Despite concerted efforts from the government and media to encourage families to build their own homes in the past few years, recent statements indicate that the number of people building their own home will fall by 4 per cent by 2015. BBC’s Newsnight recently covered an official leaked document which contained this estimate made by the Department for Communities and Local Government, stating there will only be around 128,000 housing starts, far less that previously suggested.
Former housing minister Grant Shapps launched a ‘self-build revolution’ in 2011, claiming that we would see the size of the self-build market double by 2014. In fact, only 107,950 homes were constructed in 2012-13. This is much less than the 250,000 to 300,000 extra properties that experts say are required every year to keep pace with growing demand. We are now experiencing the lowest levels of house building since the 1920s. The actual turnout of home building compared to expected results is so disparate that many are questioning the way the government approaches home building altogether.
Why has the UK home build market fallen?
So why are there less people building their own homes in the UK than we might expect? Despite the Help to Buy scheme and similar projects initiated by the government, UK home builders are struggling to afford the costs of creating their own home from scratch, due to high expenses in materials and extortionate temporary accommodation rental prices. Most of us simply can’t afford to build a house not only due to the cost of the build itself, but also associated expenditures – the rate of pay just doesn’t match up to the cost of living.
Many building materials have been in short supply of late, such as bricks, making it more difficult for home builders to get hold of the things they need without the industry connections and cost-price rates that professional builders can access. The problem seems to be either that people are buying plots of land but finding themselves unable to begin work on them as they have had to work extra hours to pay off the cost of the purchase, or that they simply can’t afford to take the first steps and buy a plot. Many industry experts say that readiness to build is not the issue, the buying is.
What does this mean for the property ladder?
The effect of this reduction in the number of people building their own homes could be considerable on the UK housing market. This could mean fewer affordable houses for families and first-time buyers. The total new houses that were available for buyers fell from 58,100 in 2011-12 to 42,830 in 2012-13, a drop of 26 per cent. Not only are there less homes and plots available to be bought, but they are also more expensive than ever before. This means that buying a new plot or home is a dream that may remain unfulfilled for low and middle earners for some time.
However, Kris Hopkins, current housing minister, claims that in the last three months house-building has reached its highest levels since the financial crash of 2008. This message clearly conflicts with that of the leaked official documentation, but could it hint at optimism for budding self-builders in the future?
Why DIY lovers in the UK should still self-build
Falling home building rates don’t necessarily mean that self building is off the cards for DIY lovers in the UK. If you’re considering building your own home, this is still a very viable option, you just have to be careful about how you approach your project.
Firstly, you will have to pay close attention to your budget and stick to it. Many people have been put off home building due to seeing the many over-budget projects featured on programmes such as Grand Designs where home builders end up spending thousands more than they had anticipated. Don’t attempt to do everything yourself, and work to your strengths, professional kitchen fitters for example can create the perfect finishing touches in your home and where it matters the most
The key here is planning – set a clear framework on how much you can afford to spend, thoroughly research material and tradesmen costs, and then stick to it. Remember, you’re building this home for you and your family, and your needs are primary. Try to avoid letting what you think will appeal to future potential buyers override your choices and lead you to spend more. If you can keep to your budget and balance your own time with contracted hours, also utilising contacts to source materials at lower rates, there is no reason why building your own home should be too expensive. In fact, it’s almost always cheaper than buying an existing house.
You may even find that the current home build climate may benefit your self build project in some ways. If builders are receiving less requests for big projects such as new builds, there will be less competition in finding the best contractor as builders are available and keen to take on new jobs. Land may also be easier to find with less people trying to purchase it.
Whether or not the self-build market is in decline, it doesn’t prevent you from starting your own. With the correct preparation, research, and the best professional builders in your area, you can create your dream home from scratch, with all the rewarding sense of achievement and the exact details you want that you had imagined. If you want the perfect family home, self-building will always be the best option.