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Case Studies

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Steel Farm

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Merlin Haven

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Prefabricated Passivhaus bungalow

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Cookham Dean, Berkshire

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Stoke-on-Trent Serviced Building Plots

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Forevergreen House

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Housing People Building Communities

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Sülzer Freunde, Cologne

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Manor Farm, Kirton

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Straw-baling, Perthshire

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Findhorn

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Almere, Holland

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Hockerton

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Top tips

VAT

VAT Read more

Wokingham

Background:

  • The site is in Wokingham, Berkshire and was formerly occupied by a run-down bungalow. It was bought at auction for £375,000.
  • The new house is a generously proportioned six bedroom Rectory style timber framed ‘package’ home.

Delivery:

  • The new house has about the same ‘footprint’ as the original bungalow, but is now arranged over three stories - so it is much bigger and provides a total of 3,300 sq ft.
  • The neighbouring properties are all two/three stories high so the owners were reasonably confident they’d get permission for the taller/larger property they wanted to build. Before the auction they also spoke to the local planners to ‘get a feel’ for their likely reaction to a larger replacement home on the site. This informal meeting indicated that they would be reasonably sympathetic, so they decided to take the plunge and try to buy it.
  • When the design drawings were being prepared the owners visited all their neighbours to explain their proposals, and they made a few modest adjustments to reflect some of their concerns. This approach helped get their neighbours ‘on side’ and resulted in few formal objections when the plans were submitted later on.
  • Because the owners were new to self build they decided to opt for a timber frame package home from one of the biggest kit home providers. This approach offered good price certainty for the biggest chunk of the build cost. “No one ever got sacked for buying a computer from IBM. So we felt it was safer all round to deal with the leading kit home company. We looked at their show homes; they offered us good support, we liked the quality of their finished product and we found their people very responsive”. Timber frame also worked out a little cheaper than conventional brick and block construction.
  • The owners (who are both accountants) decided to project manage the work themselves to help to keep the costs down. So they arranged for a ground works contractor to build the ground floor slab, the kit home company then erected the basic house structure, and then they hired sub-contractors to do the external cladding and fit it out.
  • The house is large, the owners love it, and most of the sub-contractors and the main package contractor performed well.
  • The building has proved to be reasonably energy efficient – gas and electricity costs £1350 a year, which is good going for such a big property.

Finance

  • The couple sold their original home in order to purchase the site, and rented a property while the building work was underway. They had a mortgage in place when they were bidding – but when they told the mortgage provider they had to demolish the bungalow they said they would take a £60,000 retention...so they suddenly had a hole in their budget! Buildstore helped them with a new mortgage application via a Halifax subsidiary (that is no longer trading). The new mortgage was for £350,000 based on the bungalow, and paid all up front, with no stage payments...so they were very lucky.
  • While many kit home companies suggest that self builders should budget on spending about £70 per sq ft to build a kit home this way, these owners feel a budget of £100 per sq ft is more realistic. This higher figure would then cover the typical changes/hiccups and unforeseen issues that virtually every self build project encounters. And the cost per sq ft would be significantly more than this if fancy kitchen or bathroom fittings or other expensive finishes were employed.
  • The final construction cost was £325,000 – so the all up cost was £700,000. A year after the project was completed the property was valued at £850,000.

Timescale

  • June 2007: The couple bought the bungalow at auction.
  • December 2007: Despite discovering that long-eared bats had been nesting in the bungalow, full planning permission was approved (installing some bat boxes in the neighbour’s garden was one of the conditions of planning)
  • February 2008: Demolition and ground works began
  • March 2008: The timber frame began to go up, which took two and half weeks
  • October 2008: The couple moved in (originally they had hoped to complete the house in August but there was a hiccup with one sub-contractor and completion was delayed by nine weeks)

Learning Points:

  • If you are bidding at auction for a project like this try to check out with the planners if you have a realistic chance of getting permission for a larger property on the site. And be very clear about the maximum figure you are prepared to bid – and don’t go over this.
  • Talk to your neighbours before submitting your proposals – good communication and a bit of give and take can help you get through planning more straight forwardly.
  • Project managing your own project is extremely time consuming (and it would be very tough if you are also trying to hold down a full time job at the same time). It could make sense to hire a full time general labourer to help load/unload materials, keep the site tidy, and do some of the basic work. Without this extra support a self builder/project manager can get distracted and end up doing this sort of work.
  • Be very careful when measuring up for fixture and fittings using dimensions taken from plans. The owners have a number of kitchen units that they bought, and then discovered didn’t fit the space that was built. They also had some expensive garage doors made up and then discovered that the builder had to install another six inches of concrete on the floor – so they were too tall.
  • They were let down my one sub-contractor – who messed up the installation of the under floor heating pipes. His blunders cost £4,500 to remedy, but also led to knock-on delays with other sub-contractors, and additional costs for hiring scaffolding. Their top tip for finding good sub-contractors is to ask for recommendations from the good tradesmen who are already working on your project. “Good subbies don’t like to let down other subbies that they regularly work with. We found they were generally more professional, ran tidy sites, turned up on time and were willing for you to speak to their past customers. They weren’t necessarily the cheapest, but the quality and reliability of their work was worth it”.
  • They used e-bay to sell off surplus materials and to buy their site fencing (and then resold it afterwards).
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