Self-building is still an attractive option and is considered a low cost option by many potential home owners/builders. Certainly by building your own home you can expect to get more for your money. Budgeting and planning carefully are incredibly important to ensure that you maximise both the potential of your new home and the amount of money you have to spend. So where to start and what are the essential steps and issues you should consider?
Finding the Plot
The building plot is one obvious essential ingredient for the self-builder. Plots can come, quite literally, in all shapes and sizes. They also come with and without planning permission. Finding a plot can be achieved by a number of different routes. There are dedicated websites that take the footwork out of searching for plots, and also adverts are featured in a range of magazines focussing on the self-build industry. You can also put the footwork back into the process, by driving around your area of choice and checking out empty plots between existing properties, or derelict and deserted buildings. If the owner can’t be identified in these cases, contact the Land Registry, who will be able to offer advice on how to search for the land’s owner. Plots without planning permission are usually cheaper than those with, for obvious reasons, and both have advantages and drawbacks.
Have you got permission for that?
If a plot doesn’t have permission, and it’s offered a bargain basement price, don’t rush to submit a planning application, or to buy without one. This is possibly the hardest situation to negotiate; you can apply for permission without owning the land, but if the permission is granted there is nothing to stop the owner from selling the land to another purchaser. If you intend to pay for the application, speak to a solicitor and get a formal agreement to purchase in place, subject to permission being granted. Land in national parks, and other protected landscapes, is usually subject to strict planning controls, and while it’s not impossible to get permission in these areas don’t put them at the top of your self-build location list!
Cheap but inaccessible
Land with planning permission offers a better deal in the sense that you know it can be built upon. You’ll generally come across two types; outline and full. The former means that the permission has been granted in principle, but the plans and designs have not be submitted or agreed. The latter gives permission for a specific design of building. Prices vary and a well located plot with outline permission may be more expensive than one with full permission that is not in as good a location. Location is important in a number of ways and in the case of plots with permission and the most important consideration should be access. Not access once the build is completed, but access during the build itself. Large, heavy equipment will be needed and while concrete pumps can be used to access difficult sites, other task may be more labour intensive than on an easy access site, all of which can add to the cost.
In addition to the cost of materials and labour, consider all the aspects of your proposed build. Project managing yourself can save money but if you have not managed a build before this is rarely the case. Getting the right trades in, at the right time, along with the right materials, can be a fine art. If you don’t get this right you may find that different tradesmen are not available when the materials are, or that you have to pay a premium to get them on site at the right time. Project managers may cost, but they can be a very worthwhile investment. Planning ahead and calculating the exact costs (and adding ten per cent, believe me) will ensure that your very own ‘affordable home’ remains affordable.
While concrete pumps can make a difficult site easier to manage, not all building materials can be got to site easily. Planning ahead when self-building will help to ensure that the build comes in on time and on budget.