self build residential property to let
In 2017 Sergio Schirinzi and his wife Asta decided that their substantial L-shaped garden which wrapped around their neighbour’s corner plot in Luton was ripe for a self-build residential property to let project. New to developing they launched into a commercial project to build a pair of semi-detached houses to the right of their next-door neighbour and a detached house next door to them, on their left.
An ambitious project for first-time self-builders, the couple started by signing themselves up for a self-build project management course. (There are a few available around the UK. You can find out more about similar courses at the National Self Build and Renovation Centre).
Sergio and Asta’s goal from the outset was to build rental properties so it was doubly important to keep control of their build schedule; every week of potential delays would equate to interest rate penalties on the build loan and lost rental revenue. This was one of the main reasons the Schirinzis chose timber frame.
Speed of Construction
“The speed when it comes to the erection of the structure is impressive with timber frame. Our semi-detached houses were up in just over two weeks and within three weeks the roof was on. At that stage, the building was wind and water-tight and the rest of our trades cascaded in from there. It gave us a great deal of control. This was one of the big positives of working with Fleming Homes. The team said the house would be ready on a certain date and it arrived on that date. The erection service was completed within the time discussed and this enabled the roofer to be on-site as scheduled”.
In any project, certainty is valuable, but it can have added value when the project is commercially driven. Sergio was also impressed with the level of accuracy conveyed by the Fleming Homes team. “What you got was facts. Not opinions or answers just to get me off their case. The information I received was true and accurate”. Contributing additional certainty and eliminating the potential for misunderstandings and errors added further value.
Despite undertaking a project management course, Sergio and Asta did in fact hire a project manager to manage the build of the semi-detached houses (which went ahead before the detached home). In a busy full-time job with lots of travel and working away this seemed like the sensible option, as dealing with contractors, and checking on progress was going to be tricky to manage. On reflection, Sergio’s advice would be to coordinate as much of the project yourself as you can. “It dawned on me towards the end that no-one is going to have your best interests at heart more than you. The shortcuts won’t happen, and you’ll make the right decisions for you, not decisions that are best for your builder or contractor”.
Making Money Self-building
Despite some initial delays at the beginning of 2018, the groundwork for the semi-detached houses was underway in May 2018. The timber frame kit was delivered to the site in August and the two properties were completed by May 2019, giving a build time of twelve months. “Our estate agent was on the ball when it came to organising the tenancies and I was still finishing off the tiling when the tenants moved in. The land was valued at £80k, the cost of the build was approximately £250k and the two properties were valued at £210k each, giving us an uplift of £90k on completion, if you factor in the value of the land we already owned. So, it was a successful project”.
Sergio and Asta went on to project manage the detached property themselves, learning from their experience during the build of the semi-detached houses. The project commenced in July 2020 and was completed in June of 2021 achieving an uplift of 22% on completion.
Find a Good Team
The Schrinzi’s used an architect to design the dwellings to suit their plots and then used Fleming Homes’ building regulations service in advance of the timber frame construction design. Their timber frame package included a full specification kit with external joinery items and our timber frame erection service. When asked about the experience of working with Fleming Homes Sergio was full of praise. “Of all the trades we used, Fleming Homes stood out as the best. The team did what they said they would do. Things turned up when you said they would. The timings were guaranteed. This made things very easy to schedule around. And this did not only apply to the timber frame. Follow on materials like plasterboards, insulation, doors, skirting and the stairs were all delivered on schedule. The team were also really helpful”.
Excellent Communication is Key
In terms of imparting advice to other first time self-builders Sergio is clear that “it can be very stressful, especially in terms of managing your trades and finances, because ultimately, it’s your house and money. So it should be completed to a standard that you are happy with”. But despite the stress, he concludes “it’s definitely worth it!”
“We were lucky in that work was pretty constant on the site apart from the odd day here and there when nothing happened”. His secret to keeping his build schedule moving forwards? “Definitely good communication. I was on the phone daily, checking in to make sure the trades were still on track for the dates we had agreed. I was very persistent, but polite and fair.
The phone was a key tool for communication. I’d follow my calls up afterward with an email so that what we’d agreed was in writing, but it was often quicker to find a resolution or the information you needed by phone or even better onsite face-to-face. I also think you have got to visualise every aspect of your house, including simple things like where you’ll need access to power sockets. It sounds simple but unless you can visualize all the different areas within the dwelling and how you will use them, you may end up with impractical spaces or solutions, or fixes to suit your trades and not you.”
“And finally, never assume anything. For a simple example, I got caught out with three lights in an L-shaped room. I assumed the electrician would line them up (if you picture three boxes making up the L shape, in my mind, he would have installed a light in the center of each box), but the electrician fitted them randomly within the boxes making them look unacceptable to the eye ”.
Asked what’s next, Sergio and Asta confirm that a move is on the cards, but they are not committing to another self-build just yet agreeing that “it would definitely be good to build our own home one day, but our self-build residential properties to let are enough for just now!”
Sergio Schirinzi was speaking to Managing Director, Sarah Mathieson.
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