Fresh from a weekend at a packed Homebuilding & Renovating Show in Farnborough, I’m reminded by how many people consider the idea of building their own home to be, essentially, a mix of dream and nightmare.

A dream, of course, for the life-changing nature of living in a house that you have created and designed just for you — who wouldn’t want that? — and a nightmare all the same for the perceived levels of stress, financial ruin and sleepless nights to follow. But is that really the case?

Let’s be clear – anything that takes you outside the ordinary is to a degree stressful. Getting the tumble dryer fixed is stressful – all that waiting around for engineers, on the phone to the retailers – it’s not much fun, is it? Getting the car fixed? Stressful. Tax returns? Stressful. And confusing. 

man lying awake at night

Building your own home can be a stressful process, but keep in mind the reward waiting for you at the end

So when it comes to the idea of spending a once-in-a-lifetime amount of money on a self build project, and when there is very little perceived control over the outcome, of course that’s stressful.

But what I learned over the weekend by speaking to these self-builders was that every one was busy solving the problems and getting a bit closer to their dream.

One couple were looking to spend much more than they had budgeted for building foundations. They were keen to find a resolution but could see that it cost what it cost, so let’s just crack on. Another gentleman had spent 20 years battling his local authority to get planning permission on an awkward bit of land for his son to build a house on – and just gained approval.

Of course, in the moment, all of these travails are stressful but what I came to realise is that the victory is in the battle itself. No battle, no victory. No problem, nothing to overcome. No stress, no dream.

I was brought up as a strong believer that good things come to those who work hard for them, and there is no gain without some pain. When you apply that to housing, it’s all the truer.

No-one really wants to spend two years of their lives squabbling with suppliers about prices and dealing with warranty providers and plasterers and the like. We would, of course, much rather be having an easier life. But an easy life does not currently give you great value, well built, well-designed homes in the way that self build can. 

So if, like the people I met this weekend, you’re still in the trenches, still suffering the ‘nightmare’ – be assured that the dream is just round the corner.


This year marks the very special 30th anniversary of Homebuilding & Renovating. Over the next 12 months, we’ll be sharing some of our favourite memories and bringing you special content to mark the occasion. Thank you for celebrating with us.

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