Does Grand Designs Give The Wrong Impression?
Watch any episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, and quite quickly you develop an understanding of the rigours of Self Building. The UK’s Self Build champion, Kevin McCloud, follows the dramatic ups and downs of an ambitious couple desperate to build their dream home. A typical episode might (if slightly exaggerated) proceed as follows:
Part One: Happy Days
The couple have invested everything they own into achieving their goal, and may even have moved their family into a caravan for the duration of the project. Everything is seemingly going great – the house has been designed by the family’s architect friend, the (enormous) budget has been set, the plot of land has been purchased and the family can’t wait to get started.
Part Two: Oh Dear So Dear
Lo and behold, right before the adverts we are left with a cliffhanger: they’ve only gone and started building the house before the planning permission has been granted! When they finally receive planning permission, the original design doesn’t comply! Back to the drawing board…
This tends to be the first stumbling block in a succession of dramatic problems, caused by the couple’s attempts to do the whole project by themselves. Once their designs are fixed, they eventually get their three-storey, floating/extendable/rotating/underground mega-house underway. Having significantly extended the budget twice already, it’s time to install the hand-carved staircase, or the bespoke, 10ft, triple-glazed, curved window pane – with the help of a crane over the neighbour’s garden. What could possibly go wrong…
Part Three: Happy Family?
Come the end of the episode, McCloud catches up with the exhausted family in their brand spanking new home. It looks amazing, if a little bit unfinished in some areas. Despite having to borrow more money from the bank, friends, and family – and despite the project taking two years longer than anticipated – the family remain adamant they are happy with their decision to build their own home.
Kev seems undecided whether the house was worth the herculean effort, but admires the couple’s spirit, determination and dedication to following through with their dream home – before ending the show with a moving, but slightly cryptic, analogy.
So, watch any episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs, and you will develop an understanding of the rigours of Self Building – but should this be our only understanding of Self Building? Is a Self Build project always biting off more than you can chew; taking on more than you can afford, and more than you could ever physically achieve on your own?
Well, based on the fact that, between July 2013 and 2014, over 10,000 Self Builds took place in the UK, it would appear that Grand Designs hasn’t put too many people off building their own home. In fact, last year Self Builds were the largest means of house building in the UK. So what are the positives people can take from Grand Designs – and where are some of the show’s couples going wrong? What is a truer definition of a Self Build?
Self Build: Building For Yourself, Not By Yourself
Fundamentally, whether your dream home is a feat of engineering, or a basic, cosy dwelling, a Self Build is your opportunity to break away from the mainstream. One thing Grand Designs does make clear, is that we can take control of where we want to live with a design that suits our needs. In taking this opportunity, a Self Build can offer a home for life. Why settle for an uninspiring house that doesn’t meet your expectations as a home?
Before taking on an architect, you can express your creative side and can have an input in the design brief. Thinking about what you would like to achieve from your Self Build, this is your opportunity to set the criteria for your new home. The designers can take your creative concepts on board, and develop them from ideas, into reality.
To avoid what many of Grand Designs‘ Self Builders tend to do – burst their budget – it is wise to consult a professional in the financial sector. ACA work with Mary Riley, an independent financial advisor who specialises in the Self Build sector. Mary is the ‘Ask the Expert’ for Grand Designs magazine and is the ‘go-to’ consultant in the industry. With a host of connections across the Stage Release funding sector, Mary can offer your project dedicated independent advice and recommendations. Focusing on a personalized service, Mary Riley Custom Build Funding can project-manage the entire financial side of your Self Build. This allows you to get on with your project, free from the stress of cash flow and budgeting. For more information about Mary Riley and how she can help with your project, click here.
A common misconception Grand Designs can sometimes generate, is the idea that Self Building has to be a complete DIY mission from start to finish. This simply isn’t the case and, unless you already have experience in the construction industry, or are qualified in a specific trade, it is always best to seek professional help. A Self Build project is building for yourself, not necessarily building by yourself. Initiating the Self Build process involves you recruiting the team of professionals who you’d like to help you. By recruiting an experienced project manager, for example, Self Builders can save themselves time and money by having things taken care of professionally. Developing a close relationship with your project manager, and having an involvement in coordinating different aspects of the Self Build, can be an educational experience – giving you a good insight into some of the challenges project management entails.
What Are The Options?
The level of involvement you have with your Self Build is up to you, and the finances you have behind you may also dictate the route you take towards building your dream home. With the following figures based on a generic house design, with a medium specification, built on a flat and level site with services – the main routes to build a house are as follows:
Going for a traditional approach, you might hire a Main Contractor – this was once seen as the typical way to realise your new home ambitions. You have responsibility for appointing your professional team to complete the design and approval work, before appointing a builder to carry out the complete build in a ‘Turn Key’ solution. Should you choose to follow this route, it is recommended you budget around £2,000 per square metre for your build costs. This is not self building and is only included as an option if you have the money to pay for a contractor to complete your home, without your input.
The most popular method in recent times is known as the Part Self Build. This approach sees the Self Builder getting more involved in the design process, as well as working more closely with the professionals in obtaining the approvals. The Self Builder would then interview a number of sub-contractors responsible for separate packages of works – for example, the groundworks, the kit (building fabric), windows and doors, roofers, joiners, plumbers and electricians. By separating each of these disciplines, the main contractor’s profit is taken out of the picture. The Self Builder would then run the management of each trade and program the work schedule. This might seem daunting, however, if you have ever managed staff or teams within your professional life – or have run a household – then managing a building project is just as achievable. By separating the trades and running the build yourself, you can get the build budget down to around £1,400 per square metre – which is a significant saving per square metre!
The most ambitious go for the Full Self Build. This is very similar to the Part Self Build, however the Self Builder would start to split the services of the sub contractors up into labour and material quotes. Often the Self Builder can find great deals for materials via unconventional purchase methods – by searching on eBay, at auctions, and by purchasing at trade shows. This is not for everyone and will take a lot of research time, however, there can be big savings. In addition to shopping around for materials and negotiating on labour costs, the Self Builder may take on a number of the basic building tasks. These can include: basic joinery work, fitting plasterboard, timber cladding or finishing works. In order to save a vast amount of money some Self Builders can complete first fix electrics and plumbing works, but it is always recommended leaving second fix and all commission works to the professionals. By completing these steps, Full Self Build can reduce the price to around £1,000 per square metre – a massive saving on traditional build methods.
The total costs of a Self Build home can be significantly less than buying ordinary property outright. Despite some misconceptions, Self Builds are available to people of all ages – those nearing retirement aren’t the only ones who can build their own homes. Self Builds can be a useful route onto the property ladder for first time buyers too.
So for those of you who have harboured ambitions to build your own home – but have been put off slightly by watching one of the trickier projects on Grand Designs – now is the time to reconsider! Don’t believe everything you see on TV – 10,000 Self Builds last year can’t all have been disastrous! If budgeted and managed correctly, your Self Build can be energy efficient, cost effective, and still be a stunning piece of architecture. Take control of where you want to live, with a house you can call a home.