Hiring contractors is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when building your own home. Paul Smith, Founder of MyPlot, the online self-build platform, explains how to find the right suppliers, and why bringing an architect on board early-doors could be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Embarking on a self-build project – particularly if it’s your first – can feel exciting and daunting in equal measure. Having an experienced team behind you from start to finish can help to avoid expensive mistakes and might just be the difference between a build process you endure, and one you can enjoy.
Don’t wait until you have your plot to hire an architect
The first hurdle for any self-builder is finding the right plot – it’s not uncommon for people to purchase their plot before appointing an architect, missing a brilliant opportunity to draw on years of expertise. The plot you’ve set your heart on might look fantastic on the surface, but an architect with an impassioned view and an expert eye can spot potential issues that could see build costs soar.
If it really is your dream location and would prove difficult to match, you might decide to press ahead regardless, but at the very least you’ll benefit from clarity on any design implications and the impact on build costs, avoiding nasty surprises.
Expert input will boost your budget
Rather than adding extra cost to your project, expert input during the early stages – whether from an architect, planning consultant or builder – is likely to lower costs. They’ll be able to advise you on what’s possible and where you could save some money – materials that are cost effective don’t have to look cheap. They’ll also be able to advise on any aspects of the project could be delayed until a future date, helping you to maximise your budget and understand where to save and where to splurge.
It’s so important to hire a team with a proven track-record in self-build – their expertise and knowledge will be invaluable, helping you to dodge avoidable pitfalls and mitigate any risks.
Don’t rely on written testimonials
When shortlisting potential contractors, consultants and suppliers, credibility should be a major factor – check out directories like MyPlot and don’t be afraid to ask for references. Speak with previous clients and avoid relying on written testimonials alone.
We’ve all heard the horror stories about cowboy builders and unfinished projects; homes abandoned and left open to the elements, gaping voids where external walls and windows should be. It’s a nightmare scenario for any self-builder.
To avoid falling foul of cowboys, always use credible directories, ask friends and family for recommendations and check Companies House.
Listen to your gut
If you find someone unlikeable at your first meeting, it’s unlikely they’ll grow on you. Whether you decide to project manage the build yourself, or hire someone to do the job for you, you’ll be spending a lot of time on site, so it’s important that you get along – don’t ignore that nagging feeling in your gut.
Replacing a contractor mid-way through a project is not only incredibly stressful, and will almost certainly see the project delayed, but will also see the budget edge upwards.
Have a contract in place with clear expectations
As the project ramps-up, with contractors hired and progress beginning on site, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement – and the ever-increasing number of questions – but make sure a signed contract between yourself and your builder is in place. We’re not talking war and peace, just a short document to outline deliverables, budget and agreed timescales.
Often, people prefer to allow builders to manage all tradesmen on their behalf, with just one point of contact instead of several – a full turnkey approach is undoubtedly the most straightforward option, but will usually be more costly. It’s an option to consider if you’re not overly conscious of budget.
Discuss and agree payment terms with your builder at the outset of the project, and make sure they’re set clearly against deliverables – never pay upfront and make sure that, if payments are staged, they are done so across the entire lifecycle of the project.
There’s no such thing as a stupid question
As you’d expect, self-builders usually have a lot of questions – after all, it’s a huge project with a lot at stake. It’s important to ask all the questions you have on your mind – don’t be afraid you’ll look clueless; it’s important to assuage your concerns. Any worries that aren’t satisfied could raise potential red flags.
It’s no secret that self-build can be challenging, but with qualified experts on board, you stand a far greater chance of creating a beautiful home that’s perfect for you, both on time and on budget – and with your sanity and relationships intact.