Nine years ago, a woman and her four kids managed to build a house from scratch using just a YouTube video for guidance. Cara Brookins took out a loan, spent $150,000 (£113,000) on raw materials, and built a five-bedroom freestanding house, learning how to construct the building’s frame and secure it with concrete foundations – all while many of us struggle to put up bookshelves.
There’s a housing crisis in the UK, with many struggling to get on the housing ladder. Prices in London and the south-east remain sky-high, with first-time buyers needing an average deposit of £90,000 to get a two-bedroom flat in London. Across the UK, a report found that the average deposit needed to buy your own home is £33,000.
It figures that not everyone can afford to stick to the traditional way of buying a house. But, while few follow Brookins and start from scratch, it’s certainly not an impossibility.
Build it yourself
Prefabricated housing is getting plenty of interest from developers and local councils, looking at ways to solve the housing crisis. Ric Frankland is the director of Dwelle, which makes small, flat-pack prefabricated eco homes. With fixtures, fittings, and project cost, homes range from £75,000 to £100,000 – not bad for a detached house. “We’re building well-insulated, good quality, and mortgageable houses – we’re not building cheap, but building affordable,” says Frankland.
He says the best thing about building your own home is that they’re modular, and are built to expand as families grow. However, availability of land is a “major problem”.
“In cities, unless you have a large injection of cash to buy expensive land, people who want to build their own properties should be savvy and look for old houses they can buy and bulldoze, big gardens, or old garages to knock down. Don’t expect to find good quality land cheaply,” he adds.
It’s common outside of the UK to self-build houses, yet we all want custom-made kitchens and bathrooms. “Flat-pack housing gives you the chance to combine the two and build your own off-plan house,” says Frankland.
Buy your rental place
For those who don’t have a plot of land to spare, it’s worth considering that renting for years on end can have a silver lining; waiting it out can have its benefits. For Leanne and her partner in Margate, renting for five years meant she built up a good relationship with her landlord, and ended up buying her rental property.
When the couple started to discuss buying a flat, Leanne suggested asking her landlord if he might consider selling it to them. “I knew he wanted to pursue another business opportunity. We had a good relationship with him, but there was a slight risk that he might have wanted more than we could afford ... but I figured it was a risk worth taking!”
She says it was a weird transition going from renting to buying. “There are things that have driven me mad for several years, like peeling paint and weird lighting, but now we’re adjusting to the fact that we can sort them out.” In some ways not having to move is reassuring for Leanne as she knows her home’s flaws and issues, and won’t have any nasty surprises. “We know that, actually, you don’t really get used to the traffic noise (you just have to wear earplugs at night).”
The best thing for Leanne is how easy it’s been. “No chains, no uncertainty about the sale, and no moving. We also got a good bargain, and we’re paying under the average price for the area, which I’m sure wouldn’t have been the case if we bought it the traditional way.”
Get help from family
Others look to family. Fraser, 24, wanted to buy a house with his girlfriend Maja, but, working as a postman and with Maja still at university, they weren’t in a position to buy together. The pair hit upon the idea of involving Maja’s mum in the house purchase – Maja and Fraser would still pay the mortgage, but having Maja’s mum on the deeds would mean they could get a loan. They eventually bought a two-bedroom flat in Dennistoun, Glasgow, in an old sandstone tenement.
“I’ve spoken to many people about how their mortgage meetings went at the bank and they said: ‘Fast and easy’, unlike ours. We had a three-hour meeting with the mortgage manager. He was asking a lot of questions directed at Maja’s mum, who is Polish and doesn’t speak amazing English. I think that made him suspicious – Polish mother getting a mortgage with her daughter’s Scottish boyfriend!”
Of course there are risks, says Fraser. If the couple split up, then he would have to go through selling the property with Maja’s mum, but the benefits are huge. “We had a bigger budget for getting a flat as it was me and her mum’s income combined – having Maja free of the mortgage will mean if we buy another property Maja will be eligible for first-time buyer rates.”
Buy with friends
For single people who aren’t able to team up with family, buying with friends might be the answer. Felicity Brown, 24, bought a house with two friends in Leyton, London, to access a property she wouldn’t have been able to afford alone.
She suffered a few bumps along the way, as it transpired there aren’t many lenders in the UK that offers three-way mortgages. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have been in a position to buy a place in London with friends and would strongly encourage others to consider it as an option, too.
“But, you do need to be very confident in your friendships. We decided to draw up an agreement on top of the required legalities, that covered things such as not letting partners move in.” She explains how they’ve committed to a three-year period initially, and will assess when that’s up.
There are many creative ways to get your own slice of home. Whether that’s building your own sprawling mansion in a spare field or teaming up with your partner’s mum, there can be ways around the panic of getting on the property ladder. It just requires a bit of luck, flexibility, and creative thinking.
Information from: www.theguardian.com