Steve and Lisa Attfield have built a new farmhouse in the countryside for just £120,000 — finally making their rural dream come true.

When the couple quit their jobs back in 2006 and moved to Devon to live ‘the Good Life’, prices for a farmhouse with agricultural land were at least £500,000. With the amount being beyond their budget – their only option was to buy farmland and then build a house themselves.

The couple began to investigate if this was possible and found they had a case through the Government’s Planning Policy Statement 7 (PPS7) for Sustainable Development in Rural Areas.

The Project

  • Name: Steve and Lisa Attfield
  • Build cost: £120,000 (£952/m²)
  • Build time: 1 year 2 months
  • Location: Devon

Satisfied they could fulfil the criteria, the Attfields went on to buy 25 acres of farmland in October 2007. The guide price was £3,500 per acre but they offered £4,400 to secure the deal in a sealed bid. The topsoil was perfect for growing vegetables, and there was power running through one of the three fields.

With the sale complete, the local authority issued the couple with a temporary permit to run their farm for three years and permission to pitch a caravan on site. Although moving into the caravan was necessary for their work, it was also a brave move. The Attfields knew they’d have to live like this for at least three years before they could build a house — which was made harder when three children came along during this time too.

As the years rolled on, Steve and Lisa began working up a house design, keeping the size within the 126m² limit stipulated under PPS7. They wanted a timber frame house that would blend in with the countryside, so they approached local oak framer Dan Franklin, whose work they admired.

In May 2010, the couple were finally allowed to submit their plans. The house would be built with an oak frame from local trees, and clad in local cedar. Three months later they had permission to build.

Their build budget was £120,000, made up with money from the sale of their house and a £52,000 mortgage from the Ecology Building Society (EBS). Lisa says this was the only company that would lend to them. “We struggled to find a lender because the house was timber frame and going to be an agricultural worker’s dwelling,” she says. “But EBS was brilliant.”

In January 2011, a few months into the build, the temperatures plummeted to -18°C and the Attfields’ crops were destroyed. With no income, it was a crisis situation, so Steve took on the remainder of the build, paying himself a tradesman’s wage from the mortgage.

The Attfields’ journey has been a long and arduous one but at no point did they give up on their dream. “We just wanted a finished home we could enjoy and that’s what we got,” says Lisa. “It’s a superb house and very special because the oak makes it a one-off. It’s just wonderful living here and after the challenges of the last few years, it’s time for us to enjoy ‘The Good Life’ properly!”

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