Build it yourself

Pinsters have been very useful in arming me with cogent arguments against buying in this ridiculously sticky downward moving market. Inevitably this has resurfaced the old lets do it ourselves argument, given that in-laws are retired farmers only about 10m from my workplace. I suppose my question is relative to the price of properties already on the market, how would we measure up having built a house say over the next 18m. Or put another way are the input costs of building a house likely to fall as quickly over the next 10 years as the price of second hand houses? Any other clever reasons not to do this appreciated.

Construction costs have already hit as low as they can.
Labour costs might go down a bit, (they’ve already gone effectively as low as they can and are now stuck at the minimum allowed under the various labour agreements and min. wage regulations).
Materials can only go up (and are going up) - due to inflation external to the country.
Depending on how you construct the building it may or may not be cheaper to buy 2nd hand (in the same way as buying a 2nd hand car is cheaper than the sum of the materials and labour that went into it).

With a free site, and depending on what local demand is, it is possible to build cheaper than to buy something.

if you build it correctly then no secondhand house on the market can compare to it in terms of energy efficiency…having looked at hundreds of houses over the last few years I am convinced its what I will be doing if I decide to stay in Ireland.
construction prices are at a level now that I would be happy, from 65 to 90 per sq foot, depending on level of quality.

plus, nothing nicer than designing it yourself.

For anyone who does decide to selfbuild, don’t make the classic mistake of building it as big as the budget will allow, building it is one thing, heating and maintaining it is another!

If as many are predicting, we will have less to spend in the future, having an expensive to run house will be a real millstone, with or without a mortgage on top.

Kind of True but most Irish houses are rather dismal pokey affairs with about as much sense as a 2 year old having been to the Liam Carroll Desing Playschool could muster. Useless generally. It’s no wonder that people tend to over-react.

Here however are some of my own guides in regard to space and size when it comes to designing a house.

  1. Number of Bedrooms. Even if you are living on your own then you will probably need an extra bedroom or it’s good idea if you have a guest coming over. One could always be parked into the living room but really the basic rule is always add one bedroom to the number of occupants. So that means that even if you have a couple living in a house on their own then they should have a minimum of 3 bedrooms being available to them.

  2. Size of bedrooms. A ‘box’ room is really not suitable for very much of comfortable living in my humble opinion. I’ve been putting up with a lot of small rooms during my 21 years of renting but no more. Once you see what really is a good idea then you get a feel for things.
    Firstly if you have a King Size bed (all the better to sleep in my dear) then you are looking at 2m x 2m occupied space. To be able to get aroung the bed comfortably then you need another 1m on 3 of the sides (supposing that one of the ends (say the headboard)) goes against the wall. That brings us to 4m x 3m required. Next you need a space for entry, walkway and for say some basic bedroom furniture, e.g. chest of drawers, buillt in wardrobe, chair, vanity or desk - All in that in my humble opinion brings you up to 4m x 4m. My recommendation is not to design a bedroom of lesser dimension than 4m x 4m and ideally have it somewhat larger.

  3. Whether to go en-suite or not?
    Definitely. And don’t make it a pokey en-suite either. You want space for a bath with shower or shower or if feeling extravagant bath and shower. Overall you are now looking at 2.5m x 4m probably for the en-suite.

  4. Reduce your heating costs by going to the limit on insulation.

  5. Building a house is a major investment. Test your design by drawing it on a beach and seeing just how if works. Function First!

Good advice there wii.

I reckon en-suites are over-rated. Not for you in your master bedroom, but for the other rooms in the house. I reckon a full bathroom between 2 rooms for the others. You also have to consider keeping them clean…

In terms of finish, you can always build to shell the future expansion bits (e.g. children’s bedroom). Make sure they can be ‘switched off’ (heating for example) even if that means insulating an internal wall or two. Then there is the current ability to build an extension (up to 40m2) without planning - leave a wall/window/access point to this in your design so you can bolt on an addition if you need it - again think about heating water piping etc. so you don’t have to resize a boiler or move any pipes.

A small builder subbing work out to other self-employed may not be tied to REA rates. Likewise if you do self build. You’ll need to know a few people to get recommendations from, though, if you go down this route. And you’ll still have your heart broken by half of them.

