There’s a huge range of different property styles to choose from in the UK, from 17th century period houses to ultra modern apartments.
Before you start your search for a new home, it’s important to take some time to decide exactly what type of property you’re looking to buy. Ask yourself what you want, what you need, and most importantly, what can you afford?
Do you want a house or an apartment? If you’re looking for a home, must it be detached or would you be happy with a semi-detached, terraced or town house? Do you want a new or old house? If you’re looking for a period house, must it be of a particular style, such as Georgian or Victorian? What about buying land and building your own home?
In this section, we take a look at the major styles of property in the UK to help you to answer these questions and decide the type of home you want to buy.
HOUSE STYLE GLOSSARY
While most of us are aware of the major house styles available in the UK, some property descriptions can be confusing.
For example, do you know the difference between a townhouse and a terrace house? What exactly IS a cottage? How old does a house have to be to be classed as a period property?
We’ve put together a glossary of the key property types to help you out …
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An apartment or flat is a self-contained unit, usually located on one floor, although it can be spread over some floors. It may be a conversion apartment, which is located in a building that was originally built like a house and has since been converted to contain flats, or it may be purpose built, located in a building that has been intentionally built to contain flats.
A barn converted into a spacious home with high ceilings, exposed beams and plenty of character.
A single-story detached, semi-detached or terraced house. As its floor plan is entirely on one level, a bungalow does not have any stairs.
A house with a sloping roof and widely overhanging eaves.
Traditionally a pretty, quaint house in the country, a cottage now describes any small house that typically has character and charm.
A house without any adjoining walls to any other properties; usually with its garden (possibly front and rear) and garage.
A house that is separated from other properties by adjoining walls that are located in non-living spaces such as a garage.
Part of a house or block of apartments comprising separate living accommodation. May be used to describing a flat which extends over more than one floor or a flat which has its external entrance.
A house that’s converted from old stables or carriage houses – usually 17th to 19th century. They are usually found on narrow streets in larger cities and tend to be very expensive.
A pre-fabricated timber-framed home that can be moved to a new site; however, the majority are permanently located on a ‘home park.’
A period property is one that was built before 1914. They are named after the period in which they were built:
- Jacobean (1603-1625)
- Stuart (1625-1714)
- Georgian (1714-1811)
- Regency (1811-1837)
- Victorian (1837-1901)
- Edwardian (1901-1914)
A house that is separated from only one other property by one adjoining (party) wall.
An apartment (flat) comprising of one room (no separate bedroom) plus a bathroom and possibly a small separate kitchen.
Houses built in a row of three or more and usually two to five stories high. A mid-terrace is separated from two other houses by two separate adjoining walls, while an end terrace is separated from only one other house by an adjoining wall. Staggered terrace houses are separated from each other by two partially adjoining walls.
Similar to a terraced house, but usually larger, built to a higher standard and with an integral garage on the ground floor. Such properties are typically found as part of a planned unit development.
Over the last few decades, apartments have become increasingly popular, not only amongst the young and city dwellers but also for those who have retired and are looking to downsize.
There has been a vast increase in the number of mill and warehouse conversions making apartments readily obtainable in both urban and rural settings.
If you’re looking to buy a flat, there are some aspects that you will need to be aware of: Is the flat leasehold or would you have a share of the freehold? What features should you look for? What about maintenance fees and service charges? In this section, we take a closer look at all these issues to ensure you are armed with the right information.
Maintenance and Service Charges
If you own an apartment, you will be responsible for paying a service fee and maintenance charge for the upkeep of communal areas, for shared services and for any repairs that may be needed.
Each apartment owner will be assigned a proportion of these charges, usually dependent on the size of their flat. Charges may include some or all of the following:
- General maintenance
- Lighting in communal areas and grounds
- Cleaning, decoration, and maintenance of communal areas and buildings
- Membership and upkeep of communal facilities such as a health club, gym or swimming pool
- Use of private gardens (especially in London)
- Caretakers, concierges or porters
- Garden Maintenance
- Buildings insurance
- Heating and hot water
- Water supply for gardens and communal areas
- Lift maintenance
- Entry phone and security
- Pest control
- Sink fund for major repairs
Although buildings insurance should be provided by the freeholder, you will be required to have third party insurance for any damage you may cause to other apartments, for example, from a flood or fire.
