Finding a specialist company that can take on more than one element of a self build can help reduce your risk and improve your peace of mind. Here are six reasons why a package of services might work for you
Whether you’re a novice self builder looking for as much hand-holding as possible for your project, or someone with experience who lacks the time to be completely immersed, it makes good sense to aggregate certain elements of a build.
A company offering a design and construction package can take away some of the stress and uncertainty – and there’s significant flexibility to be had, from firms that design you a timber frame kit and take you to shell stage on site, to additional services such as planning applications, Building Regs, plot finding and project management.
By tapping into professional expertise, you’re more likely to bring the build in on time, while fixed prices remove some of the budgeting headaches. Sometimes, it can be a money-saver, since many package companies offer design services at a competitive rate, and you’ll minimise the chance of any rookie mistakes being made. More generally, though, the more you put in to the hands of others, the more it will cost.
The process should be uniquely tailored to your needs, and the extent of the package you create will depend on your individual circumstances, from the time and budget you have available to your preferred build system. These six benefits should help you to understand what to expect.
1. No restrictions on design
You won’t be picking out off-the-shelf house plans from a book – unless you want to, that is. The vast majority of package companies offer a fully bespoke service via their in-house or recommended architectural teams, whose expertise is often offered at very good rates, as an incentive to buy.
Many self builders navigate between these two options, choosing to change and tweak an existing design to better suit their lifestyle needs or the council’s planning stipulations. A further option is to use your own architect or designer before handing over the plans to a package company to make their designs work with the desired build system. Whatever the route, you will have full control of the design process, allowing you to specify every detail that goes into your project.
2. Create your own package
With a design and build scheme, you can start with a core suite of services, and then bolt on whatever additional features you need (depending on the firm’s offering). The starter package might involve structural design; building control drawings; materials supply; and shell assembly on site. This should take your new home to weathertight stage, ready to be finished inside and out by your own contractors.
Some companies will even assist in finding a plot for you, particularly if they are working locally and have their ear to the ground. Additional services in the run-up to going on site might include making planning and Building Regs applications for you. A project management facility may also be on offer, either for certain critical elements of the construction phase, or as part of a start-to-finish turnkey service (there are nearly always a few exceptions to this; see the box on exclusions).
3. Better budget control
Generally speaking, the more work you are prepared to put in yourself, the cheaper it will be – but few of us have the time or the skill set to complete a self build entirely on our own.
In addition, any successful project relies on getting timings and quantities just right, and inexperience can bring costly mistakes. This is why so many people rely on expert help, not only to achieve a home of a high standard, but to have some certainty over costs and take away some of the risk.
A package supplier offers a single source for some of these critical areas of expertise, but just as importantly, they also offer a fixed price. The more services you can put in someone else’s hands, the greater the cost certainty – although you’ll also pay a greater premium for the privilege.
4. Reliable scheduling
Making sure that trades and materials are on site in the right quantities at the right time is one of the hardest things for the novice self builder to get right, but by engaging a single, experienced supplier to deliver a significant chunk of your scheme on a fixed price, you’ll eliminate a lot of the hassle involved in successfully co-ordinating a project.
Check whether your package supplier will prepare detailed plans for both costings and the construction programme (for the part of the build they’re involved with). This kind of professionally-prepared document can give a clear picture about crucial elements such as which materials and trades need to be on site, and when. This puts you in a strong position to get your scheme built on time and on budget. The more elements you hand over to your package firm to source and deliver on your behalf, the lower the chance that your inexperience will result in costly hold-ups.
5. A professional service
You’ll usually have a single point of contact to deal with at your chosen package home company, further streamlining the process. What’s more, the professional staff on your side will be extremely experienced at dealing with bespoke builds, adept at seeing problems coming and heading them off at the pass.
Once their side of the construction is completed, you may well find that they are happy to be on the other end of the phone for the rest of the project, offering informal advice or sharing their contacts book. It’s in their interest to keep the build on course and make sure you are happy – after all, word-of- mouth recommendation is the most valuable endorsement there is.
6. A choice of build systems
It’s often the underlying structure of a home that’s the deciding factor in choosing a design and build service. Most companies specialise in just one system, but there are more and more hybrids now, for example a panelised timber frame with a SIPs roof. Firms focusing on prefab timber systems tend to dominate the design and build market: this isn’t surprising, given there is more control and certainty attached to off-site methods, so suppliers are able to offer a fixed price and schedule. However, some companies offer modern masonry packages, so seek them out in the following pages if you are wedded to the idea of a brick-and- block home. Others, such as Revolution Homes, offer a wide range of systems.
Most suppliers don’t offer a totally turnkey service – so what elements will you normally need to provide?
Very few package companies get involved in the groundworks and foundations stages – partly because of the cost uncertainty involved in completing them.
You’ll probably need to arrange your own connections to services and drainage. Utilities companies can be painfully slow when dealing with self builders, so start the process as soon as you can.
With a shell build route, follow-on project management won’t be included – a chance for you to step in and do it yourself. Alternatively, the package firm may be able to recommend local project managers and/or contractors take the scheme forward to completion.
Even the most comprehensive turnkey operators tend not to include kitchens in their package. This leaves you free to choose your own from the enormous range on the market, and have it supplied and fitted by your chosen company.
Landscaping works will usually be excluded. This can be an expensive part of a self build that many people don’t accurately budget for, so make sure there’s enough left in the pot to make the exterior as magnificent as the finished house and interior.