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Tight for space? Build a home in your garden

With house prices at record highs, thousands of families are unable to find a new home that suits them at a price they can afford. 

But a growing number are hitting on an unusual solution: giving up part of their garden to build a home for a family member. 

More than a third of homeowners would consider building a new home in their garden, according to a recent survey by specialist lender Together. Of these, over 40 per cent would do so to create a permanent home for a family member. 

Even more could be tempted after the Government launched a new £150million Help to Build scheme last month. 

Neighbours:  How David Kirby’s new house will look in the garden of his existing home in the Wirral, which he is selling to his son Tom and family

As many as 40,000 households are expected to benefit from the plan each year, which offers Government loans to put towards a deposit to build a new home. 

The Kirbys are one such family who have taken the plunge. David Kirby, 65, is approaching retirement and lives in a five-bedroom house in the Wirral that he built 30 years ago. His six children have flown the nest, leaving him living alone in a large property.

Meanwhile, a mile and a half down the road, his son Tom, 34, is struggling to find a good-sized, affordable family home for himself and his wife, Alice, and three boys Ralph, six, Hugh, four, and Rex, two. 

The solution? David is selling his home to his son and his young family. That will release cash that he will part use to build a beautiful home at the other end of his large garden. 

‘My father gets on with his neighbours, likes the area and wants to stay here,’ says Tom. ‘But his house no longer suits him. We live nearby, but need somewhere with more space. This is the perfect answer.’ 

There is a plot of land at the side of David’s garden, which had previously been overlooked because it has a stream running along it and high water levels. 

But Tom and David have worked with engineering company Sutcliffe to come up with a design that cantilevers David’s new house above the flood plain. ‘That way we keep the main garden intact, which my dad has worked so hard over the years to improve,’ says Tom. 

Tom, who is an architect, is seeing a growing number of self-build projects to help out a family member. ‘We are working on a project where a father is building a house in his large garden for his daughter as a wedding present,’ he says. 

‘In my profession, I see so much wasted space. We have a shortage of land. It’s madness to leave so much value sitting at the bottom of a garden. Building for family makes perfect sense.’ 

The Uff family in Taunton, Somerset, have hit on a similar solution to help a family member battling against soaring house prices. 

Over lockdown, Mark helped his son Charlie, 19, to turn the family’s summer house into a space for the youngster to live in. Mark’s wife Anita says: ‘Charlie now has his own place at the bottom of the garden. It means he can save up for a deposit for a place on his own. He couldn’t save if he was paying rent as well.’ 

Charlie is an apprentice carpenter, so building his own place with his father was great practice. 

Scott Clay, a manager at Together, believes lockdown has led many people to question their living arrangements. But he says that before taking on a self-build, homeowners must get any required building consent, including planning permission, and work out funding. 

‘As well as Help to Build, there are other options of funding your own build, depending on the borrower’s ability to repay the loan,’ he adds. ‘This could be through an advance from an existing lender, a self-build mortgage, or a remortgage, bridging loan or other type of property finance from a specialist lender.’ 

Duncan Hayes, a spokesperson for the National Custom and Self-Build Association says that when planning to build in a garden, homeowners must contact their local council. 

Hayes warns: ‘Care is needed as many councils will have specific policies to prevent inappropriate development of gardens.’

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