Always check the level of service charges and any other costs before buying an apartment; if you’re buying from a former owner, ask to see a copy of the service charges for previous years. Fees can vary considerably, and luxury developments with a high level of amenities may cost upwards of 5,000 pound a year.
Apartment blocks managed and maintained by a management company are likely to have higher service charges than those without; however, this may be offset by the fact that the building may be maintained to a higher standard.
This is an important point to remember – the value of an apartment depends to a large extent on how well the development is maintained and managed.
However, sometimes apartment owners may feel that service charges are excessive; if so, they can bring their dispute to a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT). This consists of three members: a lawyer who is often the chairman, a valuer, and a lay person. It is entirely independent and impartial in its approach.
The LVT hears both sides of the argument and then determines the issue from the evidence and the judgment and experience of the LVT members. They can determine the reasonableness of a service charge, resolve disputes involving insurance and can also make certain decisions relating to the right to manage.
High service charges aren’t necessarily bad, as long as they give you value for money and the development is well managed and maintained.
From time to time, owners may be charged additional fees to make up for any shortfall of funds for maintenance or repairs.
It is therefore essential to check how much money is in the sink or reserve fund for repairs and to see whether any major maintenance or capital expense is planned for which you could be charged.
Covenants and Restrictions
Covenants are legally binding obligations of the freeholder and the apartment owner and are put in place to maintain the value of the property and ensure the efficient running of the development. They usually relate to maintenance responsibilities and the payment of ground rent, service charges, and building insurance.
Restrictions are regulations governing how a flat owner must behave with the other occupiers and limitations on how the property is used.
These restrictions often include details such as the keeping of pets, noise levels, parking, letting, using the apartment for business or professional purposes, exterior decoration, and the use of gyms and other recreational facilities.
Always check the covenants and restrictions before buying and query any of those that you are unsure about.
While the majority of houses in the UK are sold freehold (that is, the buyer has complete legal ownership of the property and land), almost all apartments in England and Wales are sold leasehold, where the buyer owns the property, but not the ground on which it stands.
The freeholder owns the site and charges the leaseholder (apartment owner) an annual ground rent. The leaseholder must also pay an annual service charge to the freeholder to cover the maintenance and repairs of the building and its common parts.
Leasehold ownership of a flat gives the property owner the right to occupy and use the flat for the ‘term’ of the lease – usually 99 or 125 years. When the lease expires, the flat reverts to the landlord.
When buying a leasehold apartment, the most important consideration is the length of the remaining lease, particularly if it has less than 50 years to run, in which case you may have difficulty obtaining a mortgage.
Experts advise against buying a property with less than 75 years to run.
The leaseholder usually owns everything within the four walls of the apartment, but not the external or structural walls. The structure and shared parts of the building and the land it stands on are owned by the freeholder, who is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the building.
Extending Your Lease
The majority of leaseholders now have a right to extend their lease by 90 years and have their ground rent abolished.
To qualify, you must own a lease which was at least 21 years long when it was first granted (this is termed a ‘long lease’), and you must have owned your flat for a minimum of 2 years.
Buying the Freehold
Since 1993 when the Leasehold Reform, Housing, and Urban Development Act became law, leaseholders have had the right to buy the freehold between them, called a joint freehold, and many apartments are now sold not with a lease, but with a share of the freehold.
The formal procedure for Collective Enfranchisement can be long and complex, and it is recommended that you obtain advice from an experienced solicitor before proceeding.
However, the basic requirements are as follows:
- The building must contain two or more flats and should normally be self-contained
- No more than 25% of the internal floor area to be in non-residential use
- Two-thirds of the flats must be let to qualifying leaseholders: Must have a long lease (at least 21 years long when it was originally granted), Must not own more than two flats in the building, Must not be a business or commercial leaseholder
- At least 50% of the qualifying leaseholders must be prepared to participate. However, where there are only two flats in the building, both leaseholders must participate
For example, in a building of 90 flats, two-thirds (60 flats) must be owned by qualifying tenants.
