Falshaw Homes

Design & build

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Land! Yes it's all around yet nowhere to be found is that elusive plot that you need to build your home on! But don't despair 15% of new homes are built by self builders. The plots are out there!


Finding the plot of land that you need can be the most off putting aspect for most potential self builders. There are many people who would like to build their own home but are unable to locate the ideal plot to build upon, and then go and buy off the shelf.


To locate that elusive plot you must have several virtues, patience and persistence. Then even more patience and persistence unless you are one of the lucky ones who decide to build their own home and instantly find the desired plot (yes it does happen).


For the rest of you, you will have to make a list of areas where you would like to build and also areas you would consider after that. Remember the greater the area the more likely you are to find that plot.


When looking at areas consider not only the mileage from places of work etc, also consider the traveling time, and depending on quality of roads you could actually look further a field than you originally thought.


The main places to obtain land are still local estate agents and the internet. Check the areas and contact them on a very regular basis. Do not rely on them contacting you as this may not always happen. Local newspapers are also a good source so keep checking. If you like you can go down to the local planning office and see who and where applications are being submitted for detailed and outlined planning permission, you could possibly contact the applicants and enquire what their intentions are for the land, i.e.-are they willing to sell?


There are always the land agents that you can contact and register your interest with. These will cost you varying amounts depending on number of counties you list and length of time you subscribe for


What will the land cost? That question is just like asking how long is a piece of string? Land costs are difficult to advise on as national variations are too great. Even within a distance of just several miles prices can double. This is normally due to the fact that when buying a house it's Location, Location, Location. The only major consideration we recommend to any self builder who is looking for land is always consider your overall budget and the local value of the neighboring properties. It is not a good idea to build the most expensive property in your area.


If you can afford to spend a little more on the land then this is a sound investment since you can always build that garage or finish the garden later when you have the funds, but you can not move the house to a better address. If financial gain is the main object then this option should be a serious consideration.


Check the prices regularly so that if a plot comes on the market you instantly know if the price is reasonable or not.Unfortunately as self build has become more popular and plots are less available (specifically in certain areas) then the vendor asks more for the single plot. It's the old situation of supply and demand that is constantly pushing the plot prices higher.


Finally on a personal recommendation if at all possible do not go looking for land that you can fit your house design on. It could make finding land very limiting and difficult. By all means have an idea of the style and size of dwelling, but a good architect or designer could probably still design your ideal home on a plot that you may of considered to narrow or too unusual a shape.


Have faith, be consistent and keep looking eventually you will find what you are looking for.

Keep an open mind, if land is scarce, consider an existing dwelling to knock down and rebuild, this can and often is a sound way to get that plot, especially if the building is in vast need of repair and the asking price reflects that.


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"How much will it cost me to build my house" is a question we often get asked, this like many other aspects of the early stages of investigation of self building is fluid.


We often recommend people to write down their total budget for the project. Then we have to ask if they have some idea of the size of home they intend to build. Often self builders realise at this point that they have no concept as to the size of the house they want or the current home they live in. Obviously this needs to be determined in order to calculate approximate costs.


Good practice is to go through the plan books as there are plenty available or you may have some house plans from a particular supplier. Often many books will give you the square area of the dwelling in feet or metres. It is important to know if this is the living area (inside) or the foot print area (outside) this factor can come in useful at a later point.


Many companies supply plan books with sizes and estimated build costs, we recommend that if you are using the estimated build cost that you check exactly what is included for example external work like gardens, fencing, drive, paths and the services that you will require such as gas, electric, water and phone. If these items are not included then you will need to add several thousands on to your budget.


Once you have some concept as to the size or cost you can estimate the price. It will change in the country dependent upon where you are. For example in the Midlands a figure of between £110 and £115 per square foot (£1184-£1237 sq metre) would give you an initial guide to costing for a project where the client would not do any work and move into a completely finished home inside and out.


Once you have an amount for the building work you can then subtract this from your total budget and the amount left would be for land purchase. If that amount is far too small to purchase land in the area you are looking in, you then need to consider lots of different factors e.g. Do I need to complete the house totally? Are there things that can be completed later? Do I intend to do any of the work myself? Do I need the swimming pool?


If you are well over your budget then you will have to consider other factors:

•  Change your aspirations

•  Change the area you are looking in

•  Invest in taking the project further by paying for a more accurate estimate to be taken

•  Increase your budget

And the list can go on. Don't fall at the first hurdle. Investigate further, ask more questions.


You may find your initial calculations were incorrect and then with more information you can produce a more accurate guide cost for your build.


A local architect or designer could advise as to local rates, and at the same time enquire as to their costs for designing, production of plans and submission to local council.