Very cute…Are you from Cavan?


Well if you hire your workforce from over the border, then you don’t have to worry about that, do you ?

Or you can discuss terms with the Polish, Latvian, etc guys who’ve been doing most of the actual labour for the last 10 years, & make your deal with them directly & then its none of the unions business what you pay them, as long as they pay their taxes & carry their own insurance.

Planning by laws and regulations must be a hell of a lot different in whatever part of the country your in Scruffy. My cousin in County Kerry completed a self within the last 3 years. She initially her heart set on a bungalow before she got to the planning stage. Architect advised her she would not getting planning for this (going against the grain of other housing on the road, none of which were too near my cousins site I might add) and she went for dormer style application. Even the architects plans were rejected a number of times by Kerry CoCo. As you might imagine the finished product ended up being dramatically different to what she had in her head day one. Things re even tougher here regarding planning in County Limerick at the moment. If you are talking about the interior of the house well thats a different matter but remember you can always buy a house with a builders finish too.

That is not planning that is prohibition.

sorry, I meant the internal layout.

haven’t seen any builders finish options available in Cork (western suburbs) where I am currently looking.

I’d seriously question many peoples irrational and almost unhealthy obsession with going down the self build route. I do believe the more often than not a one off self build will end up costing more than buying a second hand house in the same area. I am in a position where I would like to buy within the next few years. I would buy now for that matter if the right house at the right price presented itself to me, hence have viewed a number of houses in the past while. I am in a position where I could acquire a site for a one of build for a very nominal consideration or more than likely for nothing if it really came to it. Hence I I have explored the potential costs of a self build also. I downloaded a spreadsheet from the planning and constrcution forum on from a guy who documented his self-build. I actually thought his costs were staggering. His design and planning costs alone were over €12,000 but these could potentially be much higher. Looking down through the spreadsheet I see where he could potentially have made savings and he acknowledges such himself but I suppose hindsight is a great thing. I have looked at others self build costs on the same forum and to be fair there is a somewhat of a correlation there. The one thing I see time and time again is that actual costs can spiral out of control for one of self builds and often bear little relevance to budgeted costs.

Another aspect is that you can see the finished house when buying a house thats already built, make your offer subject to an engineers report and what not, you don’t have this level of peace of mind with a self build. I have a relation who completed a self build some 6-7 years back. A number of issues have come to light since. For example, black marks seemingly caused by damp in a bedroom at the back of the house. She went for the corner stone designs at the corners of the house which are crumbling away now…not a biggy I know these are only style and not structural but it would at least raise other questions in your mind regarding the structural aspects of the build. Worse still she recommended the builders to others when her build was in progress, one couple that acted upon her advise. She is sort of kicking herself about that.

I was talking to a neighbour in the pub a few weeks back who has had his planning rejected a number of times and at that point it seemed as if he was totally up against a brick wall. Seemingly Limerick CoCo were insisting he installed some special septic tank and have the house further back from the road so hence a much longer driveway. He explained the technicalities of this special septic tank to me, most of which went in one ear and out the other as I had a few drinks on me at that stage. To cut to the chase it seems that this fantastic septic tank and longer drive is going to cost him €200k extra, mad and all as that sounds. Reading between the lines it would seem to me that the CoCo are just fobbing him off more than anything as they don’t want to grant him the planning permission. I told him that had looked at a number of houses in the €200-€250k asking price bracket in the last while He gave me the distinct impression that he thought I was a bit silly. He told me you should be able to get an absolute mansion around here for €250k and went on to tell me I should consider the self build alternative more strongly. Now hes a thoroughly nice chap but he seems to have his wires totally crossed if you ask me.

May or may not help you.
I did extensive research into the Berlin market some years back.
After the wall came down, they built Berlin with the expectation it would become the new German capital city. It did just that, but the expected increase in population didn’t materialise.
It was a city of c€3m and they built it to accomodate a population of double that.
Unfortunately, the current population is c3.2m with the result that there remains a massive over-supply of property (amongst many other things).

