Purpose-built creature comforts – build your own retirement home

Posted 3 September 2015 by Keith Osborne

When we think of our twilight years, most of us picture enjoying an idyllic home with a place for everything and everything in its place. The idea of building your dream home can mean long-term peace of mind and greater independent living if it's done well.

There are two ways of building your own home: firstly, do all the work yourself; or there is a new way called ‘custom build’, where you can choose how much of the work you do.

Finding and buying land

Choosing a plot of land for building on takes time and there are a few extra things to bear in mind for a retirement property. Publications such as Self-Build Homes magazine offer fantastic, specialist advice for taking on such a task and the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC) I helped create, is a 67,000 sq ft centre which can help you every step of the way. Your first task is to find out as much about the local planning system in your area as possible, being forewarned is forearmed!

Remember that should you decide to move to a small area, parish councils can either be a help or a hindrance. Before carrying out appropriate checks on a plot, make sure you can live there for as long as possible by being close to local amenities. Is there a shop and GP surgery nearby? Out of hours/emergency services accessible? Good public transport links? And friends and family being nearby can be a great help.

The aim of the entire project is to make life easier for you as you get older, so it’s worth making sure the location is as suitable as the plot/property itself.

Secondly, never buy land without planning permission. Even developers don't go in for land unless it has some clause about planning, as it can take years to secure anything which allows you to build and may never happen.

Once you've found somewhere that could meet your needs, you will then need to hire a specialist land surveyor to check over the plot to make sure it’s suitable and that you have an independent valuation so you know what it’s really worth. The NSBRC can help finding a plot of land, or they are sold at auction and via sites like www.plotsearch.co.uk  

Building a home doesn’t mean living in a caravan for a year!

There's a lot to consider when budgeting for a self-build, including:

  • Plot purchase price
  • Architect and design costs
  • Legal and surveying fees
  • Professional charges
  • Building and labour cost
  • Mortgage and insurance fees

Try to allow for a 30% leeway in the budget, as surprises always crop up, particularly if this is your first venture into a new build.

Unlike you see on TV, whilst building, you won't need to drag the caravan to the edge of the plot to live in. Releasing equity on your current home can provide financial assistance, along with what is commonly known as an 'accelerator mortgage'. This type of mortgage basically pays out in stages, in advance. This can help to assure workmen and materials are paid for on time and you can go on living in your current accommodation until your dream home is built.

Bricks and mortar

Once the plot is bought and finance secured, it's time to get down to the property itself. You will at this point have, to a varying degree, got a picture in your mind of what the finished product will look like. What you need to keep in mind is that you need a good architect to discuss your thoughts and ideas with at length, as not everything you want may be feasible.

Remember that this is your forever home, so making sure you can get around easily, whatever happens, is important. For example you may need to convert the downstairs for sleeping, so having a room which can become a bedroom or a wet room downstairs as well as doors wide enough for wheelchairs if required can mean staying in your home a lot longer.

As you get older, having a property which is light, easy and cheap to heat as well as navigable on a bad day is well worth creating.

New concept: Custom build

And if you don’t fancy finding a plot of your own and building from scratch, there is a new way to buy and build called custom build. Sites are being sold around England with 15-30 plots on them and you choose a plot and developer to work with and they can do everything for you – or as much as wish.

It’s a great way of building your forever home without having to ‘go it alone’!

If a self-build retirement home is something you've considered, or indeed any other property ventures, please don't hesitate to contact me first so you get independent and up to date advice: www.propertychecklists.co.uk.

Download our guide for advice on buying new retirement homes

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