Self-build Mortgages: What you need to know

Is 2019 the year you start planning or working on your dream, self-build home? Whether your ideal home is a modest build or something that wouldn’t look out of place on Grand Designs, working out how to fund your project is one of the first, crucial steps in the planning process.

Writing for What Mortgage, ESBS offers some practical advice on self-build mortgages.

The benefits of a self-build  

Aside from the satisfaction of creating a home exactly to your specification, there are a number of advantages of a self-build.

One of them is the possibility of saving thousands of pounds on Stamp Duty; you’re only required to pay the tax on the cost of the land itself if it exceeds £125,000 (or £300,000 for first-time buyers).

In many cases, a completed self-build property will also be more valuable than the overall cost of construction – sometimes by tens of thousands of pounds. So, it could make you serious profit if you ever decided to sell in the future.

Ensuring the project meets the criteria  

It’s likely your project will have to meet a rigid set of criteria for you to qualify for a self-build mortgage. For instance:

  • The property may need to be detached and used as your main residence as opposed to commercial use (including renting it to tenants).
  • The building may have to be constructed with conventional materials to make it more mortgageable during and after the build, which will also boost its valuation.
  • The property is likely to require a warranty or provision from a qualified architect or consultant.

You need to thoroughly check planning conditions, particularly as some granted permissions have an agricultural tie clause or Section 106 occupancy clause. The former is a restriction on the deeds of the land, which requires the buyer either works in agriculture or has done so previously. Section 106, on the other hand, is an occupancy clause applied by the local planning authority; an example is that the property can only be occupied by someone from the local area.

Clauses like these are likely to restrict the valuation and market, as well as the number of mortgage providers willing to assist.

Budgeting and cashflow  

When you apply for a self-build mortgage, the provider will ask you how much you expect the overall project to cost.

What’s important is that you’re able to afford living somewhere else while undertaking the project. Living on-site in a caravan or moving in with family can help to keep costs low and will motivate you to complete the build as quickly as possible. If you think it’ll help, you can pay your monthly mortgage on an interest-only basis until you move in.

In any case, you’ll need to access savings to part fund the self-build, so it’s crucial the money is accessible.

Essential paperwork  

Having all the necessary documentation ready when applying for a self-build mortgage is a must. Paperwork you’ll need includes:

  • Site map showing where the property will be built.
  • Floorplans showing the size and layout of the building.
  • Rundown of the associated costs.
  • Necessary, valid planning permissions.

Making an overall assessment

You’ll be required to have construction insurance in place during the actual build, then full property insurance upon completion and occupation.

As building works can often take a year or more, it can help to speak to an expert about your mortgage once your dream home is finished to see how it can be rearranged.

CASA Studio offers a full range of architectural services, from building surveys to feasibility studies, sketch scheme designs and much more – get in contact today.

Things to consider before purchasing a Barn for Conversion

Trelean Barns Conversion, St Erth Praze, Cornwall

Living in a barn conversion is a dream come true for many people. They are becoming an increasingly popular choice among homeowners, who crave properties which ooze character and harmoniously combine traditional and modern features.

Many barn conversions are purchased as empty shells. This means that while the outside retains authentic, rustic charm, inside you have free reign in terms of design. Rather than living in small, cramped spaces typically associated with older builds, you may be able to create the spacious, comfortable, modern home you’ve always wished for.

If you’ve decided to put your unique stamp on a barn and transform it into your dream home, there are many things you need to consider before settling on a deal. An article by Our Property outlines what some of these are:

How close is the barn to local amenities?

Living in the middle of nowhere may seem idyllic, but if you aren’t wholly self-sufficient, it can be impractical – and you don’t want to realise this a week after moving in. You ideally want to live somewhere within walking distance of, or a short drive to, local shops for your essentials, healthcare, and a school if you have younger children. Bear in mind that living way out in the sticks could also put off future buyers if you were to sell.

Is it hooked up to utilities?

