After 4 years of renting a serviced office room, Heartland Girl’s counselling practice has finally stabilised sufficiently to take the next big leap of faith- leasing her own office space. As the one more familiar with real estate, I volunteered (at no pay of course) to lead the renovation process. I thought that it will just be a replication of what I did for our BTO renovation, but boy was I wrong.
It turned out to be a steep learning curve made even more challenging with the compressed timeline of trying to complete the renovation and fit-out works within the 1-month rent-free period. Ironically, it turned out to be a process that I thoroughly relished and enjoyed. This is my exciting experience renovating an office space in Singapore.
Choosing the Contractor
The process began with me tapping on my network to shortlist 3 contractors for the renovation. George from Janco Associates responded with a quote that was closest to our $30,000 budget. He also designed an office layout that best utilised the small space (470 sqft) available as shown in Diagram 1.
Once we shortlisted Janco Associates, we had several meetings to further exchange and brainstorm ideas. It was only after these discovery meetings that we developed our vision of a modern workplace that the team would enjoy working in while at the same time represents a tranquil sanctuary for the clients/patients coming in.
After signing the contract with Janco Associates, we did a small key collection ceremony before renovation officially commenced.
The Fruits of Our Labour
Amazingly, George needed only 3 weeks to transform the bare office space into an office of Heartland Girl’s dreams.
For those who would like to have George’s contact, do pm me!
Surprising Fees That Will Upend Your Renovation Budget
Through the interviews that I had with the various contractors, I learnt so much new information that ended up throwing my budget completely out of the window. Here’s a non-exhaustive checklist that I have compiled so that other commercial tenants can watch out for these costs during their own renovation works as well!
1. An office renovation automatically comes with a premium
Based on my interaction with some of the contractors and suppliers, they blatantly told me that they would be slapping a price premium on their quotes. That is because they have traditionally assessed business owners to have deeper pockets compared to residential home-owners and hence easier to be fleeced. For instance, I spoke to a blinds supplier who told me the blinds were more expensive because they were to be delivered to an office address! Shocked at the audacity of this, it also brought back memories of my own experience holding a wedding ceremony where vendors have no qualms introducing discriminatory pricing.
Therefore, my initial budget that was largely based off residential pricing had to be adjusted upwards significantly.
2. Heavy duty works can only be done at night
In some instances, there was at least some justification for the jacking up of prices. For instance, noisy works such as hacking and drilling can only be done at night so that the shoppers’ experience are not affected. In contrast, recall that heavy duty works are allowed to be carried out for residential renovation during the permitted hours on weekdays. Since such works can only be done at night, there is a price premium to be paid to these workers for working during such unearthly hours. This is further compounded by the renovation occurring during Phase 2 Heightened Alert when only 2 workers were allowed into the job site at any one time.
3. Professional fees, certification, insurance
There is a string of electrical, fire, safety examinations to be passed before a newly renovated office space can commence operations. To prepare for these applications, you would need the following:
- Licensed Electrical Worker drawing
- Installation of EXIT & EMERGENCY light fittings
- Procurement of fire extinguisher
- Sprinkler in each room
- Qualified Person’s (QP) endorsement to sign off
During the renovation, it is also mandatory to purchase third party public liability and workman compensation insurance. Finally, your renovation plans must also be approved by the landlord. All these costs can add up very quickly and I must admit that they were never factored into my initial budget.
4. Commercial broadband cost many times more
Another massive surprise was how EXPENSIVE commercial broadband cost. I am sure we have all grown accustomed to paying $20-30+ per month at 1Gbps for our home broadband that comes with free installation. Well, commercial broadband cost 3-4X more, at half the speed. That’s right, you did not read it wrong. In addition, the installation works can easily cost a couple of hundred dollars if they are not waived. The reason is that cabling works are already done in HDB flats but that is usually not the case for most commercial buildings.
5. Massive inflation during pandemic
It was just unfortunate timing that we were renovating an office space during the pandemic. Furniture that we ordered from Taobao took an average of 6 weeks or more to arrive because they were stuck at the ports that were periodically closed due to Covid-19 outbreaks. IKEA was literally emptied out during this period as well because of similar issues. As a result, our hands were forced and we sometimes resorted to paying for products that were more expensive but could be delivered on time.
These are 5 key areas that caught me by surprise and greatly inflated my budget. Given that most of them are the industrial norm, we grudgingly accepted the circumstances and did the best that we could. For those who may have the privilege of renovating your own office space in the future, hope these tips will come in handy!
After this experience of renovating an office space in Singapore, I have mad respect for business owners/entrepreneurs. Starting your own business is never easy and when business owners say that they think about their businesses 24/7, it is very often the case. We are also thankful to our family and friends who have witnessed and celebrated every part of Sofia Wellness Clinic’s journey these past 4 years.
For those keen to learn more about Heartland Girl’s counselling practice, do head over to her website.