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QS for Self Build Homes

Building your own house is one of the most exciting things you can do, but can also be one of the most stressful. More often that not, this is because of money.

That is why getting your budget right and managing costs effectively is one of the most important aspects of your build. And a Quantity Surveyor can help with this.

Home building magazines, websites, forums, and TV programmes can give an unrealistic expectation of what it costs to build a new house. At Varsity we frequently receive enquiries from people hoping to build a one-off house for £1,000/m2 or less, but in the vast majority of cases this is simply not possible unless you can do a significant amount of the work on a DIY basis.

Every house is different but as a rough guide, for a straight-forward one-off house build the construction costs are typically as follow:

Basic house £1,400/m2 – £1,800/m2

Medium spec house £1,800/m2 – £2,200/m2  (most projects we see tend to fall into this bracket)

High spec house £2,200/m2 – £3,500/m2

Very high spec house £3,500/m2+

But every site is different, and every house is different, so every project needs looking at individually – which is why using raw cost per m2 rates can be dangerous. For example, if you are building a 100m2 house but need to spend £10,000 demolishing an existing house and £30,000 on the driveway and garden, you are already at £40,000 (equating to £400/m2) before you even start on the house.

Spend another £25,000 on a handmade kitchen, £10,000 on an AV system, £5,000 on renewables, £25,000 on ensuites to every bedroom, and you are in excess of £1,000/m2, for those items alone. ‘Abnormal’ items like piled foundations, contaminated ground, difficult access, a sloped site etc can also add significantly to costs. In addition you will have non-construction costs such as architects fees, planning fees, and the cost of the land.

How can employing a Quantity Surveyor help?

How we can help depends at what stage we are brought onto the project, but at whatever stage we are brought in, our aim will be to save you more than the value of our fee, and reduce the risk of overspends.

If you are right at the start of your project, we can work with you and your architect to give you an idea of what you can get for your budget, and then work with your architect to keep their designs aligned to your budget.

If you’ve already got a design, we can produce  cost estimate to give you a realistic idea of what the build will cost. We’ll also identify potential areas of cost savings that you could consider. If the design is over budget, we will work with you and your architect to allow you to make informed decisions on which changes to make to achieve your budget.

The earlier we are involved, the more we can save you through our knowledge of alternative materials and products. The cost of change increases as time goes on because of things like redesign costs, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t consider using a QS even if your design is well progressed. A few thousand pounds of additional design and QS fees can be money well spent if the savings are large – which they often are.

We then tender your project to suitable Contractors, and analyse their tender returns – there are usually exclusions and clarifications that accompany bids and these can make a price artificially low, with the cost going up later in the project. For example if Contractor caveats they have allowed for for 1m deep foundations when the structural design calls for 2m deep, the price will only go up and may result in the lowest tender becoming one of the higher ones if others are compliant.

We review these items in detail to make sure bids are compliant and areas of risk are either eliminated, or understood by you. If time is pressing, we can negotiate the construction cost with a Contractor instead of tendering. There may be a small premium on the final construction cost due to the lack of competition, but our experience and database of costs gives us a good idea of what we expect competitive costs to be – and ultimately if the Contractor is unreasonable, another can be approached. The negotiated approach also tends to result in a smoother experience on site as the Contractor will generally have a better understanding of the project.

Once the contract sum is agreed, we produce a construction contract for the build. A good Contract is essential for works of almost any size. We receive a number of calls each month from homeowners and contractors who have proceeded with works without a contract only for a dispute to arise (normally regarding cost) – which is usually a very difficult situation to unravel.

Once the contract is in place we can either finish our involvement, or continue on the project during the construction stage – reviewing and agreeing the costs of any changes with the Contractor and valuing the works to ensure you only pay for works completed – so that if the Contractor goes bust, there is money left to bring on a new Contractor. At the end we agree the final bill with the Contractor.

Having us on board also allows you a degree of separation from the Contractor (and even the Architect) – allowing us to address concerns or ask any difficult questions on your behalf.

If you’d like to discuss your project, feel free to give us a call or send us a message through the Contact section.