When it comes to building a house, amongst the myriad things we need to think about there is one thing that stands out as being The Most Important. One thing that influences all decisions, all options, all outcomes.
What one single thing could be so universally vital? We know we want it to be low carbon – that is Very Important. We know we want it to be well insulated, and practical. These are also Very Important Things.
So what is it that exceeds all of these things? Well, that one thing, that crucial piece of our jigsaw, is the thing we get asked most often. The overall cost, and how that translates to the finished product you have in mind.
It’s chicken and egg, you see. You can’t set your expectations without knowing what your vision will cost. And you can’t know what you can get for your money without knowing what that money can buy. Either starting point is a non-starter. We hear you. Read on to find out how to get to your ballpark.
Before we get started, we’ve got some myth busting to do!
The internet is full of examples of some amazing eco-house that was built for £6000. And while I applaud the hard work and ingenuity that goes into these projects, I find them to be disingenuous and misleading. They may well have only spent £6000 on the materials that weren’t gifted or found, or reclaimed. But that cost does not include:
Land (varies hugely – often hundreds of thousands of pounds)
Professional Services (you will almost certainly need help with something unless you’re an architect, professional builder, lawyer AND surveyor)
Time (the most often overlooked…)
Time is our most precious resource, when it’s gone, it’s gone. We can’t buy more of it. If we measure our time using a familiar metric then we can apply an hourly rate to those builds, and by doing so you can see that they are just as expensive as any other house, maybe even more costly because of how long it takes.
Often those projects take many years just to build, let alone the years before spent foraging for materials and stockpiling them, and then processing them ready to use.
That all adds up. Five years of someone’s time is conservatively worth £120k, and for the size and finish of many of these houses that is expensive.
Now that’s not to say it’s not worth doing, perhaps this is how you choose to spend your time, in which case I genuinely can’t fault you at all! My issue lies with spreading false hope. If I was starting my journey and got shown amazing pictures of a lovely ecohouse with a six grand price tag, I’d bite your hand off!
And then my mum would have come round and told you off.
So, now I’ve got that out of my system, what’s a realistic way to look at it? Well, remember this triangle…..
Typical indeed! Those who have been following us for a while will know what the answer is. It’s Hartwyn’s answer to a lot things:
Or, equally commonly….
“How long is a piece of string?”
So how long is it? Well, read on to find out. No more suspense. When you wake up one crazy morning and think to yourself ‘I’m going to build my own home’. When that happens to you, these are the numbers you need:
That’s an important question and will affect the price tag a lot. We’ve pulled on our experience below and given some broad numbers. Lots of our clients want to be involved in their own builds to a certain extent. Some lots, some only a little.
Being involved will save you money, but remember the triangle….
Anyway, here are the ballparks you’ve been waiting for:
|Who is going to build it?||What will it cost?|
|You! You are super handy and have lots of time and not much budget, so you’re pretty much going to build the whole thing yourself.||£600 per m2 up|
|You’re going to be involved, but you’re going to use a Principle contractor and some subbies for the bulk of it.||£1200 per m2 up|
|Someone else will run the entire project and hand you the keys at the end||£2500 per m2 up|
So I suppose the question is less ‘how long is your piece of string’ and more ‘how long does it need to be?’
So, what do we know?
That depending on who builds it and how long it takes it costs a vaguely predictable amount per meter squared. That’s a good start. We can use that in two directions.
1) If you have a total budget then you can reverse engineer that to give you the achievable floor area:
|Total budget available||Cost per m2||Total achievable floor area|
Or 2) if you have a design in mind you can add up the area and it will tell you how much money you need:
|Total desired floor area||Cost per m2||Total budget required|
So that’s all very well and good, but what does that mean in real terms?
|Type of house||Typical size||Typical cost to build @ £1500/m2|
The missing link here is, of course, working out how much you can save in money (but probably lose in time) with what type and level of involvement.
As far as paying people to do things goes, let’s imagine that you employ a professional for £90 per hour. Let’s then imagine that they can do something in an hour that would take you 4 hours (this is totally realistic, by the way…)
So do you earn more than £22.50 per hour? And would you like the build completed in a quarter of the time?
Obviously it’s not that simple. But we can help you to work it out. Doing a cost plan and critical path early on in the build can be the best money you ever spend. What price would you put on 5 years of your life?
You should now be able to look at your piece of string with a newfound understanding, and hopefully it will stretch to fulfill your ambition!
As with everything, there is much more to all of this, where do you get land? What CAN you do for yourself and what are the implications?
Those are all considerations, however this is as good a place to start as anywhere and I really hope it’s helped you to gain a bit of clarity on your next steps.
If you would like to learn more I’d recommend our Budget Planner which can be found here:
If you wish to discuss anything you see in this article or if you feel that you’re ready to move to the next stage in your build journey, please reach out using the form below.