idea of what you want and the cost. Only when you have created a concept can the cost be worked out. Now from here, whether the cost is agreeable (in budget) or too excessive (out of budget) you can have the design steered in the direction of actually being a design you are willing to invest in.

A mention here is something that comes up on occasion. We have become a little wary of salesman (anyone who is asking for our money). A client says, “ my budget is $70,000”. It is rare to meet someone who means exactly $70k. They say that and I always know I can design 20% above that. But it is a bit of a game. I would rather have a client say, “look Andrew, we can afford $60,000 and would like it to be about there. If you came up with something that blew our mind we could stretch it to $80k but you will make us happier if you could blow our mind at $60k, but let’s decide if it comes to that”.

Lastly, and this is one to avoid, is the design that will not be built due to cost. This is such a waste of time for all parties. It has happened to most designers including myself. I confess here to having not been on the ball enough with some of these. It is hard, you are creating this great space and the client says, “wow, that is awesome” and you just keep adding things. All of a sudden you present a quotation for $85,000 and they say, “we can spend $25,000 but that is just out of the ball park”. Okay, so how do we ensure that this is avoided? – well, as I state above, ensure a quotation is created at concept stage before you become too invested in the design, and really make sure you put in some control on this. Become educated in what costs are associated with your design. Go to the sculpture place the designer recommends (if a sculpture is in the design) and get an idea of costs.  Ask your designer, “what is an approximate cost per m2 for decking” ($300-350/m2 is usual but will climb with larger timber sizes and doesn’t include excavation and other costs), this is very easy to work out.