The reasons behind someone’s desire to build a bespoke home are many and various. They may include a wish to create a special environment in which to raise a family, a longing to live in a house like no other or a speculative reason, such as selling the house on and achieving maximum profit.
Before embarking on what can be a costly, stressful and time-consuming venture, it is important to clarify aims and be aware of the myriad steps involved in achieving them. Here are some points to consider from the outset:
- Write a brief, detailing important requirements of the scheme before engaging the project team. This can be used to obtain fee proposals from contractors. The brief will evolve with the project but should include room sizes, layout, the style of architecture whether contemporary or traditional, heating options and energy efficiency. Factors such as the best ways of enjoying views from the house and garden can be included.
- Locate a building plot, preferably which benefits from full or outline planning permission. It may be beneficial to explore planning regulations such as Permitted Development Rights which allow extension of smaller properties and building on infill plots. A site review could be carried out including a soil investigation study by an engineer.
- Arrange finance. Specific self-build mortgages are available through brokers; they work on a stage release payment basis during the build.
- Make a design plan and be sure that it satisfies all requirements before it is signed off: alterations can prove costly later on when work is under way.
- Set a budget: be realistic, add at least a 10% contingency amount to cover unforeseen problems. Be wary of overspending by building a property which may exceed the value of nearby houses as this will make it difficult to recover the investment when it is sold.
- Select the building route: options include companies which provide customisable standard houses or working with an architect and main contractor on a bespoke design. Employing a professional project manager may be an attractive option, while a self-builder with relevant experience may consider taking on the role themselves. The build method must be decided on; brick and block or timber frame are the most common choices and have comparable costs, or other options can be researched.
- Establish the team. It is advisable to check references from contractors and view their work where possible. Identify an architect who understands the aims of the project and is within budget. A structural engineer may be required, and a quantity surveyor could enable savings during the construction process. An energy consultant may be needed to help maximise the energy performance of the house and cut long term costs; extra insulation and solar panels could be considered as part of the build. Regular communication with the team is important to avoid misunderstandings.
- Contact planners at an early stage if consent is needed; obtaining pre-application advice is useful to understand planning officers’ requirements regarding style and materials: there may be a fee for this service. It is also important to be aware of relevant planning policies in the area. Draw up a Design and Access Statement which must accompany the planning application and focuses on the site requirements. It may also be worthwhile informing neighbours of the plans at an early stage.
- Apply for planning permission along with building control approval and any other documentation required such as protected species or habitat reports. If the application is contentious, the services of a planning consultant may prove useful. When the application is checked and registered by the planning authority it will go onto their planning website and neighbours have the opportunity to object.
- When consent is obtained, the Building Certification process must be completed: this involves details of the build, materials and compliance matters. It is important to ensure that the correct contracts, warranties and insurances are in place including self-build insurance.
- Whilst work to establish groundworks and the drainage scheme can now begin, bear in mind that negotiations with utility companies can take several months which may delay trench digging for pipes and cables.
- On completion of the build, obtain a Completion Certificate from building control.