Top 4 things to consider before speaking to an architect

Top 4 things to consider before speaking to an architect

Architects use their industry experience to help guide you through your project, but sometimes it’s up to you to make key decisions. Having as much information as possible helps them, but more importantly, helps you. Without further ado, here’s a list of the key things you need to do before you speak to a self-build architect:


Starting a self-build is one of the most challenging parts for most. If we were in your shoes, the first thing we would do is find a plot. This can be done in a few ways. Websites like Plotfinder can be useful tools. Estate agents that deal with plots of land can also be used. Even speaking to people local to your desired area, such as farmers, can help identify potential plots.

The definition of ‘plot’ can vary in different countries, but we like to define it as designated land used for the purpose of building. Purchasing a plot is one thing, but purchasing a plot that is well suited to local planning policies is what’s most important. People often have the misconception that they can buy anywhere and be able to build on it. This is not the case. Additionally, paying attention to settlement boundaries and local planning policy is going to save you a headache later on.

Plans for all new developments that need planning permission are made public by your local council, and you can review these applications on their website to see if someone has attempted to build on your proposed plot before.

Once you’ve started to identify plots for your project, it’s time to put your investigative hat on and start assessing the ground conditions. This can be done prior to purchase or can be put into a purchase agreement. A legal advisor could provide further information on this. If you’re building on good soil with good ground bearing strata, you’re going to have lower construction costs.


Now comes the next step in your self-build preparation, working out how much you want to spend. Money is a sensitive topic in any context, but it’s time to start thinking about where the funding for the project is going to come from.

When it comes to forming your budget the most important aspect is knowing what your limits are. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to your construction budget. No matter how prepared you are, there are certain variables that you cannot control. 

When approaching a self-build architect, you should be ready to provide them with a construction cost limit. This number is what they will design from, but it does not include the cost of professional fees.

A full self-build features more than just an architect. Engineers, surveyors and builders are a few examples of contractors you will need throughout the project.

In terms of external contractors, it may be worthwhile to bring a Quantity surveyor on board. Their job is to estimate and control the costs of your build by using their expert knowledge of the construction industry. This added expense could save you a lot in the long run.

If you’re worried about costs or a sudden change of circumstances, then phasing your project can be an ideal solution. This works to break your project down into smaller, more manageable stages. This takes some strain off your finances but will increase the length of your project.

Prefabricated kits are a great build method for self-builders, as they can be thrown up quickly while providing reliable airtightness and structural integrity. In terms of cost, you are given a quote for the kit before you make the decision on your build method. Keep in mind that this quote has a period of validity.

Material prices can fluctuate in a matter of weeks, and you’ll usually have to get a secondary estimate once your production drawings and details have been added.

When you’re signing on for materials that your contractor is buying in, there is usually a percentage allowed for increases. This is something to pay attention to when you’re agreeing to terms. This should be checked over by a legal advisor.

To keep the best eye on cost, make sure to get the correct professionals involved. Your self-build architect may provide assistance on a variety of topics, but they are not Quantity surveyors or Project managers.

These professions exist for a reason, and they are there to keep your costs clear-cut and under control. There’s nothing wrong with rolling up your sleeves and getting involved, but make sure to have the right team behind you when you do.

Top 4 things to consider before speaking to an architect


We’ve spoken to thousands of self-builders, and one thing that surprises them all is the amount of time it takes to build their own home. A self-build project is one of the biggest commitments you will ever make, and it’s not something that’s going to take a few weeks. Most in the industry would say a new build would take around 2 – 3 years, but the duration of a self-build project can vary significantly depending on several factors.

These include:

Planning and Design Phase: This includes finding a suitable plot of land, designing the house, and obtaining necessary permits and approvals. This phase can take anywhere from 3 to 12 months, depending on the complexity of the project and local policies.

Site Preparation: Once planning permissions are obtained, preparing the site can take 1 to 3 months. This involves clearing the land for the laying of the foundation and setting up the right utilities.

Construction Phase: The actual building of the house typically takes 6 to 12 months. This highly depends on your method of construction and the quality of your workmanship. This phase can commonly be hit with unexpected delays through issues such as weather conditions and labour shortages.

Finishing and Inspections: After the main structure is built, finishing the interiors, installing fixtures, and undergoing inspections can take an additional 2 to 6 months.

A self-build is only a self-build because of your role in the project. Make sure you’re prepared to allocate the right amount of time to your build and set realistic targets for yourself.

Remember, If Rome wasn’t built in a day, your home won’t be either.


A lot of things can change in a self-build, and there will be some decisions that may not go your way. That’s why our final piece of advice is to be prepared to make compromises during your project.

As the designers of your dream home, we will always try and add every little detail you desire. However, we have a professional obligation to advise you on why an element or proposal isn’t feasible for your project. It’s vitally important to create a constant line of communication between client and architect to resolve these issues as quickly and stress-free as possible.

Another crucial factor that you can control is how fixed your design is. Making alterations to your project too late into the process can lead to real setbacks, such as redoing fabrication drawings or having to go through a secondary approval. Remediation works are both stressful and expensive, so take time to ensure you are 110% satisfied with your design before construction begins.

Virtual Reality is a tool we frequently use during the initial design stages. This gives you a detailed view of your home that is far superior to any drawing, and lets you see exactly what you’re going to get. This is the best time for changes to be made prior to going through your initial statutory approval.

You may not get everything you set out for, but open-mindedness can save you a lot of time and money.

Embarking on a self-build project is an exciting journey that requires a strong relationship between the architect and the client. Be the best client you can be by clearly defining your vision, establishing a realistic budget, understanding the planning and legal requirements and being prepared to compromise.

By considering these things before you make first contact with an architect, you can ensure that your initial discussions with an architect are productive and aligned with your goals. This sets a strong foundation for a successful self-build project that will turn your vision into a reality.

Those interested in attending the Southern Homebuilding & Renovating Show (29-30 June, Sandown Park, Surrey) can claim their tickets via