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Issue 9 - Buildingyourdreamhome

Scotland Magazine Issue 9
July 2003

 

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Buildingyourdreamhome

EVERDREAMEDOFBUILDINGYOUROWNPERFECTSCOTTISHHOME?JOHNCORMACKOUTLINESALLTHESELF-BUILDBASICS

It’saremarkablestatistic.IntheUK,about25percentofnewdetachedhousesareself-built.Thisdoesnot,ofcourse,meanthatyoudoalltheworkyourself–butitdoesmeanbeingincontrolfromdesigntoconstruction.Asortofbespokeanswertoyouraccommodationneeds.

In2001,some20,000detachedhouseswerecompletedfollowingtheself-buildorfullrestorationroute–interestingly,morethaneachofBritain’stwolargesthousebuildersWimpeyandPersimmon,whorespectivelybuilt11,537and12,051housesthatyear.Theself-buildmarketlookssettoexpandthroughouttheUK,includingScotland,inthenextfewyears.

Sowhatistheattractionofthisroutetoyourdreamhouse?BuildStore,basedinLivingston,expertsinselfbuilding,citeanumberofreasons.

Firstly,youcanhaveahousetosuityourlifestyle–youmighthavesixkidsandalive-inmother-in-law.Thisset-upwouldhavespaceandprivacyimplicationsthatmightnotbefoundinadeveloper-builtestatehouse.Self-buildwillgiveyoumoreforyourmoney.

Forinstance,afteryoucompleteyourdreamhouseitwillbe,typically,worth25to30percentmorethanthemoniesspent.Choosingyourfavouritelocationisalsoastrongfactorwithmany.

Valueformoneyisimportant.Sincethereisnopropertydeveloperinvolved,yousaveonthatelementofprofit–whichineffectbecomesyourequity.Anditgetsbetter.Stampdutyispaidonthelandandonlywhenithascostmorethan£60,000($98,000),andVATcannormallybereclaimedonthecostsofconstruction.

Sothesavingsontheself-buildroutecanbesubstantial.Forinstance,thecostofanaveragefour-bedroomhousein,say,Aberdeenshire,wouldbearound£139,500($229,000).Asimilarself-buildhousewouldcosttheowneraround£88,721($145,000)tobuild.Thisisasavingof36percentfortheself-builder.

However,don’tbedeludedintothinkingthattheself-buildrouteisasnip.Buyingorbuildingyourownhouseisprobablythelargestfinancialcommitmentyouwillmake.

Itis,therefore,imperativethatexpertadviceandguidanceissoughtthroughout.Itisequallyimportanttoagreeexactlywhatyouwantbeforeworkstarts–alllatealterationscouldturnacreativeexperienceintoafinancialnightmare.

Anumberoffactorsneedtobeconsidered:
•Howmuchyouwanttospendandhowtofinancetheproject
•Choosingaplotofland
•Howmuchyouwanttobeinvolved
•Choosinganarchitectandbuilder
•Whatstyleofhouseyouwant
•Whatkindofconstructionsuitsyoubest

Okay:youstillhavenoideawheretostart.Well,firstlygathertogetherasmuchinformationaboutasyoucan.Therearenumeroussourcesofinformation(seecontactsbox),askfriendsandcolleagues–theymayhaveusefuladvice.

Inaddition,thereareanumberofglossypublicationsfortheself-builder.Theyalwaysprovidegoodsourcesofinformationsincetheycarrycasestudies,technicalarticlesandquestion-and-answersections.Andmanyalsoadvertiselandforsale,andincludedetailsofUK-wideNewBuildExhibitions–alwayswellworthavisit.

Infact,thissummer,BuildStorewillopentheUK’sfirstSelf-BuildVisitorCentreinLivingston.Thedisplayswilltakevisitorsthroughtheentire
self-buildjourney.

Thereareprofessionalbodieswhichprovideusefulinformation:forinstancetheRoyalInstitutionofCharteredSurveyorsandtheRoyalIncorporationofArchitects–bothEdinburgh-based.InScotland,thereisonebodythatcanprovideyouwithmassesofinformation;the
TimberFrameIndustryAssociation(TFIA).

Theyarecertainlyworthtalkingto–notonlybecausetheAssociationisthoroughlyprofessional,butalsobecauseinScotland,90percentofallself-builderschoosetimber-frameconstruction.