At least half of all the flats must agree to participate; in this case 45.
Under a new type of ownership for apartments called commonhold, leaseholders have the right to buy the freehold and establish a commonhold association to manage the common parts of property.
It allows freehold ownership of individual flats, houses and non-residential units within a building or an estate. Ownership is not limited by time as it is with a lease.
The procedures for the purchase of a commonhold unit are often simpler than for a leasehold flat; there is no diminishing term or ground rent to consider, and a great deal of the necessary documentation is readily available to the purchaser through the Land Registry and Companies House.
However, all the documentation will still require careful examination and, in most cases, professional advice from a solicitor.
- Check that the Commonhold Association is registered properly as a company.
- Examine the Commonhold Community Statement carefully (the document setting out how the building is managed and what rules are in place relating to the use and occupation of the units and the common parts).
- Find out if the unit you intend to buy has any outstanding arrears to the Commonhold Association; you may become liable for them on completion of the purchase.
MODERN RESALE HOUSES
Buying a new home doesn’t necessarily mean buying something brand-new; there is a wide range of modern resale homes in a variety of styles and sizes, from small studio apartments to vast detached homes surrounded by large gardens.
There are many advantages in buying a modern resale home over a brand-new property, such as:
- They usually offer better value for money
- They often have a mature garden and trees
- They are usually located in an established development with a range of local shops, services, and facilities already in place
- There are no ‘teething troubles’ usually experienced by new-build houses
- The furniture, carpet, and curtains may be included in the price
- The previous owners may have made a variety of upgrades and improvements
- You can assess the overall quality of development, the neighborhood and check out your neighbors
However, there are also some disadvantages compared to a new-build property. This primarily depends on the age of the resale home and how well it has been maintained by its previous owners.
Problems may include:
- It may be in a poor state of repair and need complete refurbishment
- It may have an inferior design and poor build quality
- There may be no warranty
- It may be lacking the benefits of a new home (central heating, double glazing) unless it has been modernized
- May have damp, rot or woodworm infestations
- May need redecorating, new carpets and curtains
Although modern new-build houses may be seen by some as lacking in character, they are usually (but not always) built to higher standards than older houses and include thermal insulation, double glazing, and central heating as standard.
They often also include a range of high level of luxury features, such as en-suite bathrooms with power showers and fully-tiled designer kitchens.
In this section, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of a brand new house, along with some tips on buying your home off-plan. We also look at some of the faults and problems you might find in a new-build and the protection that a building warranty can offer you.
Quality and Design
The quality of new homes built in the UK is strictly regulated, and buildings must conform to stringent regulations and energy efficiency standards. However, quality can vary from builder to builder, and it always pays to buy from a long-established company with a good reputation.
Before buying a brand new home, you should take a look at the other developments the builder or developer has recently completed and ask owners what problems they have experienced.
In general, developers use a reasonably high quality of materials and workmanship. New homes have higher specifications than old houses, with double or triple-glazing, cavity and underfloor insulation and central heating.
They may also contain some luxury features, such as broadband connections in all rooms, ‘intelligent’ lighting and heating, en suite bathrooms, designer kitchens with top quality appliances, built-in wardrobes, and extensive security systems.
It is usually possible to upgrade many features, such as adding further power points, special lighting, upgraded kitchen appliances, special flooring and tiling, a conservatory, a hot tub or Jacuzzi, and landscaping.
The benefit of including these extras at the design stage, rather than adding them later after you have moved in is that they can usually be included in your mortgage.
However, it’s important to make sure that the developer is not overcharging you for the additional items and that they offer good value for money.
Problems and Defects
Just because you are buying a brand-new house doesn’t mean you are buying a home free from defects or flaws. Over 3 in every ten new houses have between 100 and 200 (mostly minor) faults, while 1 in 10 houses have over 200.
