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The Self-Build Journey How to Create Your Dream Home

By Jamie Richardson | July 30, 2017

Building your dream home is a huge project, but despite the obstacles in their way, thousands of people embark on a self-build project each year. Self-build is not for the faint hearted, but if you manage the project carefully and don’t blow your budget, you have a real chance of ending up with a home that is unique, perfect for you and your family, and worth more than it cost you to build. If you are desperate for a new home and nothing you have viewed so far fits the bill, read on for some helpful tips on how to ensure your self-build project is a success.

Reasons Why You Should Self Build
Building a home is exciting, exhilarating, and stressful in equal measure. When it goes well, you will wonder why you didn’t do it before, but when it all goes horribly wrong, you will wish you had never even started the project.
Despite the stress attached to the process, there are many great reasons why self-build is an ideal way to create a home. Firstly, you can create your ideal home. When you buy an existing home, you are stuck with someone else’s design choices, irrespective of whether they work for you. You have to compromise over the layout, how large the kitchen is, and whether the master bedroom looks out over the front or the rear garden.

Self-build allows you to design your perfect home. If you want a curved property with panoramic views of the ocean or a three-bed property with an open plan living area, it’s all yours, as long as the budget can accommodate your choices, of course.
Building a property from the ground up is also excellent value for money. As long as you don’t choose over-the-top fixtures and fittings, you should end up with a property that’s worth more than the cost of the build.

Self-build projects are unique, so they attract a premium from buyers when you eventually come to sell. However, this does depend on how outrageous your design choices were, so bear this in mind unless you do not intend selling at any point in the future.

What’s Your Budget?
Most people don’t have an unlimited budget. If money were no object, we would all be living in palatial homes on Caribbean islands. Sadly, this is not the case. Your budget is the framework for the entire project. It dictates what type of home you build, how large it is, and how much you spend on fixtures and fittings.

Be very careful about how much money you allocate to your self-build project. Too little and you probably won’t reach completion; too much and you could end up in a debt hole so deep you can’t climb out without selling your precious new home.
Try to set a realistic budget based on your income, how much money you have in savings, and what type of home you need. A lender will only let you borrow what you can afford to pay back, but if your dream home budget exceeds the mortgage you take out to cover the cost of building work, things will soon get tricky.

Remember also to allocate a 10% contingency fund to cover any unexpected problems that may arise during the project.

Organize Finance
Unless you are lucky enough to have a huge pot of savings to dip into, or you have just sold your existing home and released a ton of equity, you will probably need a mortgage to fund your self-build project.

Most mainstream lenders offer self-build mortgages for customers looking to build their own home. Instead of releasing the money in one go, funds are released in tranches, typically at each stage of the project. For example, the first stage payment allows you to buy a plot of land and do the ground works. The second stage payment takes you up to first fix, and the final stage payment is released when the completed property has been passed a building inspection.

If you do need a self-build mortgage to fund the project, spend time looking for the right lender. This is especially the case if you want to try any new and wacky building techniques. Some lenders turn their noses up at certain types of construction technique. It is better to know this before you start designing a home.

Find a Building Plot
Before you can build a home, you need a plot of land. Building land is rarely cheap unless it is somewhere undesirable or remote. Spend time searching for the right plot of building land, as the right location could make a real difference to the overall design of your completed home.

Research areas you are interested in moving to. Not all building plots are advertised, so talk to real estate agents and people in the community to see if there are any plots available. It might take a while to find the perfect spot to build your new home so persevere.
Remember that a building plot can be expensive, especially if it is in a prime location. If you require a mortgage for your self-build project, the lender will need to release funds to pay for the land before you progress to the next stage, so talk to your lender and make sure adequate finance is in place before you put in a bid for the land.

Design Your Dream Home
The design stage is very important. If your budget is tight, look for an off-the-peg design, as it will be cheaper, but if you want to do things differently or your dream home looks nothing like anything you have seen before, work with an architect to create a design that is personal to you.
Look for an architect who has a similar outlook to you. Check out their previous work and if you like what you see, talk to them about your project and see what ideas they have.
You need to have a good relationship with your architect. They have experience, so listen to their advice and if they say something is not going to work, don’t ignore them. On the other hand, it is your building project, so be prepared to fight for something if you believe in it.
For example, if you have read about a new and innovative type of eco-friendly building technique and you have your heart set on building a green home, stick to your guns and have faith in your ideas. An architect and building contractors are working for you, not the other way around.

Hire Contractors
Architects design homes, but they don’t carry out the building work. You will need to engage a builder for the ground works and to complete the project. Some people elect to do part of the work themselves, as this is an excellent way to save money. However, unless you have the right experience or you are willing to learn, it is better to let the professionals do their thing.

Architects will often recommend building contractors to their clients, as they work in the industry and have many contacts. You are free to choose your own contractors, however, so don’t be railroaded into working with a contractor you are not happy with.

Look for a contractor who adheres to building codes and has a good reputation. It is a false economy to try and save money by hiring a dodgy contractor who cuts corners. You will end up with a substandard and potentially dangerous new home.

Should You Project Manage?
Project managing a self-build is a time consuming and stressful job. It is also a full-time commitment, as there is a lot to deal with, not least managing a host of sub-contractors, ordering supplies, and keeping a close eye on materials and money.

If you decide to project manage the self-build because you want to save money, it is a good idea to look at US construction trailers, as you will need an office on site. From there, you can manage the site, keep records, and have somewhere dry and warm to work in.

Not everyone has the time or the experience to project manage a self-build. If this sounds like you, let your architect manage the project or choose a supplier who can design and build a home to your specifications. It will be less stressful, but costlier.

Building Site Issues
It is rare for a self-build project to reach completion without any problems. Bad weather takes its toll, unexpected site problems such as ruptured utility pipes or subsidence can prove costly and time-consuming to fix.

Be prepared to encounter all manner of problems, and you won’t be disappointed. Life will also be rough if you are forced to live on-site during the project, either in a trailer or an RV. However, no matter how tough things get, you can look forward to the day when your new home is finished and ready for you and your family to move into.

Jamie is a 5-year freelance writer who enjoys real estate. He is currently a Realty Biz News Contributor.
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