Oneofthefirstquestionspeopleaskis:‘whatisthedifferencebetweenaself-buildandanordinarymortgage?’Theprincipaldifferenceisthatifmoniesareborrowedtopurchaseanexistinghouse,thelenderwillnormallyadvancetheloaninonepayment,butwithaself-buildmortgage,moneywillbereleasedinstagestomirrorthecostsincurredduringtheprocess.Theborrowingpercentagesonself-buildmortgageswillvaryfromlendertolender,andsomewillonlyoffer75percentorless.

WiththeAcceleratorSelf-BuildMortgage,advancescanbeashighas95percentforthepurchaseoftheplotortherenovation.

Youcanalsoborrowupto95percentofthecostofeachstageofconstruction.Withthistypeofadvance,youreceivepaymentsatthestartofeachbuildstage.TheAcceleratorSelf-BuildMortgageissupportedbyleadinghighstreetlendersincludingBritanniaBuildingSociety,LloydsTSB,NewcastleBuildingSociety,SkiptonBuildingSocietyandTheMortgageBusiness,partofHBoS.

Nowyouareonthewaytobuildingyourdreamhouse.Youhavestacksofinformation,youhavesortedouthowtofinanceyourproject,withsay,someofyourowncashandabuildingsocietyloan.

Let’sassumeyouhavenotyetsettledonasiteforyourhome.Youmayhavehadyoureyeonaplotoflandforsomeyears.

Fine–butbeforeyoubuyitcheckoutsuchmattersasaccess,planning,soilconditionsandproximitytoservices.Localestateagentsorsolicitorscouldbehelpfulhere,somilkthemforinformation.

Theymayalsobeabletohelpwithvaluationandpurchase,finance,appointingarchitects,subcontractorsetc.BuildStorerunsPlotsearch,thelargestonlinedatabaseofUKbuildingplotsforsale.Mostself-buildersthesedayschoose,atmost,tomanagetheirprojectratherthatgettheirhandsdirtywiththeactualbuilding.

TheTimberFrameAssociationrecommendsthatanyonethinkingofseriousDIYself-buildshouldhaveconsiderableskillsandexperienceinconstructionbeforeembarkingonsuchaproject.

However,oncethedecisiononyourlevelofinvolvementismade,thenyoucandecidewhatservicesyouwant.Forexample,TFIAmemberscansupplyservicesacrosstherange,from‘shellonly’–i.e.supplyingthetimberframeitself–throughsupplyanderection,toafulldesignandbuildservicethattakesyoufromconcepttocompletedhouse.

If,likemostself-buildersinScotland,youelecttobuildintimberframechooseacompanythatisaQualityAssuredtimberframesupplier.

Choosetherightcompanywithcareandtheycanhelpwithideasandsolutions.Mosttimber-frameselfbuildcompaniesexpectyoutohaveyourownideas,andwillhelpyouincorporatethemintoyournewhome.Aswellashavingtheirowndesigndepartments,theyarehappytoworkwithanarchitectordesignerofyourownchoosing.

Whenthinkingofthekindofhouseyouwant,therearecertainfixedconstraintstoconsider:plot,layoutandsize,andlocalplanningconditions.Thedesignofyourhousewilldependasmuchonthesefactorsasanyideasyouhave.

Althoughyoumayhaveamortgagelinedup,accuratebudgetingisvitaltoanyself-buildproject.RobertGillfillan,salesmanagerwithRobRoyHomesinCrieff,Scotlandexplains:

“Itisessentialthatyouincludeallcostsattheoutset.Thenyoushouldallowagenerouscontingencyfund.”

However,itisalwaysbettertoknowexactlywhatyouwantbeforeworkstarts–thissavestime,moneyandfrustration.Themoredetailedyourspecification,themoreaccurateyourbudget.

Specifyfixturesandfittingsexactly–notjustlightingortiling–butwhatkindoflightsandtilesareyouafter.Thiscouldhaveasignificantbearingoncost,andcouldavoidthestressofrunningoutofcashbeforetheprojectiscompleted.

Commentsfromself-buildersarealwaysrevealing.Ondealingwithbuilders,onepersonwhorecentlycompletedahousenearObansays:“Don’tbeafraidtosaywhatyouwant.Afterall,you’resigningthechequeattheendoftheday.Andiftheydoitwrong,askyourselfifyoucanlivewithitfortherestofyourlife.”

Trytoappointabuilderand/ordesigneryoufeelyoucanworkwith–someonewhoknowsyourchosenlocationandwhohasworkedbeforewiththelocalplanningdepartment.

Self-buildersshouldmonitoralltheworkclosely,andthismeansbeingonsiteoftenaandkeepinganeyeontheworkofcontractorsandsubcontractors.