Last edited 15 Aug 2016

Kit houses

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Traditionally in the UK, houses are built speculatively by a developer, and then people buy them and move in. The home owner does not influence the design of the home.

However, there are two routes by which clients can procure a home that to their own design:

Kit houses, or kit homes, are a form of self-build home that are constructed from series of prefabricated components that can be purchased from a supplier and then assembled on site to create a completed house. Suppliers of kit houses may offer a range of components that can be selected and assembled in a number of ways so that the client is able to tailor the design to their personal preferences.

Kit houses are considered to be ‘self-build’ because, whilst the supplier may design, manufacture and assemble the house on behalf of the self-builder, the self-builder may still have to co-ordinate a number of complex activities, such as:

The supplier may be able to help with some of these tasks (for example consulting with the local planning authority and obtaining building regulations approvals) or may be able suggest contractors or consultants that can help. Suppliers can offer just a shell for the client to fit out, through to a turnkey service, even helping to arrange a mortgage.

It is important when purchasing a kit house to visit a similar completed kit house to get a sense of how the building is likely to feel and to assess the quality of workmanship that can be expected from the supplier.

Kit houses are relatively low risk, fast and straight forward to construct, and can offer a relatively low cost method for developing a high-quality, self-build home. However, there are limitations to the permutations of the components available, with some kits being more flexible than others, and consideration must be given to the suitability of the kit to the orientation and topography of the plot. It is also difficult and expensive to make changes once fabrication has begun.

Historically, kit houses may have been seen as offering relatively un-stylish design options, however more recently the variety and quality of design has improved significantly, and top-end kit houses can be large and luxurious, and difficult to distinguish from custom-designed homes.

Payment terms will vary depending on the supplier. Sometimes fees are required for design, planning application and building regulations applications as well as stage payments during fabrication and installation. Payments for design fees are sometimes deducted from the overall price when the main supply contract is signed.

It is important to ensure that a kit house comes with a suitable warranty covering design, materials and workmanship, and that any fixtures and fittings are covered as well as the buildings fabric (albeit they may be covered by a separate, shorter-term warranty). Third party warranty