Buyers can often spend weeks, if not months looking for the perfect property. And even when they find something that they like, it still isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have an attic bedroom, or it doesn’t have a separate office in an outbuilding. Whatever it is, something is missing that individuals and families want.
But what if there was a way around all of that? What if you could just build your home from scratch exactly the way that you want it?
Self-builds are becoming a lot more popular these days. Not only are they an excellent way onto the property ladder, but they’re also a chance to live something that is uniquely yours. When you think about it, the housing market is strange: you spend an enormous amount of money, but you never really get exactly what you want. And even when you do buy something, it’s almost always the case that it’s not unique. Instead, you have to put up with accommodation that looks exactly like everybody else’s.
According to the Self Build Association, people aren’t happy with this state of affairs. Something like 10 percent of the population wants to be able to build their own homes, and already about a million people are going through the planning process.
A lot of the inspiration has come from TV programs, like Grand Designs, which show people actually going through the process of building their own homes from scratch. The actual designs they come up with might not be your cup of tea, but they’re certainly a testament to what can be achieved with a bit of know-how and perseverance.
Why Bother With A Self-Build?
Depending on where you live in the US, your choice for housing is probably quite limited. You can either go for a historic house in a traditional style, like coastal New England, or you can opt for a new build, which usually has plenty of floor space but lack character.
The problem with all of these options is that they’re usually energy inefficient and they have their previous owner’s marks all over them. They never really truly feel as if they are yours. Poor decorating choices, old sheds dumped at the bottom of the garden and a lack of modern electric wiring and facilities are just a few of the things that can make you feel as if you are living in somebody else’s house.
Most people would choose to renovate at this point, but the expenses involved in doing this are usually too high, especially for people who have already paid all the costs of moving. What’s more, you usually don’t get exactly what you want anyway. Sure, you could rip out the old Victorian-style kitchen and put a new one in, but the room itself will never be large enough for a kitchen island, and it will never be part of an open plan living space.
Self-builds are different. They are totally flexible, and they can be as big or as open as you want. Although self-builds come with their own costs, you avoid the usual stamp duty and lawyers fees associated with traditional moves.
Self-builds are also different in the sense that they can be constructed to a higher-quality than most mass-produced housing. Kevin McCloud, the host of Grand Designs, says that the majority of homes are built at lowest possible cost and quality. Part of this is due to the fact that housing has traditionally been too expensive for people to buy and so governments tried to drive down prices in whatever way they could. For people who just want a roof over their heads and not to have to pay rent, this is ideal. But most families want more than this.
How To Self-Build
The ultimate hope with the rising tide of self-builds is that people will build homes that will then generate their own communities. In many ways, it’s seen as a solution to the excessively high prices in cities like Dallas and San Francisco. The government thinks that the more people they can get into self-builds, the more the housing shortage will be alleviated. This is why they are trying to inspire people to create their own dwellings and essentially found new villages.
Whether people actually start self-building en masse remains to be seen. The payoff is that you get exactly what you want, but the cost is high in terms of time and usually money (although some self-builds can be done on the cheap, thanks to new technologies).
Here are the steps to creating your own home.
Find A Plot
The first thing to do is to find land for sale in the area you want to build. But don’t just buy any land. Look for land that already has planning permission approved, and that is subject to as few planning rules and regulations as possible.
Typically land with these characteristics is in short supply, so prices tend to be relatively high. If you see a cheap four-acre plot of farmland that is half the price of one that looks identical, it’s usually because the four-acre plot has planning permission for a house or something similar.
Many people who get started in the self-build movement tend to think that they have to save up all the money they need to pay for it. But fortunately, this isn’t true. Instead, they can apply for what are called self-build mortgages. These are slightly different to regular mortgages, in that they are paid out in installments, depending on the progress of the build, but they work out quite well from a financial point of view. Essentially, the bank is paying you to build a house which will act as collateral for the mortgage debt. The onus is then on the builder to create a genuinely valuable house which will be able to service the debt. Most of the time owners get to stay in the houses that they build and pay down the mortgage using their earnings, but in some unfortunate circumstances they run out of money and have to sell up and downsize.
Deposits and rates on self-build mortgages vary, depending on what stage you’re at. If the foundations are poured, and the building is starting to rise, you can expect to pay a smaller deposit and rate than if you haven’t done anything at all.
Because lenders rely on the future value of your property to recoup any potential losses, they will want to be intimately involved in the planning of your self-build. Builders usually have to provide banks with projected costs, planning permission details and detailed plans for the property so that they can work out whether the finished product will be marketable.
How Much Does It Cost?
Self-builds, on average, tend to cost more than the price of an average home. With that said, they also tend to be bigger and better than the average home, so it tends to cancel out. Self-builders tend to spend around 25 percent more on their homes than regular homeowners, but they also usually end up with homes that are worth 25 percent more. The value of self-builds is determined by where they are located, sentiment in the market and perceived quality of the area. If you build in a location with excellent schools and services, you’re likely to be able to sell for a much higher price than if you build in a run-down, crime-infested area.
Finally, it’s worth remembering with self-builds that the house is only part of the cost. There’s also the cost of furniture and fittings which can be significant.