This is often a cost that can vary wildly depending on the professional you ask to do the work and what other services you would require like inspections, building certification if not using a NHBC builder or similar or even to project manage your build. At Falshaw Homes we can offer fixed price contracts, feasibility studies, whole or part build packages, simply design only or any combination of services you require.


One of the most talked about aspects of self build is the 'Over Spend' this often gets reported as it can some times be more than 50% of the original budget.


This is often due to the specification changing or just not enough investigation being carried out at the early stage to accurately cost the items in the build.


If a project is started without a fairly detailed specification then it is more likely to go over budget, If you are using a single contractor it is advisable to spend time and get as much down on the contract prior to starting, and if you can not finalise an item make sure that you include a reasonable allowance (normally referred to as a PC Sum) for that item.


Costs can be controlled but you have to keep a tight hold on them and keep your records up to date. Remember if you over spend by £50 on lots of items (not much in its self) you will find your self several thousands out by the end if you do not keep records.


If you are managing the build yourself it is advisable to get fixed prices from the sub contractors that you use, if you do change your mind (and you will) make sure that you agree an amount for the alterations, as this is often the way that contractors get to increase there original price and it can be disproportionately high to the size of the alteration!

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VAT is an important consideration in your self build project if you are doing the work and/or managing the subcontractors yourself. All new properties and barn conversions are currently ZERO rated for VAT (not exempt). If you organize your own self build you will need to contact your local Customs & Excise office and ask them for a SELF BUILD claim form.


This form will give you all the details of the items you can and cannot reclaim VAT on. It will also inform you that you can only make one claim! This can potentially make life difficult towards the end of your project if your finances are tight, i.e. - if your budget is £200,000 you would probably require £220,000 to complete the project and then reclaim the & £20,000 VAT back at the end of the project.


Unfortunately most individuals do not have this luxury. What tends to happen is that you spend your budget of £200,000 that then includes £20,000 in VAT, after reclaiming this back you can complete your project but any item purchased after this point will not be eligible for a VAT refund.


If you used a large number of subcontractors that also supply their materials and are VAT registered you could ask them not to charge the VAT and write on the invoice "NEW WORK" this would help your cash flow but unfortunately not the subcontractors.


If you use a single contractor such as Falshaw Homes to oversee your build then this will have certain advantages over doing your own managing, mainly because they will be able to reclaim the VAT on many items that you could not as they are part of their normal running costs. They of course will not charge VAT on the completed dwelling and you would only have needed your original budget of £200,000 to see the project to completion.


Many individuals ask if they can reclaim the VAT on architectural and design fees. Unfortunately this is not possible.



How do I pay for my build! There are many high street lenders who will advance up to 90% of the land costs and 70% of the build cost. Each lender will have their own system so shop around until you find one that best suits you.


You can often find a comprehensive list of lenders and services in the BUILD IT magazine, not to mention all the other very useful information that you can pick upon when reading it.


You do not have to move out of your home and live in a caravan on your building site. You can stay in your own home until near completion if you can tie up the sale with the completion of your new home. Alternatively many self builders move into rented accommodation for the duration of the build and then move in to a fully furnished home.


The majority of lenders operate a stage payment system for the advance of funds. Most lenders split this up into 4 equal payments that are paid after you reach the required stage of building. These are normally DPC (ground floor), roofed in, plastered out and completion. As mentioned earlier you will find many minor variants of this system.


When choosing your builder or contractors we would recommend that you create a detailed contract for the work to be undertaken. This can sometimes be easier said than done, especially when you are managing the build yourself and employing subcontractors individually and they can be very convincing and appear trustworthy at times. The best rule should be never pay a deposit to a subcontractor even if he is supplying the materials as he should be purchasing the materials on account anyway. If the contracted amount is large agree stage payments so you only pay after the work is completed, and also agree a time period that he will be responsible for rectifying any faults that may appear.


If you choose a single contactor the same applies to the contract other than you will probably have to pay a small deposit and then stage payments there after.

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Design & Style

This is one of the major reasons people want to build their own home. You get to specify all sorts of aspects of your home not least its external appearance.


There is one point that you ought to consider though when looking for a plot of land. That is if you are intending to build a high-tech property you may have considerable difficulty if you purchase a plot between two thatched cottages, or a house between two bungalows!


Planners can sometimes be very difficult to work with if the site is sensitive. If this is the case then go and discuss with the planners their initial requirements for the plot and sometimes it can be particularly useful to use a Designer or Architect who is local and knows many of the planners and how best to meet local needs.


Other than that you should be able to instruct any designer and have almost any design that you wish to have, within your budget!


Remember the house should always fulfill your needs. Do ensure that you are 100% happy with the design and layout. Otherwise you defeat the object of self building. Do not let other people force their ideas upon you. It will be your home not theirs.

