Build your dream home

By at home

dreamhomesbAvoid making expensive beginner’s errors when putting your ideal home together, and follow these five important steps to ensure that everything goes according to the plans..

  Plan your budget 
Start by thinking about how much you can afford to spend and how much building your new home is likely to cost. Chances are you will need a construction loan and a mortgage. It’s not too early to find out what size loan you will qualify for. Also, knowing the approximate costs will help you modify your building plans to meet your budget.

Pick a style
Many new homes are built using stock plans from a catalogue. The builder or home designer might make minor modifications in room size, window style or other details. A custom-designed home, on the other hand, is created specifically for the family which will live there. In most cases, custom-designed homes require the services of a licensed architect. Whether you opt for a stock or a custom design, you will be wise to choose a plan that will meet your needs for many years to come.

Consider the key features
A fabulous home should not only look good, it should also serve the needs of those who live there. Although many products and interior feature ideas you may come across at home exhibitions are no more than gimmicks, others will really make your house stand head and shoulders above your neighbours’.

Hire the right trades people
Select three contractors and ask them to give you a written, fixed-price quote. ‘Also, ask them for three references and follow them up, asking previous employers whether they were happy with the job they did,’ advises David Harris, director of building contractor and developer Mid-Kent Homes ( ‘Do all this even if they come recommended. Finally, check their insurance cover by asking to see their builder’s liability insurance certificate.’

Negotiate a contract
Be sure to get a written contract, which has been signed and dated by both the builder or contractor and the architect or designer. A contract for new home construction will describe the project in detail and include a listing of all the parts to be included in the house. Remember to amend the contract if you or your team make any changes to the project later on.

What are you paying for?
When you employ a tradesman, keep in mind exactly what you are paying for. It may not cost you very much to change a washer, but if you call in a plumber to do the job, it will cost much more. Why? The list below details what he is charging for (and you will be expected to pay!).

  • His skills.
  • The full range of specialist equipment.
  • Obtaining the materials for the job.
  • Transport and parking.
  • Time spent on the job.
  • Clearing up and packing away.
  • Business overheads.

Be a sharp operator
Before he arrives, make sure you both know exactly what work you want him to do and what he is being paid for. The main problem may be your leaking loo, so before you call a plumber, check that there aren’t any other jobs that you would like to use him for while he is there. And when you contact him, be sure to itemise all the work you have agreed upon – however trivial some of it may seem. If you start adding extra tasks after he arrives, do not be surprised when he charges you for them and your bill is much higher than his original estimate.

Create the wow-factor
When building the house to die for, there are certain features that will give your place the all-important luxurious edge…

saunasbSauna or steam room
There’s nothing like a hot, sweaty sauna or steam-room session to help you relax. Providing your home has the necessary floor space, there are all sorts of options out there. Saunas and steam rooms are fairly easy to install, although running costs can be high. Infra-red saunas use less energy to run than traditional ones and this is something to bear in mind. If you’re wealthy and have oodles of room, why not go for both a sauna and steam?

Don’t make the mistake of signing up for a gym membership only to realise a few months later that you can’t be bothered to go there. Instead, work out at home. You only need a room that is around 3m by 4m in size. And you don’t have to go mad and buy every piece of gym kit available; a multi-gym to tone your muscles and an exercise bike, treadmill and cross-trainer for cardiovascular fitness will do the job. For a more enjoyable workout, install a TV on the wall and set aside an area for warm-ups, push-ups and sit-ups.

gamesroomsbGames area
Even if you know you won’t use it yourself on a day-to-day basis, a dedicated games area is a sure-fire way to impress family and friends. While you may not have space for fruit machines and a multimedia gaming centre, a big snooker table placed in the corner of a room will keep you high up in the popularity rankings!


Everyone has a huge, flat-screen TV pinned to their wall these days, so only a state-of-the-art cinema complete with surround sound is good enough for you. For a true home cinema experience, you will need around seven full-range speakers plus a large bass unit to produce realistic sounds. Seats must be cinema-style too – and don’t forget a stylish trolley ready to serve popcorn and ice-creams.

SARAHBEENYHEADSarah says… ‘My dream home would have to have a vast, open-plan kitchen, and a breakfast and dining room area, but I don’t want it to be too modern. It must be filled with old sofas and have dogs and cats everywhere. It needs to be a place where everyone hangs out, with massive doors that open on to the garden. It’s one room where you can all cook, eat and sit together in comfort. Sliding doors are essential in my home as I need to be able to access the outside space at all times. We have folding doors that we can just slide open to be able to breathe in the fresh air.’

The above feature was published in at home with Sarah Beeny in May 2011. Click here for more Sarah Beeny.

Images: Getty

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