Want to build your own house? Here are 4 things to think about…

Have you ever dreamed of building a property from scratch? Ever fancied creating your own unique home on a plot of your choice? Well, it could be more of a possibility than you think.

Of course, building your own house is a huge commitment – financially, emotionally and logistically (we’ve all seen the drama unfold on TV’s Grand Designs!), but it can be a hugely rewarding project.

If the prospect does appeal, here’s a quick run-down of a few initial things to consider:

Cost considerations

The total cost of the build will be a primary concern for any self-builder. Your budget will no doubt determine the type of construction methods you choose, so a carefully planned, realistic budget for your self-build is absolutely essential.  Costs will depend on how much of the work you plan to do yourself and the scale of the project. Make a detailed financial plan, including all labour costs and materials alongside a contingency budget of around 15% for any emergencies.

Also, make sure that the cash you need is readily available for the project. Issues with cash flow can seriously stunt progress and disrupt timelines. It’s likely you’ll need to put down a deposit on your plot of land and pay for the structural foundation work upfront at the start of the project. You may want to consider an ‘advance stage payment self-build mortgage’ to help give you positive cash flow throughout the process. With this type of mortgage, the cost of the build and land is calculated  and divided into the various stages. The money, (up to 95% of the cost of land and build), is then released at the start of each stage of the build.

Picking your plot

The trickiest part of building your dream property is often finding a suitable plot for sale. There are some helpful internet sites that could be of use, such as plotfinder.net. Also, keep an eye on local estate agents as they do occasionally have plots of land for sale on their books.  Look out for land auctions, as you could  get a good deal on a plot through this method.

More and more frequently, self-builders are opting for a ‘replacement build.’ This involves demolishing an existing property and building a new one in its place. This is often a surprisingly cost-effective option.

Once you’ve found a plot, you’ll need a qualified surveyor to asses the land. You’ll also need a solicitor to do the relevant paperwork and check that the land is suitable for your development ideas. It’s important to make sure you’re legally allowed to build on the land i.e. you have the correct planning permission in place. Some land may have planning permission already, but there may be strict conditions around the type and size of property you can build there. The Planning Portal is the government’s online resource that provides handy information on the planning process.

Project management

You’ll need to decide whether you will project manage the build yourself or hire an expert to do the job. Sometimes this decision is based purely on financial circumstances, with self-builders choosing to take on the challenge themselves in an effort to save money. This is not always advisable.

Project managing a build from scratch can be complex and stressful.  It will usually involve managing several different groups of people and negotiating timelines and budgets. At the same time, you’ll need to be the client who’ll be making personal and lasting decisions about your new home. Mixing the two roles can sometimes prove a real challenge.

If your budget allows, it could be sensible to hire a professional, experienced project manager to run your busy building site. This would allow you to take a step back from the building work and make decisions without being intrinsically involved in the logistics.

Be prepared…

Things can and do go wrong when it comes to self-builds, so it’s important to protect yourself and your investment. It’s a good idea to consult a specialist insurance broker with experience in self-build properties to ensure you have the right policy in place.

Typically, you’ll need site insurance. This works a bit like a home insurance policy and can cover any damage caused to the site while your build is taking place. This can include things like fire, theft and vandalism. It’s likely that your cover will also include public liability insurance. This could help cover compensation costs if a member of the public was injured or killed as a result of your construction work.

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