You’ve drooled over home magazines, you’ve scoured the internet for plots, you’ve watched every episode of Grand Designs. It looks like you’re serious about making the dream of building your own home a reality...

But before you start planning a self build project, it’s important to go into the process fully informed. Here are six important things to consider before taking the plunge.

Prepare for an intense experience

“Building your own home is an eye-opener as to how much thought, care, and creativity goes into designing and building. People don’t always appreciate how complicated and difficult it is,” says Jonathan Hetreed, Director of Hetreed Ross Architects from Bath, Somerset. “But it will be exciting. It will be nerve-wracking. It will be very hard work. And it will be fulfilling.”

It's worth speaking to friends and family that have built their own homes to learn about their experiences. You can also scour social media and blogs for other people's tips and tricks for managing the process.

stock image of Home doormat and front door

Be realistic about what your budget allows

“It’s a common thing for clients to want something much bigger than they can afford,” says Nikki Ritchie of Hyve Architects in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.

The first step is to nail down your budget, whether that is one or a combination of a cash, remortgaging or selling your current home, or taking out a self build mortgage. Then talk to a trusted professional to figure out what is feasible. You can employ a Quantity Surveyor to get detailed costings on your plans, but an initial consultation with an architect can help you figure out what’s possible.

“Part of an architect’s role is to help guide clients so you understand what you can afford, and to figure out what’s realistic and what isn't,” says Nikki Ritchie. Getting realistic costs enables you to prioritise budget, so you can decide what design elements you consider must-haves and what you're prepared to make savings on. So if you really want that copper roll-top bath in the master bedroom, you’ll be happy to cut back on the size of the utility room.


Decide where you will live during the build

Where will you live while your dream house is under construction? Most people won’t have the financial luxury of being able to live in their existing home during the project. You could rent a property, live on site in temporary accommodation, or stay with family or friends. Consider putting non-essential items like books and extra furniture into storage, so you’re not tripping over yourself in temporary accommodation.

Make sure you are realistic about the timescales, too - the average self build requires around a year of on-site construction, so you’ll need to consider this as well making sure there is the budget to cover any unexpected delays.


Be honest about your skills and abilities

When deciding how much hands-on involvement you want to have in the building process, it’s essential to be realistic about what you bring to the project. “You have to be very self-critical of your skills and do an honest assessment of them,” says Iacopo Sassi, Director of Square One Architects based in Hampton, South West London.

Whether it’s project management, building work, or finishing touches, what’s bread and butter for a professional could be a steep learning curve for you. It can be tempting to take on a lot of the work to save costs, but be realistic about how much time you can commit as well as the strength and quality of your skills. In many cases, it can be more time and cost-effective to let a professional take the reigns.


Think about your return on investment

Even if you have a dream home in mind, you never know when your circumstances might change in the future. “Perhaps you are building your dream property and intend to live it yourself, but most people do want to see a return on investment,” says James Carvell of Carvell Associates in North East England. So be careful not to spend say £100,000 on building a property that might only be worth £80,000.

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Trust the experts

The build your own home process is daunting, so it’s easy to get bogged down in research and seeking multiple opinions. Nikki Ritchie says this can be a mistake.

“Some clients go to every trade show and get 300 different opinions about every last thing. The construction industry is complicated so you'll get many, many different opinions. Doing your own research is understandable and helpful to a point, but I think the first thing people should do is find an experienced and trusted professional to help you wade through the nonsense. Shop around by all means, but then find somebody that you trust to help guide you through what is a complex process.”


Ready for more? Here’s our guide on how to start a self build project.