Despite a depressed housing situation, self building your own property is still a popular way to end up with a dream home. The self builder can either take the savings of not having a building contractor, or get a much better spec for the same money he would have paid a contractor to do the job. There is a great sense of satisfaction in seeing the finished project in all it's glory and thinking 'I have built this!'. Self building takes a great deal of time, effort, thought, blood, sweat, tears, and not a few lessons painfully learned along the way.
From my own experience I will indicate a few pitfalls to avoid, and a few pointers to provoke you to think seriously about the project before commencing, or if you have already commenced, to improve as you go along.
Make all your major decisions with regard to the self build house at the start of the process and try not to change your mind about them. This will save you a lot of money, a lot of time and the tradesmen a lot of heartache. Changes are costly for this very reason: the tradesmen not only have to make the change, they generally have to amend whatever has been done previously before they start to change anything. Changes can also complicate the issue if tradesmen have already given a fixed price for the job.
Make sure your self build project is drawn by an architect that has his head screwed on and his feet on the ground. Some architects just think of a job as an opportunity to express themselves or increase their portfolio. Remember it is you who will have to live in the house, and if you do not intend to sell, think of eventualities like a bedroom on the ground floor for an elderly parent, or even an elderly you! Also use an architect that is not scared to visit the site and talk to the tradesmen. Conflict between the architect and tradesmen is not a situation you want to be in.
Use only tradesmen for your self build that have been recommended on a recent project. If you do not know them personally, go and see their last job, or at the least obtain references, ideally three, from people who had work done by them. In this way you will save yourself from having to look at- and live with- a poor job at the end of it. Good tradesmen may not always be the cheapest- sometimes they may be- but be careful that you do not assess them on price alone.
In these times of difficult trading conditions, the following is happening: some tradesmen will give a price below cost, then during the project will come to the self builder and say 'I need x amount of pounds to finish the job'. Of course, if you say no, he will walk away. At that stage, with work done, any other tradesman coming behind will a) not want to do it and b) not be cheap.