How to Buy Well

28 February 2019 Potton News

Building Your Own Home: How to Buy Well

McPhail Burgess 098
Building your own home is the biggest shopping trip of your life, as you’ll be responsible for monitoring a budget worth literally thousands of pounds. That’s probably more money than you’ll ever spend in one go again, so we don’t need to tell you how important it is to spend wisely.

This building budget breaks down into hundreds of individual purchasing decisions — all of which have the potential to cost more money than they should do. Not only this, but you may end up buying something that you don’t really want, which in turn can result in subpar customer service, weak security of purchase, and low long-term performance.

As you can see, building your own home can feel a little overwhelming with keeping track of everything you need to do, so we’ve put together a self-build home checklist, which includes a few pointers on how to stay organised and buy well.

Building a Home Checklist

Focus Your Energy

The first lesson of building your own home — and combating the daunting feeling that goes with this—  is to focus your energy on what’s most important to you. This means thinking long and hard about the areas of your home that you’d like to put at the top of the list.

One criterion could be, which rooms will you use the most in your new home? If it’s the kitchen, what’s especially important in there? If that’s cooking, then you know to focus your energy and budget onto workspaces and appliances.

Once you know what’s most important to you (not your builder, designer or external network), you can focus your energy on this and the self-build process will feel far more manageable.

Look for Value

Another element you may find yourself worrying about is whether or not you’re getting value for money when sourcing building materials yourself. Good value is different from buying something for a low price, and paying a lot for something doesn’t guarantee a good product either.

When yoú’re looking for good value, it’s important to take note of a few different variables. For example, when choosing external products for your house, will the materials look just as good in ten years? Some of the cheaper choices may not last so well perhaps as a result of weathering.

On the flip side, if you pay an additional cost for a timber cladding supplier to treat the product with a preservative to ensure it doesn’t warp or split after a few years, then this would be a great case of getting good value for money. While it might mean paying more initially, the purchase will pay off in the long-term. It’s a fine balance, but one you can master with research when comparing products and prices.
In the spirit of assessing your buying decisions in order of priority, you should draw up a detailed list of where your money is going. In most cases, the traditional “big ticket” items for self-builders are:


  • Windows
  • Cladding
  • Roof Covering
  • Kitchen
  • Floor Covering
  • Staircase
  • Bathroom Fittings
  • Landscaping
  • Heating System

Secure Purchasing

Given the high cost of these “big ticket” items, it’s important to protect your investment. Self-build site insurance is key, but buying these items yourself — rather than asking your builder to do so — is just as important.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, your builder is not likely to want to purchase a £30,000 window contract on his balance sheet (and may not be able to anyway). Secondly, if he does go bust (it happens, albeit rarely), then having the windows in your name rather than his means they won’t get seized by the receivers.

Understand the Product

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Next, it’s important to invest time and effort into comparing the different product options. In the first instance, buying well means knowing exactly what you’re getting — which isn’t always easy in the complex world of home construction. Product specifications and the perceived benefits of the product in question are often couched in complex terminology — a minefield for self-builders.
The best way to compare products is to directly ask the suppliers key questions, based on what’s important to you. Clearly, almost all building products have a visual element (the strength of which should be discussed with your designer), but the capacity, strength, performance, durability and feel of the product is what constitutes quality. Has the material been tested against these criteria? And if so, is the testing independently certified?

Understand the Selling Points

When it comes to buying well, there is an inherent power in the brand, so it’s important to understand what value this constitutes to you as a purchaser. Good brand reputation is tough to earn and when done well, it’s due to years of outstanding customer service, high-quality product experiences, innovation and durability. The point being, it is earned, not bought — so beware of brands that are trying to build credibility quickly.

There are elements of home materials that fall into that category of trend and fashion, whereby a brand name (for example in kitchens, bathrooms and many fittings) can be the sole reason for a product being more expensive than its competitors. Equally, many companies offer value-driven solutions to canny buyers who are looking to avoid feeling ripped-off by “must-have” materials — such as polished concrete.

Who is Making the Product?

Another element to be aware of when making purchases is the provenance of certain products — or the difference between the manufacturer and retailer. One straightforward way to drive down prices is to concentrate on the actual product, rather than the retailer selling it to you as many items for the home are imported wholesale and then re-sold at retail price. For example, the floor tiles sold in our many tile superstores are often from the same suppliers so you can drive down cost knowing full well that you are comparing like for like.

Become an Educated Purchaser

Buying well is a delicate balance between spending more in some cases and less in others. The educated purchaser will go into a transaction knowing they have explored all of the options available, discounted the supplier as much as possible, and are fully aware of the product they are getting, along with its benefits and potential limitations.

It isn’t “grabbing a bargain” that has just landed in your inbox on impulse. The educated purchaser has spreadsheets of costs and understands value as a metric of long term enjoyment and performance against short term cost control. The educated buyer knows where it really counts, and where it doesn’t.

Visit our Show Homes in Cambridgeshire

If you’re considering building your own home, then a visit to our Show Homes is a must! Here you can browse five finished show homes and explore our product centre where we have windows, doors and staircases on display. You can even book to meet with a self-build consultant during your visit.

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