Water, gas and electricity are essentials for any modern home. Some barns might already be hooked up to utilities, while others won’t – and depending on the location, sorting out these services could prove a costly endeavour.

Is the property listed?

Listed properties come with a lot of stringent building restrictions and in certain cases, will make it impossible for you to convert the barn for domestic use. Even if you manage to get planning permission, you’ll face tougher rules when it comes to what you can and cannot do, which often amounts to more time and higher costs. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go for it, but you have to manage expectations and accept the barn may end up different to what you initially envisioned.

Does it have Planning Permission?

If the barn has already been granted planning permission, it’s likely you’ll end up paying for the privilege. The advantage of this is that it could save you a lot of time and money in the application process. If it doesn’t have planning permission, don’t hand over any cash until an experienced architect has drawn up detailed plans for the conversion and talked them through with the planning officer.

Have you got a detailed costing?

Don’t commit to purchasing a barn conversion until you’ve got a thorough, detailed costing of the property, which is a must if you’re taking out a self-build mortgage anyway. You might find that you need to pay extra for things like protected species surveys, which could really eat into your budget.

A final note on money: you need to set a realistic budget which accounts for unforeseen costs – of which you’re likely to encounter a few during the project. With a cash reserve, you can be sure that any potential issues are resolved as efficiently as possible, so work can resume as normal.

Using an architect for your barn conversion will ensure you meet all the legal requirements and create your dream barn conversion. Get in contact with us today to find out more.


Green Home Building Ideas

Photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash

From our clothes to the energy powering our homes, there’s no denying that there’s a growing trend for sustainability. And more and more people are applying eco-friendly approaches when it comes to building their house.

There are numerous benefits to going green. First and foremost, it has a positive impact on the environment. As opposed to traditional building methods, eco houses use more environmentally friendly materials, meaning they have reduced carbon footprints during the build and after. Being more energy efficient also means you will be able to have lower fuel bills and a healthier living space.

What’s more, an eco-friendly home is incredibly attractive to house buyers wanting to reap the rewards without having to build their own house, so building yours with sustainability in mind could pay off if you were to sell it later down the line.

If you’re interested in building a green home, Grand Designs recommends considering the following:

The importance of the structure

You need to consider the structure of your building from the outset, and not just think about the fancy renewable technology you’ll add on at the end. A fabric-first approach to building your dream home will enable you to maximise the performance of the components and materials of external structures, resulting in a truly eco-friendly building.

Prefabricated systems provide a reliable method for achieving an airtight envelope for the building, with large components being meticulously made in a factory. Many of these modular systems have a timber core, but there are other options, each providing different benefits. Dense materials, such as concrete and brick, absorb and store heat during the day, and slowly release it at night to ensure your home stays a comfortable temperature. The best prefabricated builds can involve cladding a timber build with brick or blockwork, to ensure you reap the benefits of each building material.


Good insulation boosts the thermal efficiency of your house, reducing your energy usage (and bills), so is probably the most important element of a ‘green’ building. But the materials you use to insulate can also be eco-friendly.

Make sure you insulate your walls, roof and floors. Materials such as sheep’s wool, cellulose (recycled newspaper), or wood fibre can be reused, recycled and are fully biodegradable, whilst providing high quality insulation.

For the Passivhaus standard, triple glazing is required, however, good quality double-glazed glass will also provide you with high performance. Meanwhile, Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) warms fresh air with the heat of the stale air it expels, Grand Designs explains. This allows you to balance airtightness with the need for fresh air.

Eco-friendly building materials

Insulation isn’t the only area where you can opt for green materials. There are plenty of less well-known, naturally derived building materials, offering you an alternative to chemical-heavy products.

Hempcrete, which uses hemp hurds, is a lightweight mixture providing acoustic and thermal benefits. Lime plaster might well be associated with historic buildings, but it has natural properties, provides good air circulation, and reduces damp-causing condensation. Meanwhile, timbercrete (a mix of timber waste and concrete), Ferrock (made from recycled materials), and AshCrete are great concrete alternatives.

