Bad decisions that could derail your self-build

Building your own home can be a complicated matter, even for the most seasoned of self-builders. While there will undoubtedly be surprises along the way, some bigger (and more expensive!) than others, there are several common pitfalls that have the potential to derail your self-build.

Paul Smith, Founder of plot listing and specialist supplier directory, MyPlot, outlines the common pitfalls to avoid:

Don’t compromise too much

Finding a great plot is an exciting moment for any self-builder – picturing yourself in your beautiful new home, setting the scene, it’s easy to become blinkered, perhaps ignoring the boxes that it doesn’t tick. You’ve decided the beautiful views compensate for the distance from the village, you’ll be committing to a longer school run and you’ll be swapping pleasant strolls for car rides. Think carefully and take your time – don’t begin the sale process only to realise you’ve made a mistake. Pre-sale surveys, professional fees and legal costs will eat into your budget and set-back your search for the right plot that suits your lifestyle as well as your desired aesthetics.

Don’t make assumptions

Few self-builders begin a project without a visual of their ideal home. Whether you’re aiming for a traditional build or a chalet-style bungalow, it’s important to be clear on the design – and on what you don’t want. Before purchasing a plot, self-builders should take advice on whether it’s suitable for the home they want. Purchasing a plot to later find out that it isn’t suitable for the type of property you want to build is a sure-fire way to throw a project into turmoil. Never make assumptions – there’s much more to a site than what you see on the surface.

Don’t rush decisions – it’ll cost you

We’re all indecisive at times, but mid self-build isn’t the time for changing your mind. Before committing to big decisions, take your time and take outside advice where possible. Where necessary, invest in expert opinion – while any self-builder will be keen to safeguard budget, a wrong decision or a change in direction could cost far more – both in time and money.

If you know you’re an indecisive person and prone to changing your mind, discuss it openly with your project manager – put them in the picture and build in additional time for sign off so you don’t feel pressured to make a choice you might later regret.

Don’t stretch the budget

The project will always cost more than originally planned so it’s important to have a contingency fund to absorb the unexpected and prevent the project stalling. The experts recommend setting aside a 20% contingency fund. Finances present the biggest, and most common, pitfall for self-builders so precision planning is essential.

If the build is being financed by a self-build mortgage, ensure that increment funding has been made available in advance of the next stage of works beginning – while you should never pay builders upfront, make sure you have the funds in the bank in advance of the corresponding build programme beginning.

Don’t hire the wrong team

This may sound like an obvious point but there are so many red flags that self-builders ignore and kick themselves later for not listening to their gut. The right team of experts will be crucial to keep your self-build on track and your sanity intact – don’t rush through the hiring process; take the time to meet face to face, get several quotes and take the time to verify their expertise. Above all, make sure you get on well – a contractor dispute is a sure-fire way to derail your self-build, which risks being stuck in limbo as a dispute rumbles on or delayed while you find a replacement contractor.

The self-build process isn’t without challenges but is hugely rewarding – take your time to make decisions and don’t underestimate the value of good advice. With the right support and a razor-sharp focus on the finances, you’ll come out the other side with a home you can be proud of.