Eight steps towards building your dream home

From hard hat to housewarming, there are a number of things to think about if you want to build your own property

  • Starting from scratch or rebuilding?

    Starting from scratch or rebuilding?

    Are you building from scratch (as in you’ve bought or own a new plot of land and are applying for planning permission), or are you making the most of an existing dwelling, like a barn or outbuilding that needs complete renovation?

    We ask this question because planning regulations and pre-build preparation will differ for each build type, and access to mains and other vital services may be different too. For example, if you’re rebuilding an existing structure, no matter how bad a shape it’s in, it may be that there’s already access to mains such as water and gas. You may also be within close proximity to energy services, like electricity.

    But if you are building from scratch, and on a brand new building site, all of those things will have to be considered in terms of access and practicality. That’s why it’s important to talk to the right professional as soon as you can, so you can begin to understand the very basics in terms of logistics, and how you can get these essential utility-type services on your building site.

    We recommend you seek professional advice prior to purchasing any land, as not all land that is sold is suitable for building on. Some land might be ‘Green Belt’ land, which means you cannot build on it, whereas other land may be sold to you without planning consent. So don’t rush in to anything, is what we're trying to say.

    Building a new home is an enticing project for so many people, because it offers a level of detail that ‘turn-key’ properties just don’t deliver. You can have a detailed say (usually with advice from your architect or project manager) on the floor plans and layout, and size and specification, all of which are budget dependent of course.

    As a general consensus, the more money you have the more freedom you'll be entitled to, which will help you build a property entirely bespoke to you. Money talks, (it makes the world go around!) and without it you won’t get very far.

  • Thinking hard about what you want

    Thinking hard about what you want

    Before you allow the excitement of cleverly edited television programmes to take your imagination and run off with it at great speeds, rein yourself in and start formalising your plans methodically.

    Make a wish list of the features you’d like in your dream home. Think about which way it will face on the plot, how many storeys it will have and whether you’d like a double garage or a bigger garden, perhaps? Give some thought to the overall style (internal and external) and whether it will be classical or contemporary. It could be neither (you might like Bohemian styles?), such is the beauty of putting your own stamp on your very own self-build.

    With rising utility costs you might like to do some research and seek professional advice on environmentally friendly solutions, such as: solar panels in the roof; rainwater collection tanks; eco-friendly insulation and shower-save hot water recycling solutions, to name just a few.

    While some of these considerations may seems costly in the short term, try to take a more holistic, long-term view, which could be far more beneficial to your pocket. 

  • Finding an architect

    Finding an architect

    While there are a number of online communities dedicated to helping you build your own home, it’s worth using a skilled professional that has been recommended by someone you know and trust, perhaps someone who has either built their own home and/or has carried out major works where the need for an architect has been necessary.

    Having someone like an architect who can draft up floor plans, with exact dimensions and submit these plans to the Planning Office is worth its weight in gold. Unless you know what you're doing, it could all go very wrong.

    Taking practical advice from friends and family or colleagues at work can often sound interesting, but whether that advice should be placed above the advice of skilled professionals who do this for a living is something you’ll need to consider very carefully.

    Everyone wants to give their tuppence-worth when there's something exciting going on, so just be cautious when it comes to 'hear say' and non-professional recommendations.

  • Getting planning permission

    Getting planning permission

     You will need to apply for outline planning permission to tell the authorities what you propose to build. If they agree with your proposal, they’ll set out the conditions that must be adhered to (unless your suggested revisions are approved) before you progress to the next stage. The next stage is called a ‘Reserved Matters application’.

    If you've already purchased a plot of land, however, with ‘outline planning permission’ in place, this means that plans have already been submitted and approved.

    Be careful that you don’t make any revisions or divert from the original plans when you are building unless you obtain written approval from the Planning Service directly, and keep all paperwork filed safely, so that you can refer to it later, if need be.

    For full details about this stage of the process have a look at the Planning NI Portal.

  • Funding a self build

    Funding a self build

    It is crucial that you understand how much money you will need to put ‘up front’. Whether it’s paying for a plot of land in advance or obtaining architectural sketches and planning applications where immediate up-front payment may be required. So consider how much you can afford to cough up now, in addition to any money you might have to source to see the self-build right through to completion; during the build various stages too and until the house is in a habitable state.

