A Few Tips - for what they're worth

If you find a plot!

First a word about buying and then building on a plot. Before purchase introduce yourself to the immediate neighbours and anyone who may be directly affected by the build. Set out what you would like to do on the site and the location of the footprint. They will appreciate being involved and nobody likes change and even worse is speculating about what the change may be.

Furthermore, you may find there is someone that you would not want as a neighbour or at the very least it won't come as a nasty surprise later. Show them your final plans before applying for planning and seek their views. You may be able to make small changes that would forestall a formal objection. If you are really lucky you could find you have a neighbour like we did on our first build. For more see here at a point about halfway down the page.

The other tips are .........

1 Assume nothing - doubt everything to the point that you refer to a calendar to check Christmas Day is on Dec 25th!

2 Question everything - even yourself and your own judgement. We all have preconcieved ideas that just may not be correct!

3 Make sure you do actually understand everything fully - questions, questions, questions .. it's your money! We experienced a number of problems as a result of communication failures i.e. requesting things from the architect that were not included in the description - design, planning and building regs - how could anything not be encompassed within those terms? Well from bitter experience some things are excluded .... apparently!

In addition we asked the architect for advice on their structural engineers fee which seemed a bit high based on advice from those in the know. The reply was, "If you want to discuss it with him his number is ...........". We decided to rely on the architects advice so we didn't call the Engineer. However, what we weren't told for over 2 weeks was that the architects stopped work on our project awaiting the result of our discussions with the engineer! Clearly, our definition of "IF" was different to the architects!

4 You can never plan too early - try and start before the begining .... not sure how you do that, but try.

5 You can never plan in too much detail - imagine living in the place - when the build starts it will be decision after decision after decision, every switch and socket will need to be identified so start early.

6 You can never remember everything – make notes, keep cuttings – mark magazine pages of things you like and make sure you know where you put them.

7 Find a local architect and check his success rate with planning applications - a good one will not waste your time and (more importantly) your money with applications that stand absolutely no chance of success. He should give it to you straight.

8 Invest initially in the items you will never change i.e. the design, the build system, the bricks, the roof tiles, large areas of glazing. The other things you can improve later.

If you can, then spend money on quality fittings for your new home, particularly fittings like door handles, taps, floors etc. the things your skin comes into direct contact with. "Feel the quality" is a well known and well used expression and not without reason .... you will appreciate the quality every time you have contact with your door handles and taps. Nevertheless, do not ignore the budget. If "quality" with these smaller items has to come later ....... then so be it!

You do at least stand a chance of changing the lesslower value items when finances permit but that's not likely if you have used concrete tiles on the roof when you really wanted slate!

9 Start getting quotes for absolutely everything, heating system, eco features, roofing, flooring, kitchen, windows and doors, the lot, as early as possible - 12 to 18 months is fine. When you get the follow up email or phone call for an item or the tradesman you really want just say you would love to buy their product but you are on a tight budget and you just can't afford it. Finish up by apologising for wasting their time. That may just open up some movement on price but don't take the first reduction. You will have time on your side so you can use that to your advantage. If it turns out to be the final offer and you have been polite you can always go back to them later when, of course, you have managed to save a little cash elsewhere!

However, if you leave asking for quotes too late, so that, you actually need the product "tomorrow" then you stand no chance of a good price reduction.

10 Order the glazing as early as possible because it will always be late arriving on site. Except in our case, with typical Austrian efficiency the manufacturers, Internorm increased production prior to the summer shut down thus all our glazing arrived into the UK supplier 3 weeks early.

11 Make sure you get what you pay for - i.e. make them "prove" it is Pilkington K glass in your windows if that is what you specified.

12 Always over estimate cost by 25% except for getting utilities on site, in which case, over estimate by at least 500% - they have a licence to print money.

13 Do not under estimate the orientation of any new build on your site with particular regard to the light and the sun.

14 Look after your site workers. A bag of doughnuts and the odd expression of gratitude goes a long way.

more tips as we discover anything worth passing on .......

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