Welcome to part four of my notes on How To Live Mortgage Free. This six-part series was presented by property expert Sarah Beeny for Channel 4. The show was designed to provide alternatives to traditional buying and selling because the UK market can be so expensive.
The projects so far varied wildly in price, and still required some dedicated saving. There was quite a variation in the amount of handiwork needed also. Obviously everyone who appeared on the show was really happy with their final result though. I don’t know that any of the builds are more risky than traditional home ownership and they all look a lot more tempting than renting forever…
How To Live Mortgage Free Episode 4
Green Belt Land
Unsure whether you have no choice but to go mortgage free? Then you should read this mighty trifecta to work out what you can afford:
In the introduction to this instalment, Sarah says that by 2020, first time buyers will need to earn £64000 per year to get a mortgage. Do you think her prediction was right, or only for Londoners?
This adventure was in a similar vein to the temporary dwelling in episode two.
Case study: At the ripe old age of 22, Carwyn was a furniture maker living at home with his parents. He and his girlfriend Megan turned the frames (with no sides) from two lorry backs into a mobile home on his family’s farm in Welshpool. They got the idea from shipping container homes.
The apartment counts as a temporary structure, so no planning permission was needed.They had to get the backs up a steep slope though to the site of his grandfather’s old workshop in between his parents and gran’s houses with a tractor. (His grandfather passed away when Carwyn was a child).
They built a kitchen, lounge, bathroom, and bedroom with the plan to sell eventually, so the spec had to be decent. They clad in larchwood and landscaped the slope so you can actually walk up it and so it doesn’t look like the home is about to slide down any second!
Damion and Carwyn and architect Damion used salvaged furniture to mark out the kitchen design. It revealed that the lounge at the back would be dark; Carwyn said this was intentional because they’d only use the lounge in the evenings anyway.
Damion wanted to switch the kitchen and lounge because this gives more surfaces facing the daylight to bounce light around…Something to mind if you don’t want to feel like you’re living in a cave!
For extra space, designer Max McMurdo suggested they tag a wardrobe onto the end of one of the lorry backs.
Carwyn installed glazing offcuts himself for £60 versus paying £4000 to have double glazing installed. As a joiner he could make his own window frames, a storage bed, and a sofa from scrap wood. Megan upholstered the couch with the help of both grandmas.
Appliances were bought secondhand:
- Fridge £39
- Oven £20
- Dishwasher £50
- Washing machine £30
- Fridge freezer £9!
(For those prices, I’d probably have two fridges also).
They also found a conveyor belt type clothing rail for £150 and basically built a walkin wardrobe. Taps were new, but cost £30 discounted. All the bathroom fittings totalled less than £100 and the copper light fittings were homemade. The chipped kitchen sink was preloved.
How to do the same: They bought their appliances in advance of when they needed them whenever they saw a bargain. Swipe right on furniture makers.
Total costs: £5000. Carwyn made furniture in exchange for the lorry backs. Do you have a skill you could barter?
Clubbing together with others needs careful legal planning. John and Jennifer found a small derelict plot in Edinburgh to build a tenement of four flats. It’s the largest cross-laminated timber building in Edinburgh and meant no steelwork, block walls, or cement floors. This cut out lots of associated tradesmen and shortened their build by nine weeks.
It only took 13 days to put up timber frames comprising the walls, floors, the roof and stairs. Triple glazing and energy efficiency meant the only heating needed was towel rails in the bathrooms. They also installed mechanical ventilation and a heat exchanger. The roof garden has views of the city. Most importantly, the collective got on well.
To do the same: Form a group, structure finances and decide if everyone will be live-in occupiers. Decide on things like ceiling heights, building materials, and how much time everyone has to contribute. You also need an architect and legal advice. Maybe co-build with an architect and a lawyer then…
The loophole: This is going to come as a shock, but they sold a previous house that they had extended and redecorated. This cleared their mortgage of £150k and gave them equity.
Total costs: Each buyer put in a hefty £300k (presumably using self-build mortgages though). Add an extra 25% if using a developer/building company.
Green Belt Land
It is possible to build on the green belt although it’s protected. Planning permission just has to preserve as much nature as possible.
