I’m sorry everyone but you’re going to have to build smaller

Although the Celtic Tiger has finished swishing it’s tail and he’s gone for a nice lie down; there’s still remains in the house building public an unrealistic expectation on the size of house that’s required.

Now, if you’ve saved a stack of money or you’ve just won the lottery then you’re entitled to build any size you like. But for the rest of us (that requires finance from the bank) then a massive change of thinking is required, that is:


I suspect that many will thinks such words blasphemous but the reality on the ground is that the banks are making it (if not impossible) then very difficult to obtain the finance in order to build a house of any size. Currently the sequence of events is as follows:

1. The start – let’s build our own house

Hopefully you’re in full-time, permanent employment with a nice stack of money saved as a deposit. Ideally then you’ve worked out the possible mortgage you could get to build your house based on your salary. You may even have met with the bank manager who says:

“Based on your current income, my bank would give you a provisional mortgage of €xxx,000”

2. You design and get planning for your dream house

You work with your architect to design and get planning permission for your dream house (ahem) based on the budget in 1.

3. All the construction drawings are ready and you’re ready to build!

Again working with your architect (ahem) you produce a through set of tender drawings, specifications and schedules in order to build your dream house in accordance with the budget at 1. You may at this stage have to trim a little here and there in order to meet the budget.

4. You go back to the bank to get the money to build

Bank manager says:

“Yes, you’ve been approved for €xxx,000. Get your architect to fill these forms in (ahem) and we’ll be all set”

5. Bank reduces mortgage offer.

After a lot of refilling in forms, liaising with the bank, the bank in their loveliness decides to offer a mortgage (conditionally subject to contract) for a reduced amount. On a couple of projects this drop has been as much as 25%.

Now you have a couple of options:

a. Reduce the specification of the build or get cheaper labour.

Although labour is cheaper at the moment, materials are not. You are also going to need more materials than previously just to barely comply with the changes in Part L of the Building Regulations. Either way going down this route is tantamount to where we were in the ‘crap building’ days of the Celtic tiger; building poorly with insufficient materials (albeit for different reasons).

b. Reduce the size of the house

You may be able to phase a build by leaving out a section and still comply with your planning permission and even if the worse comes to the worse, you could reapply for a smaller house and the project would only be delayed for a few months.

A better option still may be to have thought ahead and plan accordingly for such an eventuality and seriously and realistically think about the spaces that you require in your house. These are the questions I would be asking myself:

  • How many bedrooms do we realistically need?
  • Do we really need that extra bed/play/spare/office room?
  • How large do the rooms realistically need to be?
  • Realistically, how big does the kitchen/utility room need to be
  • How can we be clever about our choice of materials
  • How can we achieve the same effect visually or thermally for less?

    Remember, small can be just as beautiful.

    Comments as always welcome…

  • 11 thoughts on “I’m sorry everyone but you’re going to have to build smaller

    1. Great post and very apt given the current economic climate which doesn’t look like it’s going to improve anytime soon.

      The big issue I see with “option b” is that most people are worried that reducing the size of the house will require them to have to reapply for new permission and delay the project even further. There is also the added expense of having to resubmit new plans, etc…

      Are there any published planning guidelines or precedents on this issue? So for example you don’t need permission if you scale down the design by say 10% of floor area but if it’s more than 10% then you should reapply for new permission.

    2. We built seven years ago when all 3 children were still in school, but as economically with space as we thought possible. Two left for college and I felt we were living in a blooming castle and why didn’t we forsee this? Now one child is partially disabled (unforseen) and unemployed (unforseen also) so is home a lot of the time and suddenly the downstairs bed and extra bathroom is essential. And last week the other decided she couldn’t stick the part-time job and will be living at home to finish college for the next two years. Suddenly its a full house again, and they all expect to bring home their social lives too…

      And this is just a run of the mill four bed we’re talking- I seriously wonder how some people can even afford to heat their homes, let alone build them! And did I say its almost a passive solar design so our heating costs are pretty low??!!

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