It is essential to inspect your new home thoroughly 10-14 days before you take possession and make a note of any defects.
This process is termed ‘snagging’ and gives the builder the opportunity to rectify any faults before you move in. You should also make a list of any defects on moving in and ask the site manager to agree with them. Notify the builder in writing, requesting confirmation of when they will be remedied.
Snagging lists are available to buy or download; these can be very useful and will guide you through the process in a logical fashion without needing any specialist knowledge.
Alternatively, you can hire a professional to do the snagging for you; this is highly recommended, as they know exactly what to look for, have more leverage with the builder and can help to reduce the stress involved.
A variety of professionals are qualified to carry out snagging inspections, including chartered surveyors and experienced construction industry professionals; prices range from about £250 for a one-bedroom apartment to £500 for a five-bedroom house. Make sure that any company you employ is qualified and that you receive a quotation.
See our featured sites here for details of snagging companies and downloadable snag lists for your own use.
A good incentive for your developer to finish your home to standard is to stipulate that you will hold back a retention until all snagging defects are rectified – try to get this built into your contract.
The builder is responsible for any defects and repairs that are necessary for up to two years after the purchase of a newly built home. It is recommended that you check your home for snags every six months for the first two years and put any defects in writing to your house builder as soon as possible.
It should be noted, however, that the builder is not responsible for items such as normal shrinkage or condensation due to the property drying out, general wear and tear and damage arising from failure to maintain the property.
During the next eight years, you will only be insured against major structural damage caused by defects in the structure, subsidence or heave.
A building warranty is essentially a form of an insurance policy paid for by the builder that is aimed at protecting the homeowner for ten years against latent defects with their homes.
The builder covers the costs of the first two years and provides cover for every defect within the home during that time.
In the remaining eight years the insurance company covers only structural defects. It is therefore essential to report any defects found in the first two years in the writing.
The National House Building Council’s (NHBC) Buildmark 10-year warranty covers around 85% of new and newly converted homes in the UK. Builders must abide by a strict set of rules and build to the standards that the NHBC lay down. The NHBC inspectors visit new homes at key stages of construction.
Zurich Municipal is currently the only alternative to the NHBC for the private sector. Their service is comparable to that of the NHBC in that they provide a ten-year warranty and produce a set of standards by which the developer has to abide.
While an ‘old’ home (as opposed to a modern one) usually refers to pre-1940 buildings, a period property describes houses built before 1914. They are named after the period in which they were built: Jacobean, Stuart, Georgian, Recency, Victorian or Edwardian.
Period houses often contain interesting features such as high ceilings, sash windows, paneled doors, fireplaces, elaborate ceiling roses and cornices, unusual staircases, alcoves, attics and cellars, and are the attractive option for those wanting to buy a house with individuality and charm.
In this section, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of owning a period property and some tips on buying a house to restore. We also investigate the listed building system and the strict rules that govern the use, upkeep and alteration of homes that have been listed.
Listed buildings are buildings of particular architectural or historic interest and as such require special protection. Buildings can be listed because of their age, rarity, architectural merit or method of construction.
They may also be listed because of the part they have played in the life of a famous person or as the scene of an important event. An interesting group of buildings, such as a model village or a square may also be listed.
The prime purpose of listing is to protect the building and its surroundings from changes which will materially alter the special historic or architectural importance of the building or its setting.
Listing protects the whole building, both inside and out, and may also protect adjacent buildings if they were erected before July 1948. The process ensures that the architectural and historic interest of the building is carefully considered before any alterations, either outside or inside, are agreed.
There are around 500,000 listed buildings in the UK, most of which were built before 1840. All buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition is listed, as are most that were built between 1700 and 1840.
After that date, the criteria become tighter with time, so that buildings constructed after 1945 have to be exceptionally important to be listed.