Mel and her husband built next to a motorway on their 23 acre fishery. (I smell something fishy, and it’s anyone who can afford to own 23 acres…Let’s focus on what they built instead). It’s a massive single storey four bed house with lots of glass, and no views or sound from the motorway because it’s four metres into the ground. The earth banks surrounding it and triple glazing insulate for heat/sound. The grass roof also made it eco friendly enough to get permission.
The savings: Detached houses nearby cost £1m+ (40 miles north of London).
Total costs: £300000 on materials & labour. They sold a four bed in Bedfordshire first. *cough cough* I might be writing for first-time buyers, but the show was aimed at a bit of everyone. You know what I’m going to say though… It’s possible to build an eco house for less.
This case study reminded me of the garages in episode two. Skip to the bottom for more on that.
Jules converted a garage in Powys, Wales into a workshop with a flat above. He made it eco by adding a new roof, insulation and a mechanical heating/ventilation system. He also added lots of style: the induction hob got damaged, so he replaced the whole counter including the hob with tempered glass.
The savings: Jules used YouTube to learn how to build. He bought the cheapest kitchen cabinets on the high street and got them sprayed with automotive paint (orange gloss).
To do the same: You might need change of use in the planning permission (I think this depends on whether there is already living space within the industrial structure). Prior approval takes longer. This is where they investigate the impact of change on parking, contaminated land, highways, and flooding. Part L regulations relate to fuel and energy efficiency. Sympathetic design might be a criteria depending on your location.
Total costs: £66k. £36k in 2015 for the building with basic services and planning; £30k on inside. It was all DIY apart from the roof.
The most expensive item was a solar hot water tank. It’s displayed in an engine room since it cost so much!
Another LOL suggestion if you are a first time buyer, but something to think about once you have a home of one kind or another. Flipping is the old school process of selling and buying, using the equity created from each sale to move up the ladder.
I’m not convinced this is going to be viable for the majority in future. Because of the change to mortgage rules after the 2008 crisis, some homeowners have got stuck on the ladder.
I think more of us will be reinventing smaller properties when the bank says no rather than moving to bigger houses with bigger mortgages as we age. It will be one way to end up mortgage free sooner than later!
Darren and Anthony paid every mortgage aggressively until they had enough equity for their first self-build. They have a self-contained flat downstairs for Darren’s mum and three bedrooms upstairs.They won best self-build at the 2016 Build It Awards. (Build It are quite the resource if you’re curious about reenacting a Fleetwood Mac song and “going your own way” with this property malarkey).
The savings: The frame is so strong that the internal walls can be thinner and therefore the house is easy to heat. The kitchen worktops were £50 a length because they were end of the line.
Total costs: £650k. £300k for the land and £350k for the build. £55k for a specialist company to build the oak frame. £5k for the kitchen, not including appliances…The house gained £150000 in value after only one year and is now worth £1m+.
To do the same: Follow this blog to help you save as much as possible for your deposit, and then we’ll jump off the next bridge when it arrives?
Episode Four Winner For First-time Buyers
Carwyn and Megan’s mobile home if you can find a countryside spot, otherwise Jules’s converted garage is the only option under £100k. Eek.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments how you’d tackle these on a smaller budget.
This episode stretched the limits of what’s possible if you’re already struggling to save for a deposit. They are just examples though, so you don’t have to spend exactly the same as someone else to go through something similar.
I think the important thing is to use shows like this as a launchpad for ideas and not get disheartened by others who are further down the line than you when it comes to home ownership. If like me you don’t like hearing “no”, or “can’t”, then you’ll likely get a kick out of taking any of these projects and attempting to do them cheaper.
The other point that isn’t emphasised on the show is that the final figures are exactly that: final costs. Creating your own home means you’re not beholden to anyone else in the first place, so it can be done at a pace that suits your finances.
You don’t have to have all the money ready at the start, as most of these conversions take many months. This gives you time to continue earning while you build.
For more inspiration, catch up on episode five very soon. The mailing list awaits you if you want reminders of new blog posts, and tips to rocket your income and savings direct to your inbox.
If you want to go back, part one of my recap featured the following ideas:
Moored Shipping Containers
In part two I recapped:
Garages (change of use)
Ex-council Homes For £1
The gallivanting in Episode Three included:
Houseboats (again! Different boat)
If you’ve plenty of time on your hands, you can watch How to Live Mortgage Free with Sarah Beeny on All4 for free. You’ll also find How to Live Mortgage Free on Netflix if entertainment is one of your spending priorities.