    Many banks and building societies offer self-build loans, rather than self-build mortgages, which tend to be more expensive, but they can release funds as and when you need them in many instances. They’re not repayable until the house is actually built either. But once a self build loan has run its course, you'll usually need to apply for a mortgage to transfer the debt.

    Need a mortgage but already own the land? If you already own the land a bank or building society might consider offering you a self-build mortgage straight away, securing the funds they lend you on the piece of land you own (assuming it’s unencumbered, which means that you own it debt free). That's usually sufficient security, dependent on how much you want to borrow of course.

    But once you’ve built the property and it's all signed off by Building Control, it’s likely that the bank’s security will switch to your home (bricks and mortar), where a First Legal Charge will be applied to your property, instead of having a legal charge over the land.

    Whatever your situation, there are self-build loans, mortgages, and a host of ways that you can finance your dream home.

  • Getting the team together

    Getting the team together

    If you haven’t got the time to manage the build yourself then get a team together; pay someone like a Project Manager to do it for you instead.

    Finding people who’ll actually make the magic happen is critical to both the end result and the ongoing success of the build, so either choose a team yourself or, if you have the funds, sit back, relax and let someone else do all the leg work for you.

    It’s likely that you’ll need (at the very least) the following skilled professionals to help you during the various build stages:

    • an architect or project manager
    • quantity surveyor
    • team of builders
    • And in time you'll need plumbers, electricians, tiler(s), painters, possibly landscape gardeners. And more.

    Again, all of this is budget dependent, so if you’re on particularly tight purse-strings you might have to try your hand at doing some of these jobs yourself! Or perhaps pull in favours (at your own peril!) from family and friends, certainly those with some decent experience.

    Be mindful, though, that while you have the confidence or previous experience to manage a team of people, if you’re new to the whole ‘self-build’ game you might just prefer to appoint a Project Manager to help you instead. They can organise sub-contractors, manage inventories, work to deadlines and keep an eye on overall costs.

  • Completing the build

    Completing the build

    It’s important that the property is finished to both a high and a habitable standard and that you get all relevant documentation, like certificates and sign offs, such as:

    • Certificate of Completion
    • Building Control Completion Certificate
    • NHBC 10 Year Guarantee/Architects Warranty

    Any diversion from the originally approved plans might get you into some difficulty and your build may not be signed off fully, so make sure that you have worked to the ‘approved’ plans throughout the duration of the build. That way, there’s one less thing to worry about when Building Control make an appearance to examine and sign off your home.

    Building Control is responsible for ensuring that the Building Regulations (a set of construction standards laid down by Parliament), are enforced in your local Council. The standards include requirements on health, structural stability, fire safety, energy conservation and accessibility.

    These standards are enforced through plan assessment and site inspection by impartial professionals with a thorough knowledge of The Building Regulations and other relevant British Standards, Codes of Practice and guidance.

    When a building is completed Building Control will issue a Certificate of Completion once it is satisfied that all necessary Building Regulations have been adhered to.

    Your local Building Control Department is there to offer you professional help and impartial advice on your project and to answer any queries you may have on regulatory issues.

  • Converting your loan to a mortgage

    Converting your loan to a mortgage

    When your home is nearing completion, if you’ve taken out a self-build loan, rather than a traditional self-build mortgage, you’ll need to convert this to a traditional mortgage or repay the loan in full, if you are in a position to do so.

    You can ask your mortgage consultant, Independent Financial Adviser or local bank or building society for advice on the best option going forward. Throughout this application process, you will be asked to evidence your ability to repay the new mortgage, whether that’s through payslips, SC60’s, audited accounts etc., which is why it’s vital that you don’t get carried away with your spend during the build process.

    While the bills for both the build and the internal ‘fit out’ rise (and your plans are to pay them back once the bank lends you the money), you’ll need to remember that the bank or building society can only lend you what your actual wages (or accounts) tell them you can afford.

    For example, if a bank gives you a Decision in Principle (DIP) confirming that you can borrow £150,000, but you owe £180,000 to various people involved in the project, you will have to source the shortfall of £30,000 elsewhere.

    So stick to your budget rigidly and try to complete the build within your personal financial parameters. That way, once the key’s in the door and the bills are entirely manageable, you’ll get to enjoy your stunning new home all the more!

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