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Self build - anyone done it?

(25 Posts)
david68 Fri 13-Mar-15 19:52:44

Hi. I am a retired architect who has built 4 self builds over a period of 40 years. Firstly I would say it is well worth doing it as long as you don't waste the opportunity .... make sure the design is really good as everything you do thereafter depends on it.

I used to advise my clients to write a brief ....... by really chilling out, closing ones eyes and after 10 mins try to picture their living conditions in 5 years time. This would give a better picture of your aspirations than any brainstorm. Most clients would formulate their brief on their limited idea what was possible rather than what they really wanted or needed. It is my belief that really articulating what you realy want is the hardest part of the whole process.

It is a tremendous amount of work and worry even if you not doing the physical work. There are ways to limit this but they tend to be considerably more expensive. You have probably seen things like the Huf Haus on Grand Designs and there are various other companies that do prefabricated houses, even turn-key packages, but beware. This kind of way of building is common in Germany where self builds are common and some of those German companies operate in the UK via agents.

I am currently helping family members to realise their self build and at 68, did not want to go through the whole grinding process again, particularly with typical UK building workers. So we approached two of these German companies, prepared to pay the extra it inevitably involves. They are of course very keen to talk to you and suggest anything can be achieved but they were both reluctant to tell you precisely what you are getting for the money. We gave up on the first, despite having been to see the very impressive factory near Stuttgart; they would give you a provisional price but they would not tell you precisely what it included and we would not commit to something that was so badly defined. You don't find out what it would cost until you had already paid a substantial deposit and the scheme is made to suit their system of building.

The second company did at least answer our enquiries, if a bit reluctantly, and we entered into a contract with the options all costed. However they have tried to withdraw options subsequently and it got to the point where were ready to walk away; we effectively lost all trust in them. You might also think that a German company might be good at keeping to a prorgamme but here again they have missed every date they advised before the signature. Communication is almost zero. We have progressively lost the feeling of being a customer.

So we have, at the least, swapped poor UK performance on site for a terrible experience before getting to site.

This doesn't mean that it will necessarily be a diabolical experience that you can't wait to end, but it should mean that you don't enter it lightly. You need to get yourself very informed and do NOT try to wing it. You might be tempted to skimp spending on design and management expertise but good building is much more complicated than is generally thought.

Lastly, programmes like Grand Designs are good in that that they encourage people to create, but I don't think I have heard anyone on the programme being honest about the cost or the help they have received from people behind the scenes.

popsgran Sun 27-Jan-13 14:55:21

you need an architect who is PP savvy and knows his way around council demands.You must have a project manager if only a part time experienced builder who you trust.
i have done to keep your eye on the ball,mpney etc.When its finished it is wonderful.A unique home that you built.wonderful

Sunnyshores Sun 27-Jan-13 14:48:48

Oh dear! FIL situation doesnt sound ideal (I hear you!!) and if 1 year of stress isnt going to result in your dream home, then I cant see many advantages for you.

Maybe the PP will encourage you, but if not it will increase the value of his investment anyway, but I'd try not to sound too encouraging, in my FIL experiences any little sign can steamroll into it being a done deal.

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 23:14:07

My DP is desperate to do a self-build. Made redundant and would jump at the opportunity but we're all settled in secondary schools etc so missed our window now until they leave home.

alarkthatcouldpray Sat 26-Jan-13 22:51:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 22:35:56

Hmm I wonder if dear FIL isn't fulfilling his own dream through you? Perhaps you could help him design his dream home on his farm - maybe that's what he would like?

Or perhaps he's doing what a lot of proud fathers do - try and set their kids up with a nice home. I do think it's a good idea when you have dcs to live somewhere near other people or the children can get very isolated. On the other hand having FIL next door to do some babysitting might be quite nice.

M&S nice but pricey, I wouldn't use that exclusively (until dcs left home).

alarkthatcouldpray Sat 26-Jan-13 22:30:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

alarkthatcouldpray Sat 26-Jan-13 22:25:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sunnyshores Sat 26-Jan-13 22:24:24

Have you looked at what £250k would buy you in FIL's area? And then compared that to what you would have if you self built for £160k?

Money-wise as your £160k doesnt include the land cost, I would have thought your self-build should end up valued at £250kish. You should probably get this confirmed by an EA once you have plans. So, it could be a wise investment.

To be honest though, it doesnt really sounds as if your heart is in a move to the country enough for the year of stress to be really worth it? Or do you think perhaps you could fall in love with the idea if you saw what amazing 'perfect' house you could build? SelfBuild Mag for inspiration, or if near there is a Self build centre in Swindon with model houses, Self Build shows in places like Manchester and London, Potton website and showhomes, BorderOak website...

