Self-build - Finance Your Dream Home

By: Benedict Rohan

Having your very own, custom-built dream home is a lot easier and cheaper than you might think. Although building your own property involves a great deal of planning and hard work, it's within the reach of most people, especially now that many mortgage lenders will lend on self-build properties.

It's generally much cheaper to build your own house than it is to buy one pre-built. The average cost of a self-build home is approximately £150,000. The return on investment can be much greater too - as soon as it's built you can expect an increase in value of 25-30% on what you paid to built it.

One of the major hurdles to overcome when considering a self-build project is obtaining the necessary finance. Some people opt to release equity from their existing mortgage, although this may not raise enough to fund the entire project - it depends on the value of the property against the current mortgage on it.

If this isn't a feasible option, another possibility is to take out a second mortgage. Many lenders offer specially tailored self-build mortgage products. If you go down this route, you'll need to decide what to do with your existing property. Work out whether you can afford to have two mortgages on the go during the build, to enable you to live in your current house until the new one is ready - or indeed whether there are any mortgage providers prepared to lend you a second mortgage. This can be a convenient way to finance the project, as it means you only have one house move, and mortgage repayments are often cheaper than renting.

If you can't afford two mortgages, the other options are to sell your current house and move into rented accommodation, stay with family or friends or even buy a mobile home or caravan to live on the building site. The latter may not be a suitable arrangement if you have a young family.

Self-build mortgages tend to have similar terms and conditions to conventional mortgages. You could have either repayment or interest only, and the interest rates available (fixed, capped, variable, etc) tend to be the same. The two main differences between self-build mortgages and conventional mortgages are that the maximum loan-to-value that will be provided is normally no more than 75% for self-build, as opposed to up to 95% or even 100% for a conventional domestic mortgage, and the funds are released in stages instead of all at once.

The way in which the funds are released depends on the provider. It's normally at key stages of the construction for example the laying of the foundations, when the building is wind and watertight, when the roof is complete, but some lenders release the funds upon completion of the stage, and others in advance. The issue with the former, arrears stage payments, is that the money is not available to fund the construction in advance, so it can cause cash flow problems. Some lenders offer advance stage payments, though, which makes it much easier to keep the cash flowing as the project progresses. Whichever way the lender operates, they will almost certainly want to send a surveyor or valuer to check on the progress of the build before they release each payment.

Sometimes up to a third of the cost of a self-build property is the purchase of the land. There isn't much spare land in the UK so prices are at a premium, particularly in popular built-up areas. Some lenders will be prepared to lend for land purchase, others won't, or will provide it as a separate loan, so be sure to check this out when doing your research.

Most lenders will want to see the architect's drawings and planning permission before agreeing to lend you any money, as well as a schedule of works - some lenders will put a time limit on the build, often one year.

As well as being a cheaper way to buy a house, self-build has other financial advantages. The cost of building a new home is zero-rated for VAT purposes. You also won't be subject to capital gains tax on the capital you make from selling the property, and there's tax relief for financing the new build while remaining in the existing home. Many self-build projects are also exempt from stamp duty as this applies only to the purchase of the land - unless the land price is over £60,000.

If you're able to arrange funding to build your own home and are confident that you have the management skills to keep on top of the building work as it progresses, then self-build could be the ideal way for you to get the home of your dreams without it costing an arm and a leg.

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