Case Study of the Month - August
A little bit of extra garden

Location: Oxfordshire
Land Cost: £5000 in 1990, plot at the end of existing garden
Build Cost: £234,000
Current Value: circa £450-500,000

Jean Sawyer a retired accountant, and her husband Eric, a retired aerospace engineer, both originated from the Wiltshire area, they had owned various houses over the years and had fully renovated their first one in Hampshire.

In the early eighties they planned a move to Oxfordshire and decided the time was just right to build their own home. They wanted a highly insulted house that would have low running costs. The house would be a 4 bedroom long term family home and would be built using brick and block construction, during the whole process the couple lived on the site in a caravan together with their 3 children.

By the 1990s that all seemed a lifetime away, the house had been finished for some time and the garden had matured so they decided to approach their neighbour with the view to buying the piece of land adjoining theirs. This would not only increase the size of the garden space by 0.15 of an acre, but also give them open views across the Oxfordshire countryside.

The land was purchased for £5,000, with an agreement that the couple would not build on it during the lifetime of their neighbour. In 2012 with retirement approaching, the couple started to think about self building again and submitted an outline planning application.

Unfortunately though, 3 months later the application was refused on the grounds that the plot was out of the village boundary, this made the couple even more determined to push ahead with the project they had promised themselves many years before.

Eric prepared the drawings and made the re-submission for an appeal in December 2012, and in January 2013 they were finally granted planning permission. “That was most definitely one of our most memorable moments” say the couple

It was following this that the couple decided to visit the National Self Build & Renovation Centre in Swindon to get some ideas. There they saw the Potton “Ruskin” showhouse and learnt that the company had built a contemporary Barn at their self-build centre in St Neots near Cambridge. “We had read articles about the company in various self-build magazines, seen their website and blogs on the internet so decided the company would be ideal for us” said Jean.



Best Self -Build Under £250K

“We had a pretty good idea of what we wanted, we planned to downsize, build an energy efficient house that would be better suited to our needs…this would hopefully leave us some money in the bank for our retirement”


Eric then prepared a fairly detailed drawing and passed it to Neil Strong, one of Potton’s self build experts. The design incorporated 3 bedrooms and a completely open plan ground floor, the idea was to make it look very traditional externally and modern internally.

“Potton were excellent in interpreting Eric’s drawings, they made some suggestions and minor adjustments to suit the timber frame construction method” said Jean

During this time the couple made several visits to the self-build centre at St Neots and had a factory tour which they found very valuable and most interesting, this confirmed they had made the right decision.

“We found the whole process with Potton from start to finish very good, everybody we had contact with was friendly and helpful”


Want to know more?

Potton offer a complete design & planning service. If you have a building plot and want to find out about Potton please get in touch via the website or call 01767 676400





Moving next door

“The house was 140 square metres. We had budgeted around £200,000 as this would mean we could build without borrowing any money, and the best part is that we would be able to continue to live in our own house next door!”

In March 2013 the couple placed their order with Potton and following a site inspection from the local building control they learned that due to the clay soil the foundations would have to be piled, this would obviously affect their budget from the start. However they were very committed and Eric continued to incorporate a number of the eco products that had not been available to them on their first build next door. The idea being that Eric would pull back on the foundations over spends by designing and fitting these items himself.

This is where his engineering background came in very useful! Eric had already built his own replica AC Cobra sports car so was confident he could carry out all of the plumbing work. He designed and fitted the underfloor heating system including making the manifolds. They also included Solar hot water, an air source heat pump to feed the underfloor heating, a mechanical heat recovery and ventilation system and a rainwater harvesting unit.

The foundations were started in August 2013 and the Potton kit arrived in October
“Another most memorable moment for both of us” say the couple "it was amazing to see your house arrive on the back of a lorry! We had two separate teams working on the timber frame erection, the first put up the main superstructure and then when the roof trusses were delivered, the second team came out to complete the work.”




Once the frame was erected the couple set about working with local contractors to complete the build. “We would thoroughly recommend the bricklayer, the plasterer and the tiler, we used the Potton approved roofing contractor, all of whom were excellent.”

During this time the couple were able to work alongside the contractors and complete all of the work Eric had designed, this also included the piece de resistance… a stainless steel and glass staircase that he actually made in his workshop next to the garage on the site! P1040315

The couple planned all of the interior design themselves, choosing kitchens and bathrooms and floor and wall tiling.

“Having moved in, there are still a number of on-going jobs to be completed but at least we are in, and delighted with our new home”

“At the end of the day” says Eric “despite going over budget because of the piled foundations, we came out at £247,000, this included all fees and VAT of which we will be claiming back around £13,000, so all in all our build cost will be about £234,000.”

“We haven’t actually had the house valued at present but would expect it conservatively to be worth £450- £500,000.”

During November and December of 2014, the couple decided that they would start the gradual move from next door, despite not being completely finished.

This would then allow their daughter and her family to move into the “family” house they had purchased from Mum and Dad!