Exposed: the dishonorable business practices of many interior designers

The issues homeowners face when engaging the local renovation industry are not receiving sufficient attention. There are a ton of under-the-table deals transacted at the expense of none the wiser homeowners, hence they sometimes end up being out of pocket by inexplicably extravagant sums.

Fyi, interior designers (IDs) needn't attend any courses nor acquire relevant certifications from the get-go. This is starkly different compared to those from e.g the real estate industry where property agents have to register with the Council for Estate Agencies (CEA) and don his/her tag whenever he/she is onsite. Or the financial industry where a business may require oversight by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). As far as IDs are concerned, anyone can call themselves one, start a company and simply close down / run away with collected deposits / start a new company the moment a dispute arises. There have been many such cases reported in the local newspapers.

But what I want to talk about here pertain to the shady relationships existing between IDs and suppliers that many Singaporeans aren't aware of. Because homeowners like us will never know the real prices of raw materials, we will always be vulnerable to unscrupulous IDs and contractors who connive together to skim off us. Because of the lack of regulation, there is nothing to stop IDs from overcharging as they damn well please.

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I have a friend who is an ID and working with attic conversion. I'll share an experience of his that left a bitter taste in my mouth: A client of his wanted to install marble flooring for her new home. The client had a budget of $30,000, and my friend quoted her $32,000, supposedly the marble cost from his supplier, after adding a 20% markup. All was well and dandy until the client later learned from her friend (an ID) that the same type of marble could be had for only $24,000. When confronted, my friend told her that the $24,000 cost of lower quality marble and the $32,000 was for the best quality marble. The client was obviously upset that she had been misled, and my friend eventually agreed to refund her the difference of $8,000. But here's the kicker - the $32,000 that my friend had charged her was only the marble cost from his supplier, without his 20% markup! So essentially, my friend had pocketed $8,000 for doing nothing! The moral of the story is always do your own research and never take your ID.