Five things to know if you’re building your own home

Melanie Wright
Written by: Melanie Wright
Posted on: 23 June 2016

If you’ve ever dreamt of building your own ‘Grand Designs’ home, you are far from alone.

According to the National Self-Build Association (NaCSBA), around seven million people in Britain would like to build their own homes. The good news is the Government is right behind wannabe self-builders, aiming to double the number of self and custom-built homes to 20,000 a year by 2020.

If you’re hoping to turn your self-build dreams into reality, here are five things you need to know…

1. You’ll need patience when finding a plot

Finding land remains the biggest hurdle faced by wannabe self-builders, according to recent research by NaCSBA. Of more than 2,500 people questioned, more than half (56%) said that tracking down an affordable and suitable site on which to build their home was by far the biggest challenge they faced.

The Government-endorsed Self Build Portal has a ‘Need-a-plot Noticeboard’ where you can highlight exactly where you are looking for a plot. Those with land for sale can check the noticeboard to find a suitable match.

2. You can’t just apply for a standard mortgage

Mortgages for self-build properties don’t work in the same way as mortgages for properties that are already constructed, so it’s a good idea to seek specialist advice from an independent broker to help find the best deal to suit your needs.

3. You must be strict about sticking to your budget

Self-build projects can quickly come grinding to a halt if you run out of cash. Set a realistic budget for your project, supported by quotes for all the work you need doing, and then aim to have a contingency fund of around 10% to 20% in case you run into any unexpected costs.

Remember that you’ll also need to factor in the cost of accommodation while your project is being completed - it can often take a couple of years (or longer) to build a home from scratch.

4. You’ll need the right construction professionals

Don’t assume that once you’ve got the go ahead for your self-build project that it will be easy to find a builder who can start work straight away.

Construction professional working

Good builders can often be booked up for months in advance, so start finding out who is available (and when) as soon as possible. Recommendation is usually the best way to find reputable tradesmen, so talk to anyone you might know who has already built their own home.

Many people choose to take on a main contractor, rather than assuming the role of project manager themselves, so they can find the individual tradesmen required to complete the project… although this can be more expensive than going it alone. One of the most useful resources to help you track down builders is the Federation of Master Builders.

5. You can claim a VAT refund on your building materials

If you are building your own home, you can reclaim any VAT you’ve paid on building materials, which can often run into thousands of pounds.

Many self-builders miss out on this, either because they aren’t aware they can claim it back or because they forget to do it. To qualify, you must keep records of everything you’ve spent and apply for the refund within three months of completing your build. You can’t claim VAT back on things like fitted furniture or carpets. You can find out more about applying for a VAT refund at GOV.UK.

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