Build Your Own

There is a saying that you never get what you want unless you do it yourself. That saying may fit the building of a new house very well and save you money too.

So what should you do to get started. First find a plot of land on which to build your dream home. The choice of plot depends on what is available at the time that you want to buy and what are your requirements. Town or country is the first question to ask yourself. Size of plot comes next, with an estate house usually sitting on a twelfth of an acre, so a little more space of, say, a tenth of an acre, would be welcome if you can get it. The price of land will fluctuate throughout the country and depend on whether the land is in a sought after area or not. Government and local government planning policies have a huge effect on the price of land and house prices. High prices show an unenlightened approach to land use, whereas low prices show an enlightened approach to the future needs of the nation.

Land may be bought by private treaty privately, through an estate agent, on the net, the wanted column of a local newspaper, local authorities estate department or their register of granted planning permissions, utility companies or at an auction. Land should be bought subject to full planning permission being obtained. Land is almost always sold with outline planning permission having been granted prior to sale, but not always, so check. Buying land at auction does not give time for organising your procedure or having second thoughts, for when the auctioneers hammer falls the land is sold and 10% of the selling price is payable there and then with no going back. So check all the details you can by getting a survey carried out by a qualified surveyor before buying land, and check what sort of survey you are paying for or you may not get what you expected. Ask utility companies how much it will cost to connect the services such as gas, water, sewerage, electricity and the telephone. Always ask if any charge is made.

Having got the land what next? It will take between three to nine months to build a house, although a house has been built in ten days, but this is dependent on a number of factors, not least organisational ability. Planning permission, assuming outline planning permission has been obtained for what type of dwelling can be built on that plot and any restrictions imposed, involves fitting in with the whims and fancies of the local planning authority's local plan and individual planning officers, so keep your cool. Detailed planning permission involves knowing what is currently allowed to be built in that planning authority's area at that time and involves specific architectural features, building materials, type and layout of windows, type of roof tile to be used and any restrictions on the plot and involves obtaining detailed planning permission. A good idea is to telephone the local planning authority when you have found a plot and ask to speak to the planning officer for the area in which you want to build. Politely ask a few predetermined questions to establish what will be looked on favourably and what will not, this will almost always save you time and money. Avoid confrontations with planning authorities when plans have been submitted for you will almost always lose the argument and then only a Planning Appeal will settle the matter. Then decide who is going to draw up the plans. Most people approach an architect who will know the idiosyncrasies of the local planning department and will draw the plans and apply for detailed planning permission for you. You should also have arranged for finance with a bridging loan whilst building is taking place and a mortgage when work is complete unless you are paying cash. Do not forget to make sure that you have National House Builders Council Certificate or architects certificate on completion of the building work or you may not be able to secure a mortgage or resell the property.

You will have heard stories about builders, but do not be put off. It is advisable to stick to members registered with the National House Builders Council, the trade body that regulates the house building industry. Your architect will be able to advise you on the builders within your area. If you do not know the local tradesmen always ask for three references from people who have had similar work carried out by them. It will slow things down, but will act as a safeguard and help to avoid cowboy builders. If you want to employ individual tradesman and organise the building procedure yourself you must be more careful and be prepared to finish any work yourself if problems arise. This may involve actually doing the work yourself or finding another tradesman. Whatever you do make sure you get firm price quotations and not unsecured price estimates. Before work commences get a written contract stating when work will commence and when it will be finished, what materials will be used and a precise breakdown of costs.

The final cost will be determined by how much work you do yourself and how much you leave to the professionals. Managing the project yourself and only employing tradesman when you are unable to undertake certain tasks is the least expensive, but most time consuming. Another option is to employ a builder to construct the main shell of the house and complete the interior yourself. If you employ an architect to design the house and oversee the construction from start to finish your costs will double. Timber frame dwellings can be constructed quicker, but will cost more than a conventional all brick construction. Self build groups are available that will advise and help design a home and then organise planning approval for a timber frame property, but all have different packages, so check the small print.

Now where can you get the money to build this dream house? Special self build mortgages are available from lenders where the funds are released in stages as the project progresses. Most will only release money after a surveyor has approved the work undertaken. So self builders have to save the initial money required or approach a bank manager for a bridging loan to finance the purchase of the land, the laying of the foundations and the supply of the water services. Planning and solicitors costs have to be thought about too. However, some mortgager's will release funds prior to the major stages being completed and will fund up to 95% of the cost of the land. Remember that your monthly repayments will start as soon as you start to borrow the money and increase as further funds are released. So make sure that you have some money saved before you undertake the enterprise for unforeseen expenses there will be some. Talk the details through with your lender and go into details before you start the project. Once the property is completed owners can borrow up to 95% of the finished value which will often amount to 25% above the building costs. This is useful to know if you need to borrow to furnish the house, but do not get carried away for it all has to be paid back to the lender on time. Beware of redemption penalties if you wish to move to a more favourable mortgager when the property is completed.

Insurance will be needed the very moment that you buy the plot, so sort it out well in advance of starting the project. The cover should include fire and theft and employer and public liability. Do not forget the National House Builders Council's 10 year insurance cover at the end of the project. When you move in you will require the usual house and contents insurance. Once again check what is required with your insurer as you progress.

Good luck with your project.

Useful telephone numbers


National House Building Council Tel: 01494 434477

Federation of Master Builders Tel: 020 7242 7583

Association of Self Builders Tel: 01908 587596

Association of Self build Architects Tel: 0800 387310


DMS Services (insurance) Tel: 01909 591652

Land Finding Services

Landbank Services Tel: 01189 626022

Plotsearch Tel: 01506 417130

National Land Finding Agency Tel: 01371 876875

Self Build Package Companies

Custom Homes Tel: 01293 822898

Oregon Tel: 01670 798702

Potton Tel: 01767 263300

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