10 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a New Home

Coronavirus update

Scenario Architecture is open for business and running at full capacity.

  • Work is progressing safely on all existing projects and additionally, we are in a position to take on a limited number of new projects.
  • By working remotely we are able to coordinate and deliver all required information, effectively run virtual design meetings and even carry out site inspections.
  • We encourage clients to progress towards submission of planning applications to avoid the backlogs which are building up in local councils.
  • With every crisis comes an opportunity, contractors are keen to secure new projects and it is probably the best time in years to tender building works and achieve competitive prices.
  • We ourselves have decided to proceed with our pre-corona plans to move a few doors down to a larger and newly designed space where we can continue to grow sustainably.

As exciting as it is to raise the funds and get permission to build a house, the process can also be tricky and anxiety-inducing. It is a complicated endeavour – the stakes are high, there are lots of people involved, and quite frankly, there are quite a few things that can go wrong.

However, there are a number of key mistakes that self-builders tend to make over and over again. And with the right planning and research, it is possible to avoid these pitfalls and make the whole process easier for yourself.

So if you’re looking for ideas, check out the list below for 10 mistakes to avoid when building a new home. You certainly won’t regret doing the research!

1. Don’t Make Assumptions About Planning Permission

Just because someone has permission for a similar build in your area, does not mean your project will get the green light automatically. Planning permission is based on unique circumstances that can differ wildly, even in seemingly similar projects.

Smaller details like the planning history of the property, the policies prevailing at the time of any application, and the attributes of the site and its immediate surroundings can be unpredictable and will affect the decision. So don’t make any assumptions, and seek professional advice before making any investments.

2. TMI in Your Application

The key to a good planning application is: simplicity.

There is nothing to be gained from giving any more information than strictly necessary. And in fact, too much detailed information just gives opportunity for the planning committee to find fault.

This isn’t a pitch to sell the home to a future buyer, so don’t go overboard. It is simply information to help the reader understand the project. Be succinct. Your clarity will make it easier for planners to say “yes!”.

3. Not Designing To Purpose

It’s easy to get over excited and start planning your home before you’ve found the site it will be built on. But it’s very difficult to get plans right without knowing shape, character and surroundings of plot.

And if the plans aren’t right, you will find it more difficult to secure planning permission and may stumble across significant problems later down the line.

4. Underplaying Green Features

A project’s “sustainability” – including features like high insulation, renewable energy, and rainwater harvesting – is very important in modern planning permission in all areas. So neglecting to give this area of your application real focus is a mistake.

It is certainly more difficult to gain permission to build a new home in the countryside, unless the development promises genuinely innovative, eco-building solutions. If this is the tact you intend to take, set the bar high – it’s not enough to suggest a few solar panels.

5. Changing Your Mind

Once your plans have been approved for permission, it is harder to change your mind and make changes than many people think. You will need formal consent to edit the scheme or you may find yourself without legal permission, something that can cause major problems in the future.

So make sure your plans are clear, thorough, and approved by everyone involved before getting started. If (or more likely – when) something crops up that requires a rethink, try and find a practical solution, and go through the proper channels.

6. Neglecting Local Politics

The local community, neighbours and council members can all have an effect on the success of your planning permission.

In some areas, this might not be a problem. But generally speaking, it’s a very good idea to connect and communicate with the people in your area, and develop an understanding of the local politics at play.

Because in some cases, concerned neighbours can mean objections and ultimately a failed application, whilst strong local support can really help push something through. And hey, there are no down sides to this – you want your home to fit comfortably into the community, and that means having a good relationship with the people who share it.

7. Relying on Your Planning Officer

Again, it depends on your unique situation. But generally speaking, you can not rely on your planning officer to provide advice or help in any way to get your planning permission approved.

Their job, technically, is just process the application. Any assistance they give above and beyond this is a lucky break for you – not an obligation on their part. Don’t push your luck – look for your advice elsewhere.

8. Trusting Traders For Specialist Advice

Similarly, your builders might have some useful thoughts on plots and planning but this is not their professional remit. By all means ask for their opinion, but you can’t necessarily trust in this advice.

There is a reason planning consultants exist. They are best placed to give accurate, reliable and up-to-date advice on everything you need to know. So employ a professional – it’ll save you a lot of wasted time and money.

9. Bad Budgeting

This is the classic. It is astonishing how much more your project is likely to cost that you think it will. Aside from applications, surveys, assessments, professional advice, problem-solving expenses and hidden costs, it can even be difficult to estimate construction costs accurately.

But realistic budgeting is the cornerstone of your self-build’s success. This not only helps to protect you and your team. Being over-budget in the early stages looks bad to everyone, so budgeting accurately will help the whole project run smoother throughout.

10. Underestimating Time

And last but not least, something that tends to come hand-in-hand with poor budgeting: underestimating the time it will take to plot, plan, deal with issues and get permission.

On paper, the planning process looks like it could take a couple of months. This is the very best scenario and is in fact very rare.

More likely than not, the various stages of planning, pitching, applying and dealing with blips or issues will take as much as six months or more.

So plan your schedule appropriately and be patient. Much better to get everything right and running on time than rush the process, make mistakes and keep people waiting!

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