#TuesdaysTips – 7 things to consider about self-build homes

Ever dreamt of building your own home? Well if you’re the type to roll up your sleeves and be super organised, you may be surprised how accessible it is to do so if you’re willing to put in some hard work. Here’s our top tips for anyone looking to build their own homes once you’ve got your finances in place.

1.     Choose your professionals carefully


From start to finish, a lot of our projects take 18 months to 2 years to complete. This includes everything from finding the site, getting finance in place, making an offer, deciding the design, getting an application through planning, appointing a contractor and finishing the build through to completion.

To make this as easy as possible you want to have a power team around you that you can trust to push in the same direction as you and get your project completed as smoothly as possible. When you’re starting out, ask for recommendations from people you know in the construction trade. Aim to find two or three potential consultants, professionals or contractors for each role and then complete your due diligence checks on them.

You’ll want to see previous work in their portfolios, references and testimonials and if they’re a tradesman, ask to visit them on site to see how they work. Gauge how open they are to your request and consider whether you can see yourself working with them.

And let’s be honest, if you’re building your own dream home, you want people who are dedicated and talented at what they do, people who are potentially going to offer advice to improve your ideas and/or save you money along the way. So it’s crucial you take your time and do your checks to get this right from the get-go.

2.     Make life easy for your tradespeople


You want to galvanise your team and want them to look forward to working on your project – this is by far the best way to get the best output from them. Ways to do this include taking on board their advice about build methods, costs and suppliers. Chances are they’ve been in the industry a long time and have a network of people to tap into, and good tradesmen enjoy adding value for their customers in this way.

The next way to keep your tradesmen happy is to not micro-manage their work. If you’ve done your due diligence on them, you must let them get on with their work and stick to agreed milestones or lines of communication when you can check on their work. Otherwise, if you try to influence every little thing they do and call them 20 times a day, they’ll resent working on your job, and chances are you won’t have the best craftsmanship because of it.

Finally, try to make access as easy as possible for your site. If deliveries can come and go easily without taking three or four people to manoeuvre fencing or materials, it’s going to save you money in not wasting labour and keep your tradesmen much happier – trust us!

3.     Ultimately, stick to your guns


You’ve appointed your power team and hopefully, if you’ve read our top tips on architecture, you have a clear ‘parti pris’ that everyone understands and is working towards.

When it comes to planning each step in your development, the people you’ve appointed are likely to have opinions on what you should or shouldn’t do. At the risk of sounding contradictory to the second tip, you should always weigh up the advice against your ‘parti pris’. If you feel like the advice is taking you away from your vision, you should stick to your guns. Ultimately, it’s your dream home so don’t water down how you picture it.

4.     Be careful when hiring friends


Hiring friends is a tricky one. The boundaries can become blurred and if problems crop up, it can make it very awkward to address. If they’re part of a professional team, you should approach it the same way you’d approach any other supplier and remember that your friendship comes first, and business is business second.

When you hire friends who are independent tradesmen, you can find yourself in a situation where they do your job in the evenings or at weekends – try to not encourage this because naturally they will be more fatigued and you won’t get their best work, and if mistakes are made it will probably cost you more in the long run to rectify it.

5.     Re-sale is important


So you’re designing and building your dream home – your ‘forever home’ that you will live in for the rest of your life. You want everything to be perfect and exactly how you want it. And so you should, it’s important you’re happy with the final product.

However, you should always have in mind the resale value. A change in circumstances may mean that keeping the property isn’t viable and if you spend over what the ceiling value is for the property given its location, you can find yourself stuck.

The general rule of thumb is that the land cost should be around 30% of the end value, the build costs 40% and then 30% is profit. In more desirable places, the land costs can account for up to 50% of the end value so you should keep commercial minded throughout the development, ensuring you have viable exit routes if you need to sell due to any unforeseen circumstances.

6.     Keep organised


This may seem obvious, but keeping organised will be the key to minimising your stress throughout the project. You can invest in systems to keep all of your information up to date, or you can simply set up old-fashioned spreadsheets.

You want to keep logs of conversations you’ve had; records of up-to-date drawings with archives for superseded drawings; water-tight book-keeping with a track of all your VAT to claim back at the end of your build; copies of all the H&S paperwork from your contractors and their insurances and so forth. When you start the project, plan a process for information management to suit you and stick to it. This includes how you wish to name and tag documents if they’re stored on a computer so that they’re easily searchable – trust us, it’ll make your life a lot easier for doing so!

7.     Don’t give up


Building a property is undoubtedly a challenge. You should see it like running a marathon as it isn’t a quick process.

At times you’re going to question why you’re doing it and it can feel like you constantly have to fight to keep taking steps forward. That’s why it isn’t for the faint-hearted.

But if you can over come this by determination and getting the right power team in place, you’ll meet a lot of talented people and learn a lot of interesting things. By the end of the project, you can be proud of what you’ve achieved. And who knows – you may even get the bug to want to do it again.


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