Listed buildings are graded to show their relative architectural or historic interest:
England and Wales
- Grade I. Buildings of exceptional interest. (2%)
- Grade II*. Particularly important buildings of more than special interest. (4%)
- Grade II. Of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve them. (94%)
Scotland and Northern Ireland
- Category A. Buildings of national or international importance, either architectural or historic, or fine little-altered examples of some particular period, style or building type. (8%)
- Category B. Buildings of regional or more than local importance, or major examples of some particular period, style or building type which may have been altered. (60%)
- Category C(S). Buildings of local importance and lesser examples of any period, style or building type. (32%)
Listing and Planning
If your house is listed, you will need to obtain Listed Building Consent to carry out any works that will affect its special value. Consent will almost certainly be needed for any major works, but may also be required for minor alterations and possibly even repairs and maintenance.
You may also need consent for work that does not directly affect the listed building but is close enough to potentially affect its setting.
Always check with your Council’s Listed Buildings Officer (usually in the Planning Department), before undertaking any work on a listed building.
Renovating a Period Property
There was a time when old properties requiring renovation or restoration could be snapped up at bargain prices – especially in rural areas.
Unfortunately, the majority has now been modernized, and the ones that do remain are by no means cheap. Such is the interest in rescuing old, run-down houses and restoring them to their former glory that even ‘ruins’ tend to far exceed their asking price.
One of the most common mistakes that people make when buying a restoration property is to pay too much for it and to underestimate the cost of the work required.
Although many people think that doing up an old house is a cheap way of buying a property, renovation costs can be very high and are invariably higher than you may plan for – a major restoration rarely comes in on budget.
If you are considering buying an older property to restoring it, do bear in mind that this may cost much more than building a new house, especially if you do it properly using reclaimed materials.
Before buying, it is essential to obtain a full structural survey and work out an accurate estimate of the costs.
Steps to Successful Budgeting
- Arrange for a builder to inspect the property and provide a quotation.
- Add 25% to this figure for unforeseen problems.
- Make sure that you know exactly what you plan to do before starting work.
- Find out how much each job will add to the value of the property so that you don’t waste money doing work that adds little or no value.
- Obtain an accurate valuation of what the restored property will be worth.
- Make sure that you don’t pay more for the property than the estimated value after restoration minus the cost of renovation. You will also need to take into account your contingency funds and the fees associated with buying and selling.
BUILDING YOUR OWN HOME
Self-building has become increasingly popular over the last few decades, and over 20,000 people choose to build their own homes in the UK every year.
A self-build can allow you to choose your plot and the exact design of your house giving you the chance to own the house of your dreams. Not only that, but self-build homes are typically valued at around 25 to 30% more than the total building costs.
However, it’s also important to remember that building your own house will take longer, cost more and be much more work than you planned for.
In this section, we take a look at some of the important initial stages of building a house, including buying the plot, applying for planning, estimating costs and choosing your architect and builder.
Buying the Land
Choosing the site for your house is one of the most important steps in planning a self-build and there are some factors that you will need to bear in mind to ensure that it will be suitable for your new home.
A building plot should be at least 0.1 acres in size (400 sq m) to allow space for an average size home with room around the property.
You may also need an area for off-street parking with enough space to allow you to turn the car around.
Some plots are unsuitable for building as they’re too steep or require prohibitively expensive foundations.
You may also need to employ a specialist to ensure that the ground is not affected by industrial or agricultural pollution or is prone to flooding.
Check that there are no rights of way, water pipes or high-tension electricity lines that may restrict building.
You can obtain further information about a property online at the Land Registry; for a small fee, you can search a detailed history and ownership of the property that includes information on the land, planning permission and rights of way.
When buying land, it is vital to ensure that there is sufficient access for cars and other vehicles and that the access is available to a public highway, either directly or through a private driveway or right of way.
This access should not be obscured by a hill or corner, so that road safety is not compromised. If you are providing off-road parking, you must make sure that there is provision for turning the car to prevent reversing into a busy road. This may require a separate entrance and exit for the driveway, a turning bay or a turntable.
It’s also important to check that another party does not own a ‘ransom strip.’ This is a small strip of land, sometimes as narrow as 15 cm (6 in), dividing the plot from access.
These strips are often used as part of a deliberate policy to either gain from the land’s eventual development or prevent it in some way.
