Kit houses: all you need to know about building a prefabricated home
Want to build your own home? Choosing a kit house can take the hassle out of self building
Flat-pack, prefabricated or kit homes have long been popular in Germany and Scandinavia. Unlike traditional bricks and mortar properties, the components of a flat-pack home are prefabricated in a factory then assembled on-site, making construction much faster.
They’re also known as ‘turnkey’ builds because most kit companies offer complete packages that take care of everything from the groundwork and planning permission to fitting the electrics and bathroom. Alternatively, you may prefer to have your house supplied part-finished so you can decorate and arrange the kitchen and bathroom fittings yourself. But whichever route you choose, here’s what you need to consider…
What are the benefits of a kit build?
A kit home is ideal if you’re after a bespoke dwelling designed to suit your needs and lifestyle, or want to go down the self-build route, but don’t have the time, inclination or know-how to manage the project yourself. You can get as involved as you want in the overall planning and have peace of mind that an experienced team is on hand to oversee every stage of the construction and fit out.
As well as offering a speedy build, flat-pack homes are also high-quality, well insulated, energy efficient, open, light and often eco-friendly, and as all costs for a package are agreed in advance, you won’t be faced with unexpected increases in price.
Can I get a mortgage for building a prefabricated house?
There’s nothing worse than discovering you can’t afford your dream home because you haven’t done your sums, so it’s vital you work out exactly what you need and calculate your budget early on.
Unless you already have a parcel of land lined up, you’ll need to purchase a plot for your flat-pack home as well as paying for the kit and build. You can fund the purchase using your savings, the sale of your current home or via a loan or specialist mortgage.
The land and build are treated as separate entities for mortgage purposes, with a minimum 15-20 per cent deposit required for each. Funds for the build will be released in stages, so it’s important to make sure that the releases will coordinate with your payment schedule. Expect to pay as much as £300 per square foot for a top-end home.
How do I find a plot of land to build on?
Sourcing a plot to build on is often the most stressful part of the process, especially as land is in short supply and high demand.
You’ll most likely face competition for any plot from developers – you’ll be in a better position if you have a mortgage agreed in principle, as you’ll be ready to proceed as quickly as possible.
After picking your general location, register with local estate agents, scour property auction sites, check listings on plotfinder.net and look out for rundown dwellings that could be demolished and replaced. You should also register your interest in finding a plot with councils in the areas you’re interested in – each has a Right to Build Register to make them aware of demand. Don’t go ahead with a purchase without an option agreement that allows you to withdraw if planning permission isn’t granted.
How much say do I get in the design of a kit house?
As soon as your plot’s been secured, you’ll be ready to get going with the design. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to think carefully about your family’s requirements. For example the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms, workspaces, entertaining areas you want; whether you need an open-plan layout; and your interior and architectural preferences. Then research package companies that deliver house styles that fit the bill and ask for quotes.
Off-the-peg plans and footprints can be customised or you may prefer a bespoke house that’s designed from scratch or from your own architect’s drawings. The majority of prefabricated homes are constructed with timber frames or structural insulated panels (SIPs) and can be finished off externally with cladding.
How long will a kit house take to construct?
When you’re going for a full package, the design stage is often the lengthiest as every detail, down to the number and position of switches and sockets, has to be finalised. There’ll be a site visit and meetings with the architectural team, and once you’re happy with the drawings and the contract is signed, a planning permission application will be made. You might also be invited to visit the showroom or factory to select interior fittings and finishes.
Then the manufacturing process begins and, when everything’s ready, the components are transported to the site. A house can be constructed within a few days, while the interior kit out can take three to six months, depending on size.
'Prefabrication improves build speed, but it also improves quality, because you’re manufacturing in consistent conditions. Although most of the houses built in the UK are bespoke, the detailing is all repeatable. The manufacturer will always use the same window supplier, the same seal on the windows and so on. Another plus is that you’ve got a dedicated, consistent construction team – the same people are working with the same details. While you’re re-inventing the layout and bespoke elements, you’re not re-inventing the detailing,’ Nick Blunt, director of Urban Curve Architecture, who works with weberhaus.co.uk
Can I go for custom-built prefabricated house?
Custom builds give you the design freedom of self builds with as much assistance as you require. A big bonus is that serviced plots with utilities, access and outline planning permission in place have already been secured, so you’re free to start planning your new home with a provider of your choice, without the worry of whether you’ll actually be able to build it. Alternatively, you may opt to choose from a range of pre-designed homes with the opportunity to configure and fit out its interior. Dedicated custom build sites can be found right across the country, in a wide range of sizes.
Head to buildstore.co.uk for info on and finance for kit homes and custom builds.
Contact specialist lender ecology.co.uk to find a mortgage that suits your circumstances.
Swindon’s National Self Build and Renovation Centre has an expert hub, manufacturers, suppliers, tours and courses all under one roof, nsbrc.co.uk.
Selfbuildportal.org.uk offers advice and support, and enables you to search for your local Right to Build register.
Andrea Dean is a journalist specialising in property, lifestyle & interiors