Consequently, in many areas of Berlin, the price at which property sells is below that of build-costs.
This has been the case for well over a decade.

To people who say it will never happen in Ireland, well if it happened (and continues to persist) in the German capital, it can happen here.

But also the question arises as to ‘why build if it’s cheaper to buy existing property ?’.

As far as I can tell, the answer is the rental market.
Rents in Berlin are strictly governed.
New, better equipped properties are allowed to rent for 20% higher than existing buildings.
So new properties are invaribly built purely for the rental market.

Just my 2c.

mr. anderson I believe that in many cases we have already passed that point here. Despite everything the asking prices for many sites still seem totally out of whack. Granted though some are more realistic than others. I think many fail to fully appreciate or anticipate the cost of one off builds.

As I put in other self-build threads both here and on AAM, the cost of doing a self-build was traditionally more than you could expect to get back in the sale (if you take the cost of land into account). How could it not be when you are buying new stuff (floors, doors, windows, etc. and selling old stuff). Value for money, though, is not necessarily related to how much something costs.

I agree that in the boom lots of people were presumed to be self-building, but in reality getting a building to build a standard design from a book. This was cheaper than buying an equivalent house second-hand, but kind of defeated the point of a self-build. In the first place, you do it because you don’t want a standard house - you want one designed to your desires. In the second place, you don’t get a builder to do the whole thing for you, otherwise you end up with a load of extra costs. You’re supposed to do some of the work yourself…

I’d aim for the build it yourself option unless you can get a very well built second hand around.

The quality of housing in Ireland is diabolical, especially the older one-offs, designed by draftsmen, full of wasted space and architectural clashes, built with cheap materials and orientated towards the road rather than the south, always.

I’d be inclined to build a 200 m2 house, properly designed and with a view to meeting passive standards. You may not meet them, but you will benefit nonetheless. Most McMansions have oceans of wasted space, double height ceilings, poorly built envelope, terrible insulation, built on the brow of a hill, etc. These things swallow energy.

I reckon €1000/m2 should be your target and you will meet it comfortably.

Secondly, see could you find a site on the land that actually takes the house off the road a little.

Do you need tarmacadam and an acre of lawn? Could you use existing field boundaries to form 2 sides of the enclosure?

Have a read of the cork county council one off housing guide.

I don’t want to build myself. I don’t want the hassle, unpredictability and inevitable cost overruns. But the quality of most houses I’ve seen (and thd insane asking prices) is such that a custom build begins to look like the sane option.

That’s the problem sure.

The places you are looking at will cost 3k a year to heat and will not age well.

Pay a builder to build it. A proper one. Buy a kitchen in Ikea. No hassle, no over-runs.

You are overestimating the hassle. Just be prepared to pay fees to professionals to handle all that. These fees are miniscule in comparison to the froth in the price of shite 2nd hand houses.

Build a large house, 200m2, but still 2/3rds the size of a typical mcmansion and build to a high standard. Just be cute about it.

The only drawback, and it’s a massive one, is location.

Self build doesn’t have to be in the countryside. You may not find them in Dublin, but most towns have estates where the developer has sold off individual plots to small commercial builders and self-builders.

I fully acknowledge and appreciate your point and it is a good valid one. Value certainly bears no relevance whatsoever to cost. But then again at the end of the day you do need to ask yourself how much extra value there is in a specific one of self build you are about to complete versus buying a similar already built house in the nearby area…at that point cost certainly does enter the equation if you ask me. For example in the previous scenario I outlined how much extra value would you place on having to shell out close to €200k on a special septic tank and extra long drive way so that you can get planning permission for your own self build. I doubt if its off that much extra value to the very most of people before they break any ground. Thats an extreme example but I would suggest that the same logic should follow through in all cases…how much extra value do you attach to a self build?

The definition of a self build has become a bit wishy washy alright. The older school of thought would probably pertain to a self build invlolving you physically digging the foundation, laying the blockwork and roofing yourself, at least the basic shell of the house anyway or the bulk of it anyway. More recently a self build has generally become a phrase used when the end owner involves themselves in any of the aspects associated with the building of the house while managing a self build would suggest having an even higher level of involvement perhaps.