Giles and Rosemary Jerrit overcame the difficulties of a tight plot and red tape to enjoy spectacular success with their first self-build.

In September 2007, we returned from our honeymoon and somebody gave us free tickets to a show being held at London’s ExCel centre,” Giles Jerrit recalls. “We hadn’t a clue what the show was about but, as we’d got nothing on that weekend, we decided to go and were amazed at the opportunities that were presented.” The show was a Homebuilding & Renovating Show.

Rosemary takes up the story: “It just so happens that whilst we’d been away on holiday, we’d actually been worrying about the fact that, unlike many of our peers, we weren’t on the property ladder. And that, with prices so high in the London area and still rising, despite the economic downturn that was unfolding at the time, we had little chance of changing our situation.”

The Project

  • Name: Giles and Rosemary Jerrit
  • Build cost: £407,600 (£3,397/m²)
  • Build time: 11 months
  • Location: Surrey

“We listened to the seminars and it inspired us to learn more,” continues Rosemary. “So we enrolled in a two-day residential course that was being held in Cambridge and, the following March, we took part in Homebuilding & Renovating’s ‘Plotfinder Challenge’.”

Once the plot had been secured, the couple spent £20,000 on buying an additional four metres of land from the original vendors and engaged an architect to make a planning application for a pair of houses. “It was more of a try on than anything, but it cost us £22,000 in architect’s fees,” Rosemary remembers. “But, when it was unsuccessful, we went back in for a three bedroom upside-down basement house and I think that reverse psychology worked, because we got it in mid July 2010, albeit with further architect’s fees of £21,000.”

Despite achieving permission delays in starting the build were numerous, including a Section 106 Agreement over parking, having to engage structural engineers, Code Assessors (their local authority requires all new homes to meet Level 4 of the Code for Sustainable Homes) and a Party Wall agreement surveyor because they were excavating right up to the boundaries, including that to the substation. “In fact, before we’d even started work on site, we’d spent close to £250,000,” Rosemary laments. “We’d used up all of our savings, borrowed up to the hilt and dipped into family money.”

With all the necessary consents in, the couple went out for tenders. When the basement prices came in considerably higher than they had expected, they endeavoured to get prices from main contractors, too, but “these were too high by a country mile,” Rosemary remembers.

Then a friend recommended a builder from Southampton who quoted £280,000 for the whole job, glad at that time to get the work, even though it meant having to travel. This rose through the job to £295,500.

Work started in October 2010 and proceeded smoothly. In September 2011, just over three years after they’d originally purchased the plot, they moved into their new home. And the best news of all? A recent valuation of almost £1,000,000 – doubling their money – was a fine reward for all their hard work.

An Interview with Rosemary Jerrit

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