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We have listed below some timescales for the separate phases that are involved with Self Building. You must remember however that the times listed are only a guide as individual Architects/Designers, Planning Depts, Builders and Tradesmen in different areas will work at their own pace. When making initial enquiries you should ask for an indication of "How long it will take" to do the work and if necessary incorporate it into any contract.


Locating land 1 month to several years (average 3 - 4 months)

Designer/Architectural work 1 to 3 months

Planning Building Control 2 to 4 months (but can take longer)

Building process 6 to 8 months if you have a single contractor or if you are self managing your contractors.


If you are intending to DIY a large amount of the work, it then is totally dependent on the amount of time you allocate to the project. Timber frame houses are often chosen for the reason that they are simple and quick to erect the main shell.



If you are going to have a mortgage then it will be necessary for you to have some sort of warranty of insurance against major defects for at least the first 10 years.

The main options are:

•NHBC Build Mark the most common warranty in use.


•Architect Certificate



NHBC Build Mark - To obtain this you would normally employ a NHBC registered builder to undertake your project.In the last year or two the NHBC have introduced "SOLO" a method for self builders who are going to control their own project to use none registered builders to work on their home. Prices are depending on the completed value of the home and are in the region of £2000 to £4000 per registration.


Build-zone offer a similar product to the NHBC, but are a little more competitive on price. They also offer other build services like insurance.


Architect Certificate - You will need to instruct a registered architect to oversee and inspect your build as work progresses. At the end of the project you will be issued a certificate from the architect that can be used to gain

a mortgage.


Prices vary greatly, often working out as a percentage of the value of the dwelling or a negotiated figure.


Zuric - This works much the same way as the NHBC Solo and is aimed more specifically at the self builder. Prices are in the same sort of region as Solo.


Even if you do not need a mortgage it would still be prudent to have some sort of structural warranty.

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There are many ways to build a house, the most common being 'Brick and Block' or solid construction, this method is often referred to as the traditional method as it is the most common construction method in the UK.


Timber Frame has over the years taken a larger share of the market, particularly with the self builders, as it required less time to erect the frame and can be erected much quicker than the brick and block method, because once you have put the frame up and made the building dry, you can work on the inside at the same time as the outside.


Another advantage of timber frame was the better insulation values! This advantage however has now been lost due to the legislation that has been introduced to improve the insulation standards of all new homes, and is set to improve even further in the future.


Recent legislation has been introduced to improve the sound transmission in new dwellings also, this is useful for timber frame as the passage of sound was often an aspect of the timber framed house the people disliked.


There are of course many other ways to build your home, you can build 'Steel Framed', 'Straw', 'Concrete', 'Oak', 'Polystyrene' even underground houses. Some of these would require skills that are not as readily available than others to build your home and maybe even more importantly you still have to get the local authority to accept the design and materials that you wish to use, this can some times be easier said than done!


If you are wishing to go down one of the more specialised methods of construction I would recommend that you take advise from the specialist firms and designers who practise in that field.



If your building site has trees on or adjacent too, it would be prudent to go to your local council offices and ask to see the TPO schedule for the street that your plot is in.


If any of the trees are listed it is important that you do not perform any sort of trimming or removal without written permission as the fines can be very high for unlawful removal.


If the trees are not listed but are going to be in the way of your proposed development, you will have the ethical dilemma of removing any trees that you feel necessary prior to submitting an application, or showing them on the plan to be removed and run the risk of not getting approval because the aurdricultural officer wishes to keep them. And they have the power to put a protection order on a tree or area instantly.


If a tree is on TPO schedule you can get it removed if it is diseased or dangerous. A tree specialist would be required to provide a supporting report.



If your site does not have road frontage, remember to check any rights of access over any private drive. The government guideline for the number of dwellings off any private drive is 5 but each local authority may have their own standards to work from.


Also when looking at a plot consider the physical access for getting in and out! Is the visibility adequate, it should be if the site has outline permission (OP), as the highways should have approved it already.



The term services is generally used to describe, Water, Drains, Electric and Gas, you will also probably require phone and or cable connections but these do not tend to be grouped with the others.


Very few sites would come as a serviced plot (i.e. - all on site) the best you could normally expect if you are building in someone's garden is that the drains may run across the front or back of the plot. If they are on site check their position because you may need to divert them if they run straight across the centre of the site.


If they are not on site and you have to go in to the highway to get a connection, remember to build in a connection budget, as it can be quite expensive to make the connection as only a small amount of contractors are registered to do this sort of work.


Gas Electric and Water in an urban setting would normally come from the road. You will have to contact your local supplier and make an application for a new supply, they will send you the relevant forms for you to fill in and return, they will then send you a quote to connect the service, the price will depend on the distance of your property to here nearest main supply, even if there supply is only two meters from your boundary.


Generally you will be responsible for laying either ducting or service cable from your property to the boundary. They will then make the connection to the boundary.