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. Ideally take plans / impressions of the finished product. They will appreciate being involved and nobody likes change and even worse speculating about what the change may be. It is easier to "negotiate" at this stage and you may be able to make small changes that would forestall a formal objection later when you reach the planning stage. 

On the other hand, you may find the neighbour is someone that you would not want living next door, or at the very least, it won't come as a nasty surprise later.   If you are really lucky you could find you have a neighbour like we did on our first build. 

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

1 Assume nothing (you know the saying) - 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 preconceived ideas that just may not be correct!


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.

4 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. Just one example is that we expecting various services from the architect that we later discovered were not included in the £11,000  agreed price. Such as construction specification for the non-standard roof, the building regs application to identify only two, so, from bitter experience make sure you know just what services are included within the price.
In addition we asked the architect for advice on the 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 had stopped work on our project awaiting the result of our discussions with the engineer! Clearly, our definition of "IF" was different to the architects!

5 You can never plan too early - try and start before the beginning .... not sure how you do that, but try. Similarly, 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 Invest your money wisely by incorporating your first choice of product, and most definitely in relation to items you will never change i.e. the design, the build system, the bricks, the roof tiles, large areas of glazing. They are expensive and you will regret not investing in what you want. Less expensive items that don't involve great cost and weeks of labour you can improve / change 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 lower value items when finances permit but that's not likely if you have used concrete tiles on the roof when you really wanted slate!

8 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. Make your choices with your chosen suppliers then leave it! When you get the follow up email or phone call for an item or a tradesman you really want just say you really want and would love to buy (whatever) it is an excellent product (service) but ..... you are on a tight budget and you honestly just can't afford it. Finish up by apologising for wasting their time and say "would it be OK, if anything changes, for me to get back to them?" That may just open up some movement on price but don't take the first reduction. Similarly, you have now "left the door open" and they know you would buy if you could. In addition, and most importantly, 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 later when, of course, you have managed to save a little cash elsewhere!
However, if you leave securing quotes too late, so that, you actually need the product "tomorrow" then you stand no chance of a good price reduction for obvious reasons. We spent nearly 19 months negotiating over the vast amount of Internorm tripple glazing that we really wanted  - and succeeded in reaching an excellent deal. 

9 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.

10 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.

11 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.

12 Do not under estimate the orientation of your new build on your site with particular regard to the light and the sun. We did on our first build - it is important!

13 Look after your site workers. A bag of doughnuts and tea regularly with the odd expression of gratitude goes a long way.

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

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