Advice on Building a House
1. Don’t Chuck Plots Away
Year after year there are potential self builders who drive past plots they have rejected and see that somebody else has taken up the opportunity. There are very few perfect self build plots out there. All of them have some drawback or other. Learn to look past what’s in front of your eyes and think about what the plot can be and what you can make it.
2. Gen Up on a New World
Most self builders enter a world that is completely different to the one that they have previously inhabited. There are new attitudes, new regulations and new disciplines. The building industry possesses a totally unique vocabulary. A stream of new innovations, fashion aspirations and regulations creates an ever-changing environment.
Learn what you can from reading Homebuilding & Renovating magazine and attending the shows around the country.
3. Budget is King
There are very few self build disasters, simply because of the cushion of new equity that most projects produce. Work out your total budget before doing anything about finding land or even thinking of design. Work out what liquid assets and equity you have and add this to your borrowing capacity: that’s your total budget and the one that you need to stick to. Then add a contingency of at least 10 per cent, because the tighter the budget, the more stress there will be, especially at the end.
4. All Aboard!
If your partnership is rocky and you think that building a home together will put it on firmer ground, then you are sadly mistaken. It will blow it to bits! Building your own home is stressful and everybody involved has to be on board. It’s a joint venture — or nothing.
5. Think About Your Long Term Plans
Ask yourself how long you intend to stay in the new home. If it’s forever and you’re going feet first in a wooden box out the front door someday, then all or any of your decisions can be totally peculiar. If you’re likely to be moving on, then you need to keep a weather eye on the market and a possible resale.
6. Design to The Plot
Many a potential self builder gets really stuck in to the concept of building their own home by producing or adopting sometimes quite detailed drawings of their ‘new house’ before they’ve even found the plot. Admittedly, sometimes, it’s a ruse to generate enthusiasm for the project with a doubtful partner. It’s ‘cart before the horse’.
Think of your design or accommodation wishes in broad brush terms and then set aside any detailed consideration until you’ve found the plot. It’s the plot that will dictate the final design.
7. Design to the Budget
Your total budget, minus the land costs, is your building budget. Stress to any designer that your budget is sacrosanct. Anything that they draw for you must be capable of being built within that budget. If it’s not, then anything they produce is not fit for purpose.
8. Flair and Imagination Count More than Money
You can bung money at the project and then sit back, content that all of your peers will admire your taste and the boldly printed brand names. Or you can use your flair and imagination to make less expensive alternatives look even better. Remember that you don’t have to fill every space. Space can exist for its own sake.
9. Keep the Neighbours On Side
Hardly anybody welcomes new development close to their home. There can be a lot of hostility. Move to negate that. Make the effort. Shake hands with your neighbours and stress that, whatever’s gone before, you’re going to be their neighbour. You’re upsetting the status quo for now. But two years down the line, you’ll be the status quo.
10. Never Pay Up Front
The minute you pay large sums up front or in advance, you’ve lost control of the situation. Never pay large sums in advance. There’s no need. Any contractor pays their labour in arrears (your own wages are almost certainly paid monthly in arrears). Any financially stable entity will be paying for materials in arrears, probably at the end of the month following the month of invoice — up to eight weeks on from delivery.
11. Manage the Budget from Start to Finish
Budgeting isn’t something you do at the genesis of the project and then forget about. It’s an ongoing requirement. Relate all payments to your budget. If it’s finite, then if something goes up, something else has got to go down.