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Self-build case study: How one family built their own dream home

by: Anita Arch, head of mortgage sales at Saffron Building Society
  • 03/05/2019
  • 0
Self-build case study: How one family built their own dream home
One of the most satisfying aspects of what we do is helping people fulfil their home ownership ambitions.


Mortgage advisers come into contact with people every day with a big plan or a desire to alter the direction of their lives through the purchase of their home.

This is how Matthew and Sarah Switzer, and their two children aged three and five, built their own home in an Essex village.

Originally, their plan was to move to a larger house in the village to provide a garden for their children to play in.

However, the price of properties with the space they wanted was out of reach, which presented a dilemma. Should they move away from their home village or review their expectations?


An alternative approach

The couple knew of some land that they believed would be an ideal location to build on. They approached the land owner and described their plan to see if they could purchase a plot.

Matthew explains: “We wanted to see if the land owner would release a plot for two houses – for us and some friends.

“There was no planning consent at the time so we wanted an agreement which gave us the option to buy only if any consent obtained provided exactly what we were looking for. Before we went ahead we wanted a legally binding agreement.

“Thankfully, the land owner agreed so we prepared an application and submitted the plans.”

The application was approved.


A new start

The couple then set about trying to plan and finance the project.

The first step was trying to secure finance which they did through one of our self-build products.

Sarah was responsible for the project costings.

“Self-build mortgages are different from normal ones as you have to plan in stages and draw down the money at specific points,” she said.

“It can be stressful because before funds are released there is a lot of information to provide, such as the costings of the plan, drawings and building regulation approval.”

She added that Saffron allowed the couple to draw-down funds as required to suit their project once they had the underwriter’s approval.

“Some lenders won’t release funds until certain stages are complete. The flexibility made it easier on the cash flow during the construction phase,” she continued.

“The process for payments can take seven days so the details really matter. The timing of the payments is critical, as you can’t afford to have the building stop with no money to pay for the next stage.”


Project management

Matthew took on the role of project manager of the build to save money and noted that working shifts was helpful as he was able to spend a lot of time on site.

“I’ve been able to speak with the builders and tradesmen to make decisions, and if I hadn’t been there they would have had to make those decisions themselves,” he said.

“That’s been critical to getting exactly what we wanted rather than leaving anything to chance. I have been surprised by the number of decisions I’ve had to take each day.”

The project started in April 2017 with the planning taking around seven months.

Groundwork began the following November with the Switzer family moving into their new home last Summer. Has it been worth it?

“It’s been tough and there have obviously been some stressful moments. It’s a timber framed house and the frame went up in ten days,” Sarah said.

“We were so excited as our dream became a reality and we could see how close we were to the end. I’d recommend it to anyone, but being prepared and having the right people to work with have been so important.”


Here are the family’s top tips for how to build your own home.

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