Could You Build Your Own Home?

March 08, 2018
Taryn Lee-Johnston

There’s a lot goes in to building a house and commercial housing developments are often a matter of teamwork, with tasks handed out to people who specialise in them.  Private housing development, however, can, within certain limits, work within their own rules and you might be surprised at the options for creating your own home from scratch (or almost).  Here are three options for doing so – and three considerations to keep in mind when making your plans.

Renovate an existing property

By this we mean, essentially, gutting a property which is currently uninhabitable, or close to it, and making it a desirable dwelling place.  This may not be quite the same as starting from scratch, but depending on the state of the property, it may be pretty close to it, in fact it may bring its own challenges.  On the plus side, if there is already a building on the land, you may find it easier to get planning permission, at least as long as you intend to stick fairly closely to what was already there.  If you’re planning something radically different, planning officials may need more persuading.

Buy a prefabricated property and put it together yourself.

You can buy a “tiny house kit” from as little as £6,500 plus chassis, although this will only give you the materials for the basic structure and you will have to add electricity and plumbing yourself as well as furnishing it.  Life in a tiny house may not be for everybody, but they can certainly be an affordable way of getting on the housing ladder and could be a good solution for young adults in their pre-child years allowing them to avoid handing over money to a landlord while they build savings towards a family home.  You can also sell on a tiny house when you are ready to move on, although this is still a niche market.  For those looking for something rather bigger, prefabrication is still very definitely an option and can make the building process quicker and simpler although the nature of prefabrication is such that there can be limited scope for customisation, so whether or not this is an appropriate choice depends on what your priorities are.

Build a standard house from scratch

In this situation you’re only restricted by your imagination, your budget, the realities of your site and the opinion of local planning officials.  This may sound like a long list, but how much of an issue any of these will be will depend on your plans and it’s worth remembering that, in principle, there’s nothing to stop you from starting small and expanding your home as your budget allows (with appropriate planning consent).  This option allows you to take the home of your dreams out of your head and make it a reality.

Some practical advice

When you create your budget and timescale allow yourself a generous margin of error and be realistic about how much you can realistically expect to be able to borrow on a self-build mortgage.  You may wish to look into getting professional advice on your options here.  Remember that lenders who provide self-build mortgages do not necessarily release all the funds at once.  They may opt to release them in stages when agreed milestones are met.

Always keep the issue of planning consent to the fore when designing your dream home.  Planning officers can and do have the power to order owners of unofficial builds to tear down their creations.

Check out other legalities too, for example you may be required to use qualified tradespeople for certain tasks and even if the law does not actually require it, your insurance company might.  If you’re tempted to go off grid, look into the legalities of this as well as the practicalities, for example see where your local authority stands on water disposal.