Self-Build Myths: What`s True and What`s False

5 April 2018 Mark Day, Self Build Consultant

What is it really like to build your own home?

How should you make the key decisions? Relatively few people each year in the UK self build their own home (around 11,000) but, thanks to television programmes such as Grand Designs, almost everyone seems to have an opinion. If you’re the brave self builder in the middle, it’s easy to be influenced by the myths that have built up around self build over the years.

What you really want, considering this is likely to be one of the biggest decisions and investments you’ll ever make, is the truth.

It's only for the rich!

Potton Contemporary Self Build Home - Setterfield

Myth: It’s only for the rich
Truth: It helps, but isn’t essential.

If you regularly watch Grand Designs, you could be forgiven for thinking that all self-builders have to be wealthy in order to achieve their dream.

That simply isn’t the case: whilst some self-builders spend eye-watering amounts building their own mini-palaces (in the same way that many buy super-expensive homes off the shelf) the average self-builder spends a little over £1,300/m2 on their new, bespoke home.

If you’re building an average four-bedroom home of, say 160m2 that’s a build spend of £208,000. In areas where house prices are high, so is the cost of building plots: but many self-builders buy plots for between £80,000 - £200,000 across the UK.

Simply put, if you can afford to buy a new house from a developer, you can afford to self-build. Building your own home is in fact cheaper, as you’ll be keeping the profit the developer makes for yourself (usually between 10-30%). Visit our gallery page where you can filter homes by build cost.

You’re bound to go over budget

Contemporary Open-Plan Lounge

Myth: You're bound to go over budget
Truth: Not necessarily

You’ve heard the story: the couple who wanted to spend £150,000 on their project and ended up spending £250,000.

Budgets for construction work are complicated things, and cost overruns certainly do happen. But usually they happen for positive reasons: the self-builders agree so-called ‘elective’ extras, which means a change to the original design, or choice of materials, or extra work here or there.

It’s an overrun, but it’s all agreed and transparent, then it’s not a problem. The overruns you don’t want are when they aren’t agreed and come as a surprise once a bill is submitted.

Again, while this can happen, it certainly shouldn’t – if the project has a detailed specification at the start, and contractors have a clear understanding of the work expected of them.

So with good planning, and a project that has decisions made upfront and kept to, overruns are far from inevitable. Read our article 'It all starts with budget'.

You'll never get planning permission

Potton Contemporary Self Build Home - Setterfield

Myth: You'll never get planning permission
Truth: Do your research to avoid disaster

Getting planning consent can be very straightforward, as long as you do your homework.

It all depends on the individual plot and where it is situated. If it’s in the middle of open countryside then, on the balance of probability, you won’t get planning approval for a new house – but then again, what you have is not so much a building plot, more a field.

If you’ve bought a building plot then it should already have outline planning consent for a home or a very good chance of getting it as it will already be within the settlement development boundary (if it’s in your own garden, for example).

Local authorities are more inclined to grant approval to individual homes than they have been in decades – and the attitudes towards styles have changed, too.

Many people build very modern homes in village conservation areas – so don’t assume the worst. Making a coherent, logical argument for your new home is not always going to achieve the result you want, but you have a better chance than ever.

It will take ages

Potton timber frame home under construction

Myth: It will take ages
Truth: It will take about a year, start to finish

A typical schedule starts with you buying a plot, then you'd work with a company to come up with the house design before applying for planning approval.

In most cases this will take 3-6 months. Once this has been done, you can then go ahead and build: which, thanks to speedy timber frame construction, will take between 6-9 months in most cases.

Yes, it’s longer than buying a new house: but considering the life-changing potential of self-building, it is amazingly fast.

It's better to buy a new home from a developer

Potton Contemporary Self Build Home in Peterborough

Myth: Why would I self-build, it's better to buy a new home from a developer
Truth: They're two completely different types of house

There’s no doubt – it is easier to buy a new home from a developer than have one built for you.

And, if you intend to build a new home that replicates the look and quality of a standard developer home, then you probably are best served doing just that.

But self-builders choose to build their own homes because they want attractive, individual design – a home suited to their particular tastes, usually on bigger plots and in a nicer setting – and a choice in terms of high quality specification and finish quality.

By controlling the build process, you as the end user can control quality – and who wouldn’t want that?

Timber frame homes won't last

Potton Milchester Show Home Cambridgeshire

Myth: Timber frame homes won't last
Truth: They're the most heavily engineered buildings of all

Whether it’s because they’re relatively light, or because we’ve all grown up in the UK with the belief that all homes are built out of blocks and bricks – or maybe because we all grew up on The Three Little Pigs?

Somehow many people remain suspicious of timber frame homes. As with all forms of construction, including blockwork, there are good and bad examples, but some of the oldest buildings still standing in the UK are in fact timber framed.

Centuries of engineering and science have gone into ensuring that timber frame homes are not just as good as any other in terms of stability, longevity and performance, but that they exceed these standards.

And, of course, all homes make massive use of timber for engineering and structurally critical areas – you only need to look in your roof to confirm that. And if you still remain to be convinced, just ask all of the major housebuilders in the UK – they all use timber frames to build at least part of their new home portfolio each year.

Why not visit our Self Build Show Centre in St Neots, Cambridgeshire where you can experience our homes for yourself. There are five timber frame and SIP houses to browse, three of which were built over 25 years ago. We have been in the business of self-build homes for over 50 years.

You'll get ripped off by your builder

Myth: You'll get ripped of by your builder
Truth: Cowboy clients are more common than cowboy builders

Tales of 'cowboy builders'  have been amplified by the media because they’re a good story – but they certainly don’t reflect 99% of the building trade, which is hard-working, honest and reliable.

As anyone who has carried out a similar project knows, there is always the occasional tradesman you won’t get on with – but as with any profession, there are some who are more customer-friendly than others.

Using package suppliers significantly reduces your exposure to using unknown, untested tradesmen to do things they’re not familiar with.

Potton Milchester Show Home Lounge

Visit the Potton Show Centre

If you're thinking about self-building then a visit to our self build show centre in St Neots, Cambridgeshire is a must. Open Mon-Fri 9-5 and Saturday 10-4.

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