You may find that the price of this strip is up to one-third of the value of the plot you are interested in.
Do beware that the cost of providing utilities and services in a remote rural area may be prohibitively expensive.
You should also take the property’s proximity to other services into account; you may find that is located close to shops, schools and public transport will become important factors when it comes to resale value.
Self-build homes account for approximately 13% of all residential properties built – that’s over 20,000 every year.
If you buy land from an agent, it will already have planning permission, but if it doesn’t, you must make sure that you make it a condition of purchase.
A plot of land with planning permission already granted can cost up to 5 times more than land without approval. However, if the land is sold as having planning permission, you must ensure that it is still valid and has not lapsed.
Buying a plot next to an existing development may increase the likelihood of planning permission being granted, and you may also benefit from already established communications and easy access to utilities and services.
One way to reduce the planning issues connected with your new home would be to buy land that already has a house built on it and apply for permission to demolish and rebuild a new house in its footprint. Planning permission for this residence will (probably) have already been obtained.
Many builders offer package deals that include the plot and the cost of building a home. However, if you decide to take this route, make sure that you shop around first and compare separate land and building costs.
You should also insist on separate contracts for the land and the building, and obtain the title deed for the land before signing a building contract.
It’s also important to make sure that you have a receipt showing the plot is correctly presented in the land register and that you’ve checked for yourself that the correct planning permission has been obtained – don’t take the builder’s word for it.
If the planning permission is flawed, you may need to pay extra to alter the building, or it may even have to be demolished.
The cost of land in the UK varies considerably depending on the area and can range anywhere from a few thousand pounds for land without planning permission to over £1 million.
As a rough guide, the plot should equate to approximately 35% of the market value of the entire property, although this figure will vary between locations (i.e. you will need to spend proportionally more in areas where land is expensive, and less where it is cheaper).
One way for self-builders to save money is to buy a house with a large garden and use half or more of the garden to create a new building plot and sell the house with a smaller garden.
Alternatively, you can buy a plot of land with a derelict building on it and divide the land into two (or more) smaller plots and sell one to recoup some of the cost.
If your house plot does not have planning permission, you will need to decide whether to apply for outline planning consent or full planning permission.
Outline Planning Permission (OPP)
If you’re unsure whether full planning permission will be granted, outline planning permission is a way of ‘testing the water’ without having to spend money on detailed plans and drawings.
Outline planning permission gives an indication of permitted development, such as the height and footprint of the building and is subject to a condition that full planning details will need to be approved before building can commence.
OPP is valid for up to five years, but you will have just three years to apply for Detailed Planning Permission.
Detailed Planning Permission (DPP)
Detailed planning permission must be submitted within three years of outline planning permission. Detailed designs should be submitted to gain approval to build.
The building must commence within two years.
Full Planning Permission (FPP)
Full planning permission is a combination of outline planning consent and detailed planning consent – with all detailed information submitted in a single application. This will save you time, but if it’s refused, you will have wasted money on producing plans and drawings.
However, you can minimise the risks involved by taking expert advice beforehand. Full Planning Permission is valid for five years from the date of consent.
Listed Building Consent
If you plan to build a new house with the curtilage of a listed building (i.e. within its grounds), you must apply for listed building consent in addition to planning permission.
There is no fee for this consent.
Planning Application Process
Planning application forms are available from your local council, along with any guidance on the information it expects you to provide.
It is often a good idea to meet a planning officer for an informal discussion before you proceed – you will not be charged for this.
- Contact the planning department of your local planning authority; tell them what you plan to do and ask for their advice. You should also ask if they foresee any difficulties which could be overcome by amending your proposal.
- Decide on the type of application you wish to make and request an application form.
- Submit your application with the correct fee and supporting documents.
- The local planning authority will acknowledge your valid application or request any missing documents.
- The local planning authority will publicise and consult on the application.
- The application will then be considered by a Planning Officer, or Committee and permission will be granted, granted with certain conditions or refused.
If your application is refused, don’t give up. Plans are often passed on appeal or altered plans passed after a second or third application. Be prepared to be co-operative, patient, and flexible to assist the planning permission process.
