A beginner's guide to flat-pack homes
If you're thinking about building the flat-pack way, read our top 10 points to consider help you get started.
1. Set a budget
Creating your home could involve commissioning architects, builders and other sub-contractors. So, before falling in love with a potential project, have a definitive budget in mind - then add 10% as a contingency. You may also need to factor in the cost of renting another property during the building process.
If you need a mortgage for the purchase of the land, or to cover you through the build, there are specialist mortgage companies who offer loans for these kinds of property development projects. Your chosen manufacturer may be able to offer advice too. Read more budgeting tips in our article - How to cost up a renovation.
2. Find the right plot
There are a few ways of looking for plots – from internet searches, direct enquiries with the land registry or local press adverts. It’s also worth talking to estate agents who might be advertising old properties which you could knock down and then rebuild on.
Some self build companies offer a plot-finding service, so it’s worth checking this with each manufacturer. You could start your search with Plot Finder.
Once you've found your plot, you'll also need to think about where to position your property. Consider whether it should be south-facing, how to maximise any views and available light, and how to minimise the impact of wind or rain water that could pose a potential flood risk. For more advice, read our guide: How to find and buy land for a flat-pack home
3. Secure planning permission
Once you’ve found the plot of land, you’ll need to apply for planning permission - unless you can prove that the house you’re buying is completely mobile. Currently, the definition of a mobile structure is one which can be moved in two or less pieces. This is a loophole and may be changed. Plus, your local authority may have specific planning requirements, so make sure you check these out before your build gets underway. Read our advice on getting planning permission.
4. Choose a flat-pack company
First, you’ll need to find the right build company for you. Sources such as Homebuilding and Renovations magazine are invaluable, and a simple internet search will also give you a pretty good idea of the options available. As always, it's worth asking a reliable retailer or homeowner for recommendations. Read our guide: Where can you buy a flat-pack home?
5. Choose the design
Once you’ve selected the build company you like, you’ll be asked to identify the model from their collection. Flat-pack homes come in a variety of styles and prices, from the very cheap to the exorbitantly expensive.
It's easy to get caught up in what you want, but try to focus on what you need and stick to homes that fall within your budget.
If you're looking for inspiration, take a look at these galleries: Flat-pack homes under £400K and Impressive self-build designs.
6. Choose materials
Having the opportunity to specify the materials and the aesthetics of a building is tremendously appealing but, be warned, the choice can be daunting. Your architect should advise you and the planners will have their say, however you will still have to decide which roof tiles, floor coverings, window frames and so forth you want for your house.
Look into the cost, quality and availability of materials, and how easy or problematic they are to work with. Do this before the build starts. Problems with lead times and availability from different sources are major reasons why builds run late.
7. Project management
You need to decide whether you're up to managing the project yourself once the build has been delivered on site, or whether you’d prefer the build company to do this instead. If you do decide to take the reins, be aware that this will be as time-consuming as organising a conventional build. You’ll need to organise all of the tradespeople and make sure they complete their work in the right order. For example, you don’t want to plaster the walls before the electrician has been! Read our advice - How to hire a builder and How to hire an architect.
8. Plan, plan, plan
Before you even start your build, make sure you’re prepared. Flat-packs often go up so fast that you have very little time to make decisions along the way. You should make a list of every utility, fixture and fitting – including where the TV will go, how many lights and plug sockets you’ll want and where these will be situated. Even if the build company is project-managing the build, they will still need to know where to put what to make sure it suits your needs.
9. Quality control
Be on site as much as you can, even if you have appointed your architect or builder as project manager. This ensures the communication will keep flowing and ensures that decisions are made without costly delays. Choose kitchen and bathroom fittings and measure carefully to make sure they fit. Compromises will undoubtedly need to be made during the design and build. Establish your priorities early on.
10. Get insured!
Find out what kind of insurance you need and when it needs to start. When you ask about the warranty coverage provided by the retailer for the house’s transportation and installation, you should probably make sure you get these terms in writing. The retailer may set up your insurance and financing, and once you’ve moved in, may be your contact for warranty service.