If you’d like to implement green strategies in your dream house, speak to CASA Studio today.

How much is the average self-build?

Photo by Charles Deluvio 🇵🇭🇨🇦 on Unsplash

Grand Designs is a much-loved show but there are two distinct groups of people who watch it – those who vow to never build their own home and those who are driven to follow their own self-build dreams.

If moving home is considered to be one of the most stressful experiences in life, then building your own home is certainly also up there. But it is also one of the most rewarding, seeing your designs come to life and living in a space that is tailored to your exact wants and needs.

And it seems many agree that building your own home is the way to go, with self-builders now accounting for nearly 10% of private new-build homes in the UK, the Financial Times reported.

But, as Homebuilding & Renovating discusses, one of the biggest concerns of would-be self-builders is how much it will cost them. There’s not only the build costs to consider, but the land too. And what other factors could affect the total?

Questioning 500 self-builders who had recently finished or were about to embark on their journey, the publication produced a new report to gain a better understanding of the market.

According to the Self & Custom Build Market Report, the findings for a typical self-build home are:

● Median build spend – £270,000
● Median plot cost – £190,000
● Median market value of the home – £500,000
● Build cost ranged from £300/sqm to more than £5,000/sqm

Design specifications and size for self-build homes vary wildly, so there will be a huge variation of budgets. The report found that build spend for half of all the projects ranged from £190,000 to £350,000. Meanwhile, half of the plot costs varied from £100,000 to £275,000.

For just over half of self-builders, build costs ranged between £900 and £1,500/sqm. The market value of self-built homes for the middle half were estimated to be between £400,000 and £750,000.

So, what factors can affect the cost?


Land prices and the cost of labour will vary depending on where the building is taking place. For example, costs will generally be greater in London than in Cornwall. The way in which land is acquired can also vary – some may have been gifted the land, others may have acquired it at market value, while some may come with strings attached.

Some local authorities may also ask self-builders for Section 106 or Community Infrastructure Levy contributions, which can add significant variation on the overall costs.

People Power

Self-builders probably won’t add in their own labour or that of friends or family when calculating the costs.


Transaction costs and other various design fees could also be missing from the totals.

If you’ve ever seen Grand Designs, you’ll know only too well how happy the self-builders are with their dream home. Getting proper advice and expertise can help you understand the full costs before you embark on your self-build. To discuss how to turn your dream into a reality, get in touch with CASA Studio.

How to Build a Healthy Home

According to research by Velux, one in six Europeans – the equivalent of the population of Germany – live in unhealthy buildings that suffer from damp, a lack of daylight, inadequate heating or overheating. In some countries, that number is as high as one in three!

These issues don’t just impact the building, they also have negative health effects on the inhabitants, with more than one and a half times more people living in unhealthy buildings having poor health, compared to those living in healthy buildings.

As Grand Designs Magazine notes, building health issues can lead to asthma, allergies and sleep disorders. To ensure you build a healthy home, the publication recommends the following steps:

Use natural materials for structural improvements

Baubiologie, or ‘building biology’, a building science that focuses on the positive impact certain design ideas and materials have on wellbeing, promotes the use of natural materials like timber, rammed earth floors, and hempcrete. This could include timber-frame windows or exposed beams.

Associate director of The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products, Simon Corbey, noted it can be difficult to find healthy building products in the UK as “there is no comprehensive register of products to use or avoid.”

This is where an architect can come in handy, as their knowledge and experience can help identify such products.

Balance natural and artificial light

Not only is an abundance of natural light an aesthetically pleasing feature in residential and commercial properties, it also has a host of health benefits.

As Architectural Lighting discusses, daylight is known to increase productivity and comfort, and provides the necessary mental and visual stimulation to regulate human circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep and energy patterns.

Meanwhile, too much artificial light can cause issues. Blue light, emitted from some modern LEDs and devices such as TVs, computers and smartphones, is linked to headaches and macular degeneration. Getting the right balance between natural and artificial light can be a simple step to improving a building’s health.

