Self Build Made Simple

12 March 2018 Mark Day, Self Build Consultant

If watching a few episodes of Grand Designs has sparked your interest in self build, then you’re in for a bit of a shock.

The entirely pleasant surprise is that building your own home is much easier than you might think, and the vast majority of people go on to self build without any of the drama and worry that you might expect.

In fact, most self build projects would have none of the drama that a mainstream TV programme like Grand Designs requires to be the success it has been over the past 20 years or so.

Self build is certainly less mainstream in the UK than it is in almost all other developed countries in the world, but there is a long-established industry in place to help you – just as it has been helping 100,000s of self builders since the 1960s. And while some people still do decide to do something completely off the beaten track (which, by the way, helps for good television), almost all self builders can rely on team of proven experts to help them along the way.

Because almost all self builders are doing it for the first time (it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience) then by definition it is all new to them. But so-called ‘package’ companies (such as Potton) can make building your own home as straightforward as those other big lifetime decisions: planning a wedding, or even buying a new car.

Drawing to completion
Let’s just step back for a minute, and analyse what usually goes wrong on the type of self build project you might see on Grand Designs.

The homeowners often end up with their build costs spiralling out of all control, on houses that are unique enough to be right at the edge of being buildable. In most cases this is usually because there has been a separation of the design process from the construction and costing elements of building a house.

This is the classic self build weak spot: where designs have been agreed and then you wait, nervously, for prices to come back from builders. And when they do, they’re inevitably higher than you had hoped, and they can often continue to spiral as the untested and unspecified on plan translates to extra cost in reality.

The ones that don’t tend to go wrong are where the whole process is packaged together into a seamless marriage of budget, design, and engineering.

The houses are still unique, but they are designed within the context of the project, rather than in isolation.

This concept-to-completion service reduces the risk of surprises – never a good thing in a construction project – but without any sacrifice around the reason that we’re all self-building rather than buying a house from a developer: individual, beautiful design and a high-quality, bespoke specification.

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Self Build Requires Joined Up Thinking

In the same way that someone buying a brand new car wouldn’t get it designed by one person, built by another and then get someone else to come in and add selected different features, self-builders using package suppliers benefit from the same seamless, joined-up thinking – ensuring that the impact of a decision is considered across the design, cost, and construction of the house.

Your relationship only exists with a package supplier if it is grounded in buildability – after all, the package supplier won’t get paid unless the house gets built, so it’s in their interests as much as yours that the budget and construction are realistic.

Traditionally, package companies operated using a standardised set of designs – you would choose a home ‘out of the book’ and build (an often modified) version for yourself.

That is still true of some package suppliers, but the better ones now offer a bespoke design service – so you still get the bespoke design experience (in the way you would with an architect) and a truly unique home built around your needs.

And, because it’s within the context of using a package supplier, you won’t have to worry about finding and dealing with builders, or worrying that the project is going to come through on budget, or worrying that some elements are so unique they can’t be built.

So Can Self Build Ever be Simple?

Even the term we use to describe homeowners who have commissioned a brand new home – self-builders – makes it sound difficult and different. For many people building their own home using the traditional model it still can be – but for those using package suppliers, it really can be as easy as buying a brand new car.

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