It’s the number one nightmare for self-builders and renovators: a project spiraling wildly out of control, with the budget blown and financial disaster ahead. The good news is that, despite what you might think after watching an episode of Grand Designs, this situation is easily avoidable.
Everyone starts out on a new build or renovation project with a set figure in their head of what they would like to spend. There’s probably also a figure in the back of their mind that is the absolute limit they can go up to. These figures – the budget – are critical to the success of the project regardless of its scale or ambition.
The trouble is that for most people new to the process, getting a realistic idea of what these costs might be is very difficult — for various reasons. Most commonly, when a new self-builder asks what it might cost to build their own home, the answer is simply impossible to give, because there are so many unknowns.
If getting an accurate idea of what your project will cost – and, just as importantly, ensuring that it stays within your budget expectations during construction – is important to you, then you’ll need to do some in-depth DIY estimating, or get some professional help.
Quantity surveyors (QS’s) are commonly used in commercial construction projects and are a familiar face on housing development projects, but they also play a major (and essential) role in the kind of projects that self-builders and renovators take on. In simple terms, a QS will provide a detailed assessment of the materials you will require for your project (based on the detailed building drawings you’ll need to get drawn up for submission for Building Control approval) and use these quantities to come up with a detailed and accurate analysis of the costs of the project as a whole.
Many building contractors will pay a QS to produce their quote for a project. The more detailed and accurate the information they are given, the more accurate the estimate will be.
According to Claire Barratt from the RICS: “There will be QS’s that specialise in self-builds and they will normally come from a residential property development background. As such they will be used to dealing with cost value comparisons and costs-to-complete exercises during the works.
“Quantity surveyors can assist on a self-build by being involved in the creation of the original budget used for loan security. A chartered valuation surveyor will do the residual valuation but the quantity surveyor can produce the estimate/cost plan for the works. This means the self-builders have realistic and achievable budgets before they start, and any loans taken out on the project will reflect the true cost as well as the project’s value.
You can use a QS at the start of the project to come up with, at the simplest level, a ‘take-off’ of quantities and costs based on your building drawings. However, some self-builders employ a QS during the project to ensure that costs do not spiral out of control. On this basis, the arrangement would be on a supervisory fee basis, i.e. a percentage of the build costs.
To an extent, successful building projects rely on employing trusted professionals who can help the beginner (in particular) avoid potential pitfalls. The additional fees charged by a QS are mitigated particularly on larger projects by the potential savings they can find.”