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 22:09:01

If you don't want to live in the country, you may be doing the wrong thing. Might be easier to get a loft conversion or an extension!

alarkthatcouldpray Sat 26-Jan-13 20:22:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sunnyshores Sat 26-Jan-13 16:44:40

Self build to what degree? Build yourself? Project manage builders? Get project manager to manage builders? I think with some of the kit houses you can get a more or less fixed price to complete.
If you love FIL's location and cant afford similar house in the area, then its definitely worth considering. If you're not really keen on living there and can afford similar in preferred location - then save the stress and walk away. There's no denying it will be more difficult and costly than you imagined. That said, I'd love to do it!!

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 15:47:44

I should think the only disadvantage of self-building would be that you would never want to move out. You would get very attached to it - perhaps less so if it's a kit house, but I find it hard enough to move and leave my lovely kitchen behind.

Agree about never DIY plastering. A fine art indeed.

lalalonglegs Sat 26-Jan-13 12:32:25

Do you mean actual build yourselves or commission a house to be built for yo? If it's actual build it and you don't have any skills, I wouldn't even begin to think about it.

ThermalKaty Sat 26-Jan-13 11:58:23

I've done severla gutting a shell & total refurb. jobs. Very rewarding but you DO need a lot of skills (I will never ever again try plastering!). Your better bet is to employ someone to help you, and employ someone for the bits that are difficult (either because of equipment or skills). It will depend on what you want to build as to the best way to do it (eg. if its a timber frame). If you'd like to send me a message & more info I can help. I have many years of experience in the design & building industries as an architectural designer, self-builder & project manager.

Its often VERY difficult to get PP on farm land so if you get over that hurdle you may find that a sympathetic local builder is worth their weight. However if you want a personal, special design then it might be worth thinking of using a proper architect to get exactly what you want (they may well save you money in the long run). Just enter into this decision armed with as much info as you can find.

Have you seen the Self Build Assoc.?

Lafaminute Fri 25-Jan-13 22:46:51

I did it - they say you have to build FIVE shock houses before you know what you're at!! I would probably agree. It was tough enough (what kind of door knobs do you want??? I for one had never given much thought to door knobs before being asked this) and then of course you are responsible for every aspect of the house - good and bad. I would build the house differently now but of course your planning will dictate to a certain extent the style and size of your house. If you are going to go ahead think really hard about every aspect of how you live now: how you use your kitchen, how you spend your evenings, would you really need 5 loos, make your utility room really work (I'd make mine bigger/bedrooms smaller/room for a sofa in the kitchen), make sure your floors are easy clean says she who bankrupt us getting her dream tiles only to find they are hideously impractical as indeed are your sinks etc because if you buy a house most of these decisions are made for you so you can blame someone else for the silly intricate taps and so on.

Selks Fri 25-Jan-13 22:41:20

There are some great 'kit' houses around. My friend did this in Scotland, where it's quite common. Lovely house at a good price with fantastic eco credentials. I'm rather envious!

achillea Fri 25-Jan-13 22:36:22

It depends how much money you have I guess. What is it that you don't like about doing it?

Anifrangapani Fri 25-Jan-13 22:32:05

If you have money then get a project manager,but be really clear on you brief. Good luck

tigerdriverII Fri 25-Jan-13 22:31:03

Our neighbours are self builders, they did it with an extension not the whole house. I would say that some competent builders would have taken maybe 6 weeks to do it, it wasn't huge. The self builders took about 3 years. For us that was three years of banging, hammering, etc etc. not a problem if you are building on family land...

alarkthatcouldpray Fri 25-Jan-13 22:27:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Anifrangapani Fri 25-Jan-13 22:22:01

Speak to your local planners. It sounds as if it is a rural area if there is enough landto gift it to you. If they are comfortable with building in that area. That will give you an idea if it is a pipe dream or a practical idea.

angelinterceptor Fri 25-Jan-13 22:15:19

Then there is the while hassle of planning permission.
We are trying to do this in a plot on my DF farm - replacement dwelling so you would have though fairly straightforward.
Think again as we have had out application in nearly 2 years!

We were told a decent sized house could be built for around £200k.
For similar in our area would be twice that.

lalalonglegs Fri 25-Jan-13 22:08:28

I haven't done it (although I'd love to) but I do know quite a lot about it as I used to write about it - in fact, I still do occasionally. Imo, you have to really want to do it as it is an enormous hassle and if you don't keep a very close eye on things, they tend to go wrong. If you go to this site and scroll to the bottom of the page, there are several examples of budget projects that will give you an idea of what you can get for your money. Unless you have very specific ideas on design (which I do grin), I would be tempted to look at kit houses in your shoes.

alarkthatcouldpray Fri 25-Jan-13 21:41:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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