An exciting plot
As the recession bites, more and more people are turning to self-build. ANDREA WATSON looks at this growing market
THERE’S one way to get the bespoke home you want without paying a price you probably cannot afford – build it yourself. Self-building is catching on fast as the recession bites. Only 3,720 applications to start new homes in the private sector were received in August, and experts estimate that as many as one in three detached homes is a self-build project.
Emap Glenigan, the UK leader in construction information, recorded more than 19,000 applications from self-builders in the first six months of 2008.
Despite the images conjured up by the phrase “self-build”, not all of those involved are bricklayers or joiners. Indeed, many do no more than find a suitable plot of land and then leave it to the professionals.
There is no shortage of land in the UK, but building plots have been hard to come by in the past decade. However, the recession has changed all that. Builders who have been aggressively land-banking are beginning to dispose of plots. What’s more, land prices fall disproportionately in a property slowdown.
It is worth researching your area to see if any building projects have been put on hold. Talk to your planning department to see if it can suggest any leads.
The website www.plotfinder.net is an “exchange and mart” for such land, and local newspapers also carry advertisements for building land.
It is essential to establish a good working relationship with planning officers from the outset. Planning is usually something of a hassle, involving risk, delays and possible disappointment, but there are ways to “play the game”.
Get tips from books such as How To Get Planning Permission, by Roy Speer. There are also specialist consultants but they charge substantial fees.
If you employ an architect, ensure they have appropriate expertise and ask questions about local contacts and knowledge. Not all architects deliver as much as they promise, so keep control of their fees and remember that you can obtain plenty of free information from your own research.
The site you choose may, of course, be on your own land. If you plan to demolish your existing property and rebuild on its footprint, you will need to lodge a full planning application. If you simply want to build an extension, there may be no need for planning permission, as regulations have been relaxed.
“Permitted development” now includes partition walls, loft and garage conversions, roof lights and roof extensions, conservatories and annexes. However, be aware of the many regulations regarding size and position, with conservation areas and listed properties subject to totally different rules.
Many self-builders are likely to have something of the creative about their character. They do not want to live in a mass-produced new home and wish to create something
unique. This could be anything from an eco-home to an oak-framed manor house.
It could reflect the architectural styles of New England, using timber frame and weatherboard cladding, or a newly fashionable building material that is cheap and has extraordinary insulation properties.
Most self-builders, however, are likely to opt for one of two construction methods: brick and block or timber frame, both of which have existed side by side for centuries.
The first process, which is slower, involves stone, brick and concrete, while the second, which is lighter and quicker, uses timber as a frame, with a waterproof cladding.
From 2016, all UK homes will have to emit zero-carbon output. Self-builders, however, have a head start, because they can incorporate eco-features more cost-effectively in advance of this deadline.
Designing an ecologically friendly home is a balancing act, with cost a factor. Sustainable materials tend to be expensive and skilled tradespeople familiar with new technologies can be difficult to come by. Self-build specialists such as Potton have a standard brochure of designs that enable most people to find what they want. The company recently launched a bespoke design service, although this will mean a higher budget.
Self-build can be an excellent investment, but it is essential to control costs from the outset.
An ideal starting place is a homebuilding and renovating show. The next is in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, next weekend. The show will host masterclasses on all aspects of the subject and bring together every kind of specialist firm. You can take along full plans or just a simple sketch and speak to one of the many experts on hand. Some plot-finding firms even specialise in locating building land overseas.
JOB DONE: Steve and Linda Woolley with their children Daniel and Victoria and the family’s self-build home
TAKE YOUR PICK: New-build homes range from the traditional look (left) to the ultra-modern Tree House (above)