The council should decide your application within eight weeks, although large scale or complex applications may take longer.
If they cannot decide your application within eight weeks, they should obtain your written consent to extend the period, for example, if the issues involved are complex or many people will be affected by the proposed plans.
If your plans are refused or have conditions imposed upon them, then you have the right to appeal to the First Secretary of State (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister).
However, it is often easier (and quicker) to ask the council whether changes to your proposal would make it more acceptable. You are permitted to submit another application with modified plans free of charge within 12 months of the decision on your first application.
How Much Will It Cost?
The cost of building your new home will depend on its size, the number of stories, its specification, the region you live and your level of involvement in either managing the build or undertaking the building work.
The range of build options you have are (from cheapest to most expensive):
- Doing the work yourself with the help of subcontractors and buying materials directly from suppliers or merchants.
- Using local subcontractors and buying materials directly from suppliers or merchants.
- Using the main contractor (such as a local building firm) to build the house to the wind and water tight stage and using subcontractors for the remaining work.
- Using the main contractor or a design and build package supplier for the whole job.
The average self-build home costs £150,000 with around one-third of the total budget spent on land.
The cost per square meter for building a standard quality three to four-bedroom family home can vary from around £630 per m sq in northern England using the DIY method, to around £980 per m sq in Greater London for a job using only a main contractor.
However, increasing the build quality from standard to excellent can add a further £250-350 per m sq on to the costs.
You should be aware that there are some other costs involved in building a new house, other than the building work and the land itself, which will make a considerable addition to your budget.
The following tables set out some of the approximate costs that you may incur.
When working out the total costs for your self-build project, it is essential to have a contingency fund of around 20% of your estimated total building costs – it’s very rare for a self-build project to be completed within budget and this extra money will help to cover the cost of any problems that arise during the building process.
If you’re looking to finance your new home, then you might find a self-build mortgage the best choice. The main difference between a self-build mortgage and a house purchase mortgage is that with a self-build mortgage, money is released in stages as the build progresses rather than as a single amount.
Most lenders will offer you 75-80% of the cost of the land and building combined, although some may offer you up to 95%. Our mortgage section has more information on self-build mortgages, along with details of the stages that money will be released.
Although building your own house is termed ‘self-build’ it would be very rare to find a project that did not involve the help and advice of some professionals. These may include an architect, builder, chartered engineer and a range of qualified tradesmen and craftsmen.
Although there are some companies who provide a range of ‘off the peg’ house designs, you may want to consider employing a Chartered Architect to design your new home. Not only will this allow you to incorporate all the features you need, but an architect-designed house tends to command a much higher selling price, as there are always buyers who will pay a premium for individuality.
An architect will produce planning and construction drawings and may offer to project-manage the build.
Alternatively, a cheaper option would be to employ an Architectural Technician to provide technical drawings based on your design.
The foundations of your new house will need to be designed and calculated by your architect or a Chartered Structural Engineer and the designs approved by your local building control office.
Although your architect may be able to recommend some reliable builders or contractors, you should also do your research, as the most important consideration when building a home is the reputation of the builder.
You should also be wary of an architect with their ‘own’ builder as it’s their job to ensure that the builder does their work according to the plans and specifications.
Ask for details of other homes the builder has constructed and asked the owners what problems they had and whether they’re satisfied with the work.
If you employ a builder, you must make sure that their work is covered by the NHBC Buildmark 10-year warranty or the Zurich Municipal Building Guarantee scheme.
Before choosing a builder, obtain written quotations from some builders, which should include the following items:
- The exact location of the building on the plot.
- A detailed building description.
- A list of the materials to be used, with references to the architect’s plans.
- All costs, including landscaping (if applicable), the connection of utilities (water, electricity, gas, telephone) to the house (not just to the building site) and any permits and licenses. Make sure that it states clearly whether these costs are quotations or estimates.
- The building and payment schedule – payments should be made in stages as the building progresses.
- A penalty clause for late completion.
