18 Mar 2021 - Self Build

Planning a self-build project? Get the need-to-know tips before you start

If you’re planning a self-build project, it won’t be a decision you’ve taken lightly. It’s a huge step to take but it’s a very attractive one. With substantially lower costs than buying an existing home and no developers taking their cut, as well as the fact you can tailor your property to entirely suit your family’s lifestyle, it’s little wonder self-building is slowly gaining momentum in the UK. Although much lower than European countries, the UK self-building sector accounts for between 7-10% of completions. And with the government’s target to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, it would seem self-building is becoming a more viable option for many people.

In this guide, we outline the all-important tips and considerations for self-build success and discuss the key priorities to ensure a smooth-running project from start to finish.

Don’t hold back in the research stage

Thorough and detailed research is of huge importance in the initial stages of your project. Make yourself as knowledgeable as you can on the topic of self build – attend events and seminars, speak to self builders in your area and research the planning and building processes involved. It’s at this point you should also consider your overall vision and think about what you ideally want from your self build.

Open your mind to the bigger picture

Architects advise that in thinking about the overall design of your new home, you take it back to basics and really understand the way you live. Let that instruct the design and build. Think about how you connect with people – so this will influence your interior design – and how you connect with the outside, which will determine your home’s positioning and surroundings. Interior and exterior features are very important details but they’re not simply implemented only because you happen to like them – there should be a lot more strategic thinking than this. Think about how you and your family use certain spaces and how they’ll accommodate your lifestyle. The design of your self build should be moulded around your family and the way you live. It’s not all form over function. Yes, you’re aiming for an amazing-looking home but you need to make sure each room serves its purpose efficiently and works for the people using it.  

Be completely honest about your budget

The best-laid plans can always fall apart. But for a self-build project, meticulous planning and budgeting, as well as anticipation of common self-build pitfalls, go a long way to ensuring your project runs as smoothly as possible. Take into consideration if you’re working on an existing build, you’ll still have to pay VAT on works carried out (genuinely new houses are zero-rated for VAT). Find the right architect and provide them with a detailed brief. When it’s time to talk budgets, you’ll find architects simply cannot undervalue honesty at this stage. Be as upfront as you can be from the beginning – whatever your budget (even if you’re concerned it’s not much), it’s an architect’s job to get creative and extract the best results. But if you’re not open about your budget in the beginning, you’re more likely to hit problems – going over on costs on or affected timescales, for example – through the build.

Get a full team onboard

An architect will no doubt be the first person you enlist on your project – and you should be sure to continue to engage with them through the process, long after the design stage. Liaise with them throughout the project and you’ll likely save money in the long-term simply by taking on their advice. They’ll recommend the key players that make up the rest of your team – your project manager, quantity surveyor, contractor and structural engineer, for example. If your design features unique aspects, you may need to get specialists involved. For each person you hire, do your research. Check out their qualifications (are they experienced in self builds?), speak to their previous clients and ensure you’re completely comfortable with them – they’re going to be in your life for a long time. It’s also worth noting your extended team doesn’t necessarily have to only be made up of professionals. Talk to friends and family, as well as colleagues, to get inspiration and general opinion.

Consider the finer details

The brief you give your architect should be as detailed and clear as possible – and it’s here you’ll list out all ‘must-have’ features, gadgets and focal points (it’s a wish list after all). You’ll often find that a lot of those (what you might consider) smaller details actually influence the bigger build. For instance, if you’re thinking about oversized internal doors with real ‘wow factor’, this will need adding into your architect’s brief ahead of the design stage. No detail is too small to feature in the architect’s brief. The finer details will be thrashed out in the early planning stages with your architect – and may even take several face-to-face meetings. It’s hugely important you don’t rush this preparation phase – it’s all tied up in emotion so you need to be confident it’s right. Don’t be disappointed if your ideas don’t become reality after that very first meeting.

Are you planning to embark on a self-build project? For help and advice about door placement, openings or possibilities, please get in touch with a member of the team or call us on 0800 138 6688.

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