Back to all articles

A step by step guide for self-builders looking to create their dream home

Considering self-build as an option to create your dream home? Embarking on a self-build journey can be incredibly daunting, particularly since you are creating and designing a property from scratch. For many people this prospect is overwhelming, as they are not familiar with the process and often don’t know where to start.

You may also be interested in:

A step by step guide for self-builders looking to create their dream home

Considering self-build as an option to create your dream home? Embarking on a self-build journey can be incredibly daunting, particularly since you are creating and designing a property from scratch. For many people, this prospect is overwhelming, as they are not familiar with the process and often don’t know where to start.

To help you on your journey, ASPC CEO Lorna Coutts breaks down step by step the self-build process…

Set a budget

Before you begin transforming your dream into a reality, it is essential that you determine a realistic budget. This can either be done by yourself - courtesy of your own funding - or with the help of a self-build mortgage advisor who will present you with all your options.

The three main costs to consider when budgeting is land, whether there are existing services and building costs. Researching the cost of land is a good place to start, in order to give you a general idea of plot pricing in specific areas. This can be done online, through local estate agencies, or using tools such as our ASPC search function.

You should always factor in contingency when budgeting, as this money may be needed to cover unexpected costs or unpredictable delays or events. Typically, this would be between 5-10% of your overall budget.

Find the perfect plot

When deciding on your perfect place to build, it is important to go into the search with an open mind. Going into the process with a specific house design already agreed could lead to a missed opportunity, like positioning your house to maximise sunshine or to enjoy beautiful views.

Pricing on plots may vary depending on a number of factors such as the desirability of its location, planning permission or whether services have been directed to the plot. These are all elements that you should consider during your search.

Appoint a solicitor

Once you have picked your ideal plot, although you may still be some time away from completing the purchase, you will need to appoint a solicitor.  Local solicitors will know the area and their local knowledge can prove helpful in determining if a particular location is suitable.  They may know of proposed developments that might turn out to be detrimental to the area, or other factors that could help you decide if a plot is right for you.

Finding the right solicitor can be a timely process and may seem a bit daunting, especially if you’re inexperienced or unsure of the process that you’re away to embark on. Taking some time to research and selecting the right solicitor can pay off in the long run.

Search for a designer

Whether you decide to go with a package supplier, architect or house designer, it is important to make sure you choose someone who understands your vision and that you will enjoy working with.

Drawing up a list of requirements for your new home is a good starting point and will give both yourself and the designer a clearer vision of what features you would like included in your home, helping them to visualise and create better results.

It’s worth noting that the level of expertise and detail that these experts hold comes at a price, and sometimes the cheapest quote will not work out the most cost-effective in the long run.

Get in contact with the planners

Often, in consultation with your designer, a good place to start is to submit a pre-planning application enquiry to the local authority.  There is no planning application fee for this and the council will provide feedback, meaning you will have a better feel for what will be accepted when you do submit a planning application.  Taking the time to speak to the planners first, or appointing a planning consultant can avoid any unexpected headaches and increase your chances of having your application approved first time round.

Thereafter, the next step in the planning process is to prepare drawing plans which will be submitted to local planning authorities alongside a planning application. 

Once the local authority receives your documentation, they will have approximately two months to determine the application.  The planning case officer may request changes to the design in order for them to support the application for approval.  If you are unsuccessful then you have the ability to appeal or resubmit your application with a different design.

Planning consultants help you tackle any obstacles that may appear throughout the planning process and can use their experience to advise on any challenges that you could face.

If you want to check the cost of a planning application then fee calculator is a useful tool.

Get a building warrant

If you are successful in securing planning approval, your architect or house designer can prepare warrant drawings and a detailed specification, which will be checked against building standards.

In order to obtain a building warrant, you will have to appoint a structural engineer, who will prepare any structural calculations, and a SAP assessor who will evaluate the energy and environmental performance of a building before providing a SAP calculation.

Gather quotes

Once your planning application has been approved, you can start gathering prices for materials. This stage can feel quite overwhelming as there are a lot of details to go over, the best idea is to break everything down into smaller, manageable sections and do remember that an architect can assist with the tender process, helping to ease the burden and allowing you to focus on internal fittings such as the kitchen and bathrooms.

There are many factors that can impact the pricing of your project including the type of materials used, design complexity and the route you take to complete the project. Turnkey projects may cost more than self-managed projects but will also be managed for you, and will have a shorter lead time.

Begin the build

Having successfully obtained a building warrant and appointed main contractors, you can now begin work on site. This is the time to create a programme and reach out to material suppliers to organise any delivery dates. The earlier you can notify your suppliers of products the better, as some may have longer lead times.

Ahead of starting any work (including groundworks), do ensure that you have appropriate self-build insurance in place.  This is a specialised product and it’s worth taking advice from a good local insurance broker to ensure that you are adequately protected.

Keeping on top of your paperwork is essential during this stage, as things can become disorganised and overwhelming very quickly.

Making a list of expected delivery dates and payments and keeping any relevant documents in a folder can help you to stay organised.

It is important to try and make all your payments on time to prevent any delays, however, if this is not possible then inform your builders and suppliers immediately.

Time to move in

Once your build is complete, there are a few small tasks to tick off before you are ready to move into your new home.

Applying for a completion certificate is the first step.  At this point, a building standards officer will visit your property to check that all the building work meets building standards and regulations, if they are satisfied then they will then issue you with a completion certificate.

Checking that you have the correct insurance for both your home and contents is also important to protect yourself from any accidents. You may also be able to transfer your self-build mortgage to a standard property mortgage which is something worth looking into.

At ASPC, we want to help both buyers, renters, and sellers across the North East. Our team has created a range of insightful blog posts and information pages that will inspire, inform and guide you.


+ View more comments

Join the conversation.

Please correct the following:
0 characters entered | 500 characters remaining
Your comment has been submitted. Once it has been approved it will appear on the website.
To help prevent spam comments, please click the above checkbox to confirm you are a genuine commenter. seems that we don't have the details we need from you to comment on posts, please can you add them below. These details will be saved to your myASPC account