Published On: Mon, Apr 2nd, 2018

What Does It Take To Build Your Own Home?

Want a home designed entirely to your personal needs and desires? Opting for a self-build can be a way of achieving your dream home. Many people do it – programmes like Grand Designs have made it all the more popular. Of course, building your own home isn’t easy. Even if you’re relying on professionals to build it for you and already have the land to build it on, there is an endless list of costs and construction laws to navigate. Go in unprepared and your self-build dreams could end in disaster. Here’s a detailed guide to building your own home so that your plans are successful.

House Construction

Funding your self-build

On average, building a home is proportionately cheaper than buying a home in many cases – although this depends a lot on the type of property you’re after. Whilst the overall costs can be cheaper, mortgages for self-builds often require a much larger down payment (often 20%). Your average mortgage lender is unlikely to fund such a project, so you’re best seeking out a specialised self-build mortgage. Taking out such a mortgage often requires you to already have the land.

Buying the land can be a big expense if you don’t already own a plot. Fortunately, there are land loans out there that can be used in conjunction with a self-build mortgage. This also usually requires a down payment of 20% or more.

Due to these high down payment costs you may need a lot of savings in the bank already. Selling an existing property could allow you to earn these savings – although this could mean renting a place temporarily whilst your new home is being built.

Acquiring the land

There are lots of ways to acquire land. It’s possible you may already own a plot or you may have inherited it. Alternatively, you could buy land from a landowner. Councils and utility companies may have land that they’re willing to sell. There are also private landowners such as farmers and owners of large estates who may have land to sell. You can shop for this land on land-buying websites or visit a land auction.

There are two type of land that you can choose from – greenfield and brownfield. Greenfield is undeveloped land such as parkland, grass or forest. This type of land gives you a blank canvas to work on, although you may have to do more thorough checks to ensure that you can build upon it. Brownfield is land that already has a structure on it that is either derelict or vacant. The fact that there is already a structure there shows that this is land you can build on, however you may have to pay extra to demolish this structure (alternatively, you could convert this existing structure in order to build your own property – this could work out much cheaper).

Before building on land, you should always hire a surveyor to check that there are no problems with the land. This could involve checking for natural dangers such as flooding or sinkholes, as well as considering human obstacles such as overhead power lines. The plot of land may also be environmentally protected or could interfere with a public footpath. A brownfield plot meanwhile may contain a structure that is historic and therefore needs to be preserved. A land surveyor will be able to notify you of all these factors. You may then have to get planning permission from your council. Checking that your plans are okay with neighbours could also be beneficial to avoid any complaints.

Designing your home

Designing your home is likely to be the most exciting part of your self-build project. Whilst you do have almost total freedom, it is important to take into account your budget and legal restrictions.

Unless you have architectural experience, it’s likely you’ll want to hire an architect to design your home. They can help to keep your home within your budget and within legal restrictions, whilst adding in as much of the personal touches that you want. An architect may also be able to recommend various practical features to add to your home. This could include green improvements to save you money on your energy bills such as solar panels, insulation, a water recycling system and energy-efficient appliances. They may also be able to recommend materials and building methods that are cheaper but still effective.

Do your research when hiring an architect so that you know you’re hiring someone you can trust with your design. A good architect should be registered with a governing body and should be able to supply proof of previous projects. Ensure that there is good communication in the beginning – poor communication could result in mistakes being made later down the line.

You could consider a kit home that is already designed for you. These may take away some of the creative freedom, although you could still add in features afterwards. Kit homes are generally much less expensive than building from scratch, and you have do have the freedom to choose from many designs.

If you’re planning to convert an existing building or planning to use reclaimed materials (as with a container home), you could also save huge costs. It’s best still using an architect when repurposing a structure as this can still be complex work.

Building your home

Once you’ve got the land, planning permission and designs, it’s time to start building your home. This could be taken on as a DIY task if you’ve already got construction experience, but given it’s such an epic project it’s likely most people will hire construction contractors to do this work.

An architect or surveyor may be able to recommend builders to use as well as communicating the project to them. Many construction companies are led by a project manager and can handle everything from ordering materials and equipment to providing the manual labour. When hiring a construction company, check that they have a good track record and good online reviews.

Construction companies can take away a lot of the stress or organising your build, however you may prefer to do your own project managing, choosing the builders yourself, sourcing all your own materials and ordering all your own equipment. This can save money, but may require you to constantly be on site, as well as communicating all the ideas that your architect has laid out.

When sourcing your own materials, there are plenty of companies to choose from. You can save money by collecting quotes and negotiating with suppliers. You may also be able to use cost-effective material choices. This could include buying reclaimed materials or excess materials from other construction projects – just make sure that your materials are in good condition and come from a credible seller.

As for sourcing your own equipment, you can save money on this by similarly collecting quotes and negotiating with hire companies. Contractors may already own certain equipment, although you may still have to arrange certain elements such as crane hire and waste material removals. There may also be niche tools that you have to order in for dealing with certain jobs.

Some construction contractors may already employ electricians, plumbers, painters and cleaners as part of their service, whilst other companies may purely focus on masonry, requiring you to source all these other professionals. It may be cheaper to find contractors who can supply these people for you rather than having to source everyone yourself. You could DIY certain jobs such as painting and cleaning yourself, although plumbing and electrics is likely to require someone with a license.

Extra costs worth factoring in

Building a house on average takes 9 months, although many self-builds take over a year due to having more complexities than the average council-built home. Most people sell their existing home to pay for a self-build – this could mean renting out temporary accommodation. Most people don’t budget this in, which can lead to them getting in financial trouble. It’s possible you may be able to move in with someone temporarily to save money, although you may still need to put your possessions in self-storage for the time being.

It’s worth also setting some money aside to insure your self-build. This could help to pay for any damage made to your property by trespassers, as well as any stolen construction equipment. It could also cover the cost of contractors injured on site or damage to surrounding property, which may not be covered by the construction contractors you’re taking on. Contractors may also provide a warranty, which could be worth taking out as it could allow you to get your money back if your contractors fail to do the job properly.