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5 Common Mistakes People Make when Building their Own Home

  • Francesca Baccarella
    8 minute read...

One of the easiest ways to avoid these mistakes is to build a custom self-build house with experienced professionals like us at Stellco Homes. To help you we have compiled a list of the five most common mistakes we see people make to help you avoid them.

1. Not Finding the Right Plot

When building your own home, finding the right plot is by far the most time consuming and most difficult stage as there are so few plots readily available and lots of factors to consider. Having the right location for your build can really make or break your project. Don’t be tempted to settle for a cheaper plot at the cost of location. A home with a great location instantly increases its value and can have an effect on how happy you are living in that property. See our blog on finding a plot.

The first thing you should do is check the planning situation. Does the plot have full planning permission, outline planning permission or none at all? A site with full planning permission is far less risky and can save you a lot of time but this is not always possible to find in your desired location. The process of applying for planning is not too costly but can be confusing, time consuming and risky.

Regardless of the type of planning approved for your potential site, you must always check the conditions of the approval. There will most likely be a list of conditions that must be met such as providing a landscaping plan or obliging with local wildlife regulations.

Another thing to take into account is whether or not services are available on the site. Not every site will have access to services and even if they do, it may not be straightforward to connect to them. To check, call the new connections department of the suppliers in that area.

The next thing you want to check is the condition of the ground by hiring an engineer. This is an important task that many overlook. The engineer will be able to check the bearing capacity and condition of the ground which will help to work out the type and size of foundation needed as well as possible drainage solutions. This is always the riskiest part of the project and may be more costly than you would have anticipated. Doing this will help you assess whether the project is financially viable and enable you to create an accurate budget.

2. Not Spending Enough Time on the Design

It’s easy to get over excited and want to dive into the building process straight away but it’s extremely important to get the design right before you move onto the next stage. Needing to change a design once you have started the build can be extremely costly and delay the project by a significant amount of time. You don’t want to have spent all your time and money, on the project, only to be disappointed when the design doesn’t meet your expectations.

Working with an architect and listening to their advice is one of the most important things to do at this stage but the point of a self-build is that you can have more input in the outcome of your home. One thing you should do before even starting the design is to research. Go to home shows, make Pinterest boards and flick through magazines. All these things will help inspire you to find your own style. Always ask “why am I building this?” and “how do I want it to make me feel?”

If you’re inexperienced keep things simple. By doing this you can minimise complications with the build and keep costs down. Don’t get carried away with wanting more space for the sake of it, bigger isn’t always better. Invest in things that stand the test of time rather than something you intend to change further down the line. The building fabric can be more important than a kitchen upgrade! Use engineers to avoid unnecessary cost by conducting site investigations & foundation designs.

Always expect to ‘value engineer’ the design. Ask yourself if there are any other ways to achieve something similar but cheaper. Know where spending money adds value and where it doesn’t. Research how to create your interpretation of ‘luxury’ for less. Be careful when integrating technology, it can be expensive.

If you’re going to change your mind, change it at the design stage where the costs are minimal and the impact will be fully considered. Always fix the design before starting to build!

To learn more see our blog on How To Design Your Own Home 

3. Running Out of Money

Rushing into a build and running out of money is one of the most common mistakes we see people make. Preparing a budget and obtaining funding should always be arranged before starting your self-build project. A budget has to be meticulously planned out and there are plenty of tools out there to help you do this, such as on the Build Store website. Set a budget and know the limit of what you can afford. Always include a contingency that reflects the project risk rather than your budget limitations.

Make sure the professional team are committed to delivering to your budget. If they don’t seem interested, ask yourself why? Budgeting doesn’t stop once you’ve started. It’s an iterative process of continuously perfecting the budget as costs and savings become known.

Invest in financial advice from the beginning, not when it’s all gone wrong. For instance, be aware of the rules on VAT reclaim so that you don’t lose out.

The government have announced that they will launch a Help to Build Scheme with a 5% mortgage to encourage more people to take on self-builds making it more financially achievable than ever and should help with keeping back more of your own money for contingencies. Find out more about this new initiative.

You should understand the difference between ‘lowest cost’ and ‘best value’ and when it matters to you. You don’t want to cut corners when it comes to building your own home otherwise it may end up costing you more in the long run. Therefore, consider the impact to the whole project or even the life of the building.

Keeping track of your budget, including your savings and over spends and utilising your contingency budget wisely, will ensure you complete the project on time and hopefully on budget!

4. Not Realising How Much Time Is Needed for the Project

Managing a self-build project can take many months even years and it’s important to be realistic about the time it can take. Some things aren’t in your control and things such as weather conditions and unexpected disasters can mean your project could take longer than you expected. Building quicker saves money by saving site running costs but rushing and risking making mistakes, leads to extra costs. Always set in place a contingency plan and remain patient as it’s very common to hit delays.

You don’t want contractors letting you down when they don’t turn up when they’re due. Even though your contractor may have a good reputation they may be overstretched with jobs they’ve taken on which may cause your schedule to be thrown off and in property development, time is money. Identify all the factors that can influence your project time, monitor and control them, as best as you can, to minimise the impact and keep to schedule! Identify and manage your risks.

5. Not Knowing How to Manage a Project Effectively

Project managing your own self-build is a good way to save some money. However, if you decide to manage the whole build yourself, there are a few key skills that you need to ensure the project runs smoothly. Communication is key. Money, safety, time and quality should all equally be your main priorities. A mismanaged project could end up costing you a fortune to fix so make sure you do your research first or hire a professional with experience. 

Deciding how the project is going to be managed & how much time you are going to spend or have time to spend is critical. The options you have are:

  • Self-Managed - Cost-effective but time consuming and requires a degree of competence. We don’t usually recommend this unless you have a lot of experience in the field.
  • Project Managed - Convenient and affordable. This professional approach should be partially self-funded and keeps you in the driving seat. Different services are available, do your research and obtain quotations to find the one that suits you.
  • Turnkey Builder Managed - Full build-out service but could be less cost-effective. Very convenient hands-off approach but still allows a large degree of decision making. Less time consuming and reduces risks of mistakes.

If you are going to manage the project yourself, prepare a clear working plan schedule to monitor and control the build and what needs to be in place before work starts. Many people get started too quickly without proper planning & preparation which can create costly mistakes later on or delayed completion which again will also cost extra. Organisation is the key here and record keeping is your friend. Create a filing system whether this is on your computer or hard printed copies of things so they can’t get lost or forgotten.

Managing the build schedule is critical. Always plan ahead and do your research and amend the schedule accordingly with changes required. Things can change and you need to keep on top of the priorities. You should spend as much time planning ahead as you do building the house. Remember one key factor to help control time and money is to appoint contractors on fixed prices and not on day rates and continuously check in with everyone, working on the project, to stay up to date with their progress.