Eradicate impurities

We all know the dangers of outdoor air pollution, but our homes can also be a hotbed for poor air quality.
A 2016 report from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health noted sources of indoor air pollution include faulty boilers, heaters, irritant chemicals, house-dust mites, mould, and dander from pets.

The report also found that, across Europe in 2012, indoor air pollution is believed to have caused or contributed to 99,000 deaths, the Guardian reported.

Creating warmer external walls, adequate ventilation, and a plug-in air purifier can all help to minimise poor indoor air quality.

The Alliance for Sustainable Building Products has called for internal air quality tests to become the norm, and a register of building products and materials.

If you’d like help building a healthy property, give CASA Studio a call.

Cornish Buildings Group Annual Awards 2018 – CASA Studio shortlisted

We are delighted to announce that our Chapter’s House project, shown above, has been shortlisted for this year’s Cornish Buildings Group Annual Awards! We have been told that “The judges were particularly impressed with the house’s clean and simple lines and with the overall massing and composition.” The judges will visit all of the shortlisted projects on 6th May and decide on the winners shortly thereafter, so watch this space!

Having received a Commendation for the Redannick Mews project, shown below, in the 2016 Cornish Buildings Group Annual Awards, “for two sustainable single storey new houses, showing particular imagination in creating a pleasant modern environment rarely provided by major developers.” We are hoping to go one better this year and win the whole thing!

Update: Unfortunately our clients were unable to allow us to show the CBG Awards judges around Chapter’s House on the allotted day due to prior arrangements, but we have been assured that we will be able to enter the project next year, so fingers crossed for 2019!

How to find the perfect Architect

How do you find the perfect Architect? Whether you have dreams of building your own home, adding an extension, or developing a commercial property, turning those aspirations into a reality can be an incredible yet stressful experience.

Image by Alexa James

Image Credit Alexa James

As Ideal Home notes, an architect can reduce stress, provide specialist expertise, transform your ideas into practical solutions, and guide you through regulations and contractual obligations. Architects are creative problem-solvers that will help you before and during construction.

There’s a good chance this build has been a dream for many years. But, how do you find the perfect Architect for your project? Here’s a checklist to help make sure you find the right person for the job:

Draw up a shortlist

Get recommendations from friends, family or neighbours, and search online databases such as the Architects Register or  This will help you to create a shortlist of local architects.

Make sure they have the right qualifications

UK law states that everyone practising as an architect must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB), which runs the Architects Register. As HomeOwners Alliance explains, registration with ARB requires extensive training and professional indemnity insurance.

Chartered Architects have membership with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and, if they have a chartered practice, they are subject to random checks.

Anyone calling themselves an architecture consultant, architectural designer or technician will not be an Architect.

Get in touch

Now you’ve narrowed your list down, get in touch with those on your shortlist. You’ll want to make sure that they’re actually available to work on your project, and arrange to meet them to discuss your project and how they work in greater detail.

Make sure their style fits

You’ll no doubt have looked at their website when conducting your research, but ask to see their portfolio at the initial meeting. As well as finding an Architect who is experienced, you need make sure that their style will fit with your project.

If you’re after a modern look, a more traditional architect might not suit you. If you have a listed building, you should find an architect with experience in this particular area. If you don’t like their style, that’s your answer — every Architect has a different feel and you need to find the right one for you.

Check fees align with your budget

It’s no secret that building a house is expensive. Not only do different architects charge different amounts, but they can charge in different ways too. Understand how much they will charge and check this fits with your budget to avoid hiring one you realise you can’t afford further down the line.

Is there personal chemistry?

Your Architect is going to help you to turn your dream into a reality, so it’s important that you can get on. The more they know about you, the more personal your brief will be.

Once you’ve chosen your architect, you need to instruct them so they can get to work!

If you’d like to discuss your project, get in touch with CASA Studio today. We’re an award-winning RIBA Chartered Architect with a keen eye for detail.