Managing expectations for a good-self build

September 6, 2017

Managing your expectations as well as the project itself is essential for a successful project.

Self-builders begin their journey with expectations as to what their dream project looks like as well as the process leading up to it. How long it takes, how much it costs and to what standard can all be measured objectively, but the experience of doing it, the enjoyment of living in it and knowing that your dream has been turned into a reality cannot be answered until you have reached the end.

The trick to achieving a good self-build is to recognise that you will need to manage your expectations from the start which isn’t as easy as it sounds. No doubt your expectations will be high when you set out however things will develop and change as your build progresses. Some changes will be planned for, others will take you by surprise. There is no doubt that you will have to make compromises along the way.

We have outlined 6 things to consider when managing your expectations and ensuring that your self-build project is a success.

1. Entering the unknown is ok but be prepared to learn

Embarking on your first self-build project is an exciting yet daunting process. It is important to remember that everything starts and ends with you. You are essentially the ultimate decision maker which can seem very scary, especially when for many, this is a new unknown journey. It’s reassuring to know, you are not on your own and self-building has been carried out my many people therefore there is a well-trodden path and process to follow. At the beginning, it may seem that this is largely hidden from view, but you must find a way to understand it as your decisions will impact your project every step of the way.

Finding out who to speak to, let alone knowing what are the right questions to ask, needs careful navigation of the industry which to make matters worse has its own technical jargon. Stay open, be willing to learn and you will be fine. There are solutions for pretty much everything even though you may have to pay more to find the right ones. Knowledge is power so take your time finding out the answers. You will gain understanding through experience and confidence through performance.

2. Be prepared for change and human error

Your original vision of your dream home may need tweaking along the way but patience and determination will drive your unique project. It’s important to remain flexible and open-minded. Your project will be passed around many experts including local politicians, planners and contractors. Each will have their own interpretation of the project and have something to say about the drawings, words, calculations and figures provided. Conditions will be added and amendments will be made to the plans. Builders will attempt to match the drawings and turn your dream into a reality but remember that successfully putting together thousands of parts, from hundreds of suppliers on time and to the right standards can be a challenge as well as responding to any changes and decisions clients make along the way.

3. Remember, you have the power

From the start, be clear on what is expected, communicate well and monitor regularly. Remember your response an attitude to situations can affect everything and everyone involved. You hold the power so make sure you use it wisely and ensure your decisions are good ones. Developing trust and fostering good working relations has a huge effect on getting things done, done well and on time

4. What makes a good design?

Think about your outcome. How do you want your build to impact on your lifestyle? What is your budget? Consider your plot? Your designer will design a house to meet your requirement taking into consideration your lifestyle, plot and budget as well as account for any planning requirements. Remember, your local authority will input into the suitability of your project which can trigger of the pre-application process where negotiations can impact on your design.

5. How much will it cost?

Rather than thinking ‘How much will it cost’ think ‘How much can you afford?’. Being open about your budget from the start can prevent problems further down the line. Be realistic about what can be achieved within your budget. Your architect will then be able to design something to meet needs as closely as possible (finances permitting) and within your build budget. Going to tender controls the price. Selected builders receive a pack of drawings, engineering calculations and a schedule of work and specification. When bidding for work, their quote is binding. This will determine the price. Remember to interview them to ensure the best possible fit.

Remember the budget you set aside for the total project not only covers building costs, but funds the project from the initial design stage, through to planning, building, finishing, landscaping up to wherever you choose to stop. If you vary the contract by changing the details, you will vary the cost too. Quality impacts on cost – you must determine the quality you want. Risks can impact on costs. The higher perceived risk to a build the more the contractor is likely to charge you.

6. How long will it take?

If you don’t have a plot with planning permission you are, at minimum, 15 months away from putting a shovel to the ground.

Assuming a clear run, allow three months to buy a plot and nine months to design, prepare and submit a full planning application. Local authorities are required to process in eight weeks but it can take up to 13. Once approval has been gained, conditions must be discharged and then you have up to three years to start. You can visit your local planning portal of your local authority to find out what number and percentage of applications have been approved, refused and went to appeal within the time frame for processing applications.

Remember there is a wealth of advice out there to help you with your self-build project. With over 20 years’ experience helping self-builders achieve their dream homes, the team at Welsh Oak Frame would be delighted to assist with any questions you may have. Give us a call on 01686 688 000 or drop us an email at