- The retention of a percentage (5-10%) of the building costs as a guarantee against defects.
Details of how disputes will be settled.
It’s advisable to have any contract checked by an independent building consultant or engineer to confirm that it’s a fair deal, as well as having it checked by your solicitor.
Building contracts are often heavily biased in the builder’s favor and give clients few rights.
Avoid building a house during the winter if at all possible – start work in the late spring and with any luck you will be working on (or will have finished) the interior when the bad weather sets in.
You may have decided to save money by using sub-contractors for some of the work, rather than leaving it to your builder. These may include the following:
Groundworkers are responsible for the construction of the foundations; however, they may also be responsible for setting the foundations out, ensuring that all levels and dimensions are correct and installing drainage.
They may also be used when the build is nearing completion, to construct paths, patios, and driveways.
Bricklayers are used to laying bricks, blocks, and masonry.
Charges are usually made on a cost per square meter.
The joiners will attend a self-build on two occasions. On the first visit (termed the ‘first fix’) they will install the floor joists and roof timbers.
The second fix will include flooring, door hanging, adding skirting and other jobs.
The work carried out by electricians is also divided into two stages. During the first fix, the wires are simply run into position down the walls and through the middle of any timber flooring to the outlets.
The second fix happens after plastering is complete, where the wires are fixed to the faceplates, the light fittings and wired and fixed and the boiler is wired and tested in conjunction with the plumber.
Building Regulations require that electrical work to domestic premises must be carried out by a ‘competent person’; this is defined as “A person registered under an electrical self-certification scheme or a competent electrician capable of signing a BS7671 Electrical Installation Certificate”.
This would normally preclude a DIY private individual or even a general builder.
The ground worker (see above) will bring the drainage pipes up through the oversite, then the plumber will take over and will fix the pipe work once the roof is in place (first fix).
On the second visit, towards the end of the build, the kitchen and bathroom will be connected (second fix). Plumbers installing gas piping and commissioning gas fired heating systems must be CORGI (Council for Registered Gas Installers) registered.
HOUSES FOR INVESTMENT
In the last few years, the property has far out-performed the stock market and all forms of savings, and if you let the property out it can provide both capital growth and income.
However, you should bear in mind that property investments can be risky over the short to medium term, and many market analysts have warned that UK price growth will slow dramatically or even fall in the next five years.
There are some kinds of property investment; in this section, we take a closer look at each one of them, including holiday homes and student houses. We also check out some of the essential factors to consider when buying an investment property.
Investment Pointers: What Not to Buy
When buying an investment property, it’s important to follow your head – not your heart. Purchasing a quirky house with features that would not appeal to a mass audience will not help you to make a quick and profitable sale.
Do your homework before you start to look; make sure you find out how much properties are selling for in the area you are interested in.
Take into account how much you will need to spend on renovation (if needed), the fees associated with buying and selling and some capital gains tax you may be liable for.
Take a look at the following tips to help you to find the right property to maximise your investment:
Avoid the Following:
- Houses in rundown areas or areas with high unemployment.
- Poorly designed or quirky homes.
- Unusual or non-traditional houses without universal appeal.
- Small studio or one-bedroom apartments.
- Apartments attached to commercial premises; for example, above a shop.
- Homes prone to regular flooding.
- Property in towns without private parking and no free parking nearby.
- Characterless modern homes built in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
- Houses close to sources of noise, such as a busy road or airport.
Consider These Ideas Instead:
- Houses in an up-and-coming area.
- A large property that can be split into two semi-detached homes or converted into apartments.
- Property in a historic or university town.
- Well designed homes with wide appeal.
- Large loft apartments and penthouses with large balconies or patios.
- Houses with good road and rail links (or planned links).
- A property with the potential to add value, such as an extension or loft conversion.
- Houses with off-road parking or a garage.
- Period properties.
- Houses with a large garden, part of which can be sold off as a separate building plot.
- A property with good amenities close by, for example, shops, parks, schools and leisure facilities.
- Waterside properties.
- A property with outbuildings that can be turned into self-contained apartments, playrooms, studios or gyms.