4 Design Mistakes Real Estate Developers Make & How to Avoid Them

4 Design Mistakes Real Estate Developers Make & How to Avoid Them

Timing is critical for the success of your real estate development projects. From building permits to financing, there are various timelines to follow and deadlines to be met.

But what about design? Just like the other important aspects of a development project, design also has its timeline – and consequences when not properly followed. Design fees are one of the main costs associated with your project and as such are an important portion of your investment.

Both expedited and drawn out timelines increase your costs and negatively impact your project. Thus, you’ll want to keep your project moving at the right pace in order to get the most out of your investment in design services.

Loft Six Four's Ideal Design Process Timeline

Discover how long each step of the design process should take and identify key checkpoints so you can maximize your returns and get the results you want.

Common Real Estate Design Process Mistakes

At Loft Six Four, we’re focused on getting our developer clients the results they want by delivering the highest value designs. Having collaborated with some of the best real estate developers around, we’ve honed in what works best during the design process. This experience has helped us identify a way around the common mistakes real estate developers make during design.

Here are the four biggest opportunities we’ve identified to help you get the most from your design services investment.

1) Avoid “Analysis Paralysis”

Serious developers know what they want, but they may not know how to get there through design. With so much at stake, it’s easy to slip into “analysis paralysis,” a state in which you over-analyze your project to the point it becomes difficult to move forward.

This happens when you try to make detailed decisions too early in the process. Don’t attempt to resolve all of your concerns right off the bat. Trust the process and recognize the importance of keeping your options open at the beginning of your project. This will allow your design team to uncover the best solutions at the most appropriate time.

You hired a designer because you need an expert to focus on a problem and provide the solutions at which you wouldn’t otherwise arrive. When you’re stuck in analysis paralysis, you may end up preventing the designer from being able to do their job. Be careful not to relegate them to an order taker. You’ll get the most value from the arrangement when you step away and let them design.

Design is an iterative process and it takes time for great concepts to unfold. Instead of stalling out before you gain any momentum, put some of the pieces on the shelf and have the design team fill in the rest until you know where they fit.

2) Keep Tabs on Project Costs

Construction cost, however, is one item you shouldn’t keep on the shelf for long. Many developers have the tendency to conceal their construction cost expectations from the design team for a long as possible. This invariably leads to an unnecessary extension of the design process.

When you urge your design teem to proceed with the process without key construction cost information, you’re actually teeing them up for a future re-design. After all, the proposed design will eventually have to align with the budget realities of the project.

Don’t approve a design until you have a good sense of what it will cost to build. If you delay the cost conversation until after the permit set is complete, you’ll most likely pay additional design fees for plan revisions that were beyond your original agreement.

Designers can be a great resource at this point. Before you have your project formally bid out to contractors, the design team should be able to provide you with a rough cost for their proposed design. This way you can make any necessary revisions before the drawings are too far along.

3) Take Full Advantage of Design Reviews

Client feedback is a key part of a successful design process. Understandably, some developers are reticent to criticize a design when it’s placed in front of them. Not wanting to offend or bruise the designer’s ego, they procrastinate offering genuine feedback and allow the process to proceed with certain elements even if they’re not completely on board.

But a good designer is more concerned with finding the right design solution, rather than being right. They rely on your feedback to guide the direction of the project toward results you can truly be happy with. Most of the time, designers are just giving you something to react to. Then they can have a conversation with you and better understand your vision. Realistically speaking, if you feel the need to argue with your designer, you may have hired the wrong one.

Design reviews keep your project on course and ensure no major backtracking is needed to re-align the design with your vision. The best way to get the most from these key checkpoints is to be open and candid about your reactions to the design.

4) Set a Realistic Timeline

The biggest mistake real estate developers make with design comes from misunderstanding the creative process. Popular culture often attributes creativity to individual “genius” — you either have it or you don’t. Creative designs seem to take no time at all, like a meal you zap for a few minutes in the microwave. In reality, true creativity takes time to marinate, like a like a slow-cooked recipe that only gets better with more time.

Studies have shown that people are the most creative when they spend time away from a problem. The most inspiring ideas often come during a break from work, rather than when fully engaged in the work itself. Because of this, it is important to give space between each design iteration to let creative ideas simmer.

Sure, you can engage your design team late and they’ll whip up a design for you based on your timeline. But if you want their best ideas, make sure you give them enough time to be creative. Trade your microwave dinner for a more flavorful meal by allocating ample time for creative design.

What is the Ideal Cadence for Real Estate Development Design?

The ideal cadence for design varies by your design team and your individual projects. There is, however, a standard process for designing real estate development projects. By setting a realistic timeline and avoiding common mistakes that cause delays, you can get the most out of the process. Maximize your return on design fees by teaming up with designers who will get you the results you want.