Building a low cost home: What you need to know

Building your own home is like everything else: you want it to be as good value as possible. So how do you achieve that?

Be frugal

Keeping your costs down needs to be part of your mindset from day one. That means you have to think about the things you’re prepared to compromise on – such as living in a less desirable location, for example. Mike Hardwick, general manager at the National Custom and Self Build Association, writing on www.self-build.co.uk, advised: “Consider building off the beaten track. For instance, maybe avoid main commuter routes or idyllic villages.”

Be realistic

You can only budget properly if you know what your budget is. As well as the land and the cost of building the house, you will also have to cover fees (legal fees, site surveys, planning permission), insurance, and self-build warranties (protecting you against major design and construction faults). You will also need a contingency budget of 15 to 20 per cent.

Once you know how much money you have, you can use build cost calculators to work out the size of house you can afford to build. Hardwick advises sticking to this even if it means compromising on space, rather than attempting to stretch your budget beyond its capacity. “It may be smaller than you wanted, but you will have a fighting chance of actually building your new home without running out of money before it is finished,” he states.

Be organised

Record expenditure as you go along and file all your invoices, delivery notes and receipts together. You will need these to reclaim the VAT on the building materials.

Keep it simple

Good design doesn’t mean complicated design. “The simplest design is a four-sided box with a two-sided pitched roof. If you think that sounds boring, look at any traditional rectory-style design; the result can be stunning if done right,” Hardwick said. Features like dormer windows, architectural glass (glass used as a design feature) and curves will all add to the cost. Stick to standard sizes as much as you can, as this will be cheaper than bespoke fittings. Insulate your home well, as this will save you money on your energy bills forever.

Shop around

Look for discounted or second-hand fixtures and fittings – you can save a lot by buying end-of-line or ex-display kitchens, bathrooms and furniture. Don’t be afraid to bargain with sellers, especially if you are buying a lot from them.

Take charge

As well as designing your home, your architect can usually oversee the construction process too, managing the project for you from start to finish. This is a huge job off your hands, both in terms of time and stress, and means you have an expert in charge who can make sure everything is done properly. However, doing it yourself will be cheaper, so if you want to take the job on it’s worth some thought.


Bluelime Home Design architects has been designing homes across DartfordBromleyErithBexley and Croydon for 13 years – so we have a fair few tips and tricks to help you build a lovely home that’s also great value. Call us on 01322 517632 to chat about the architectural services we offer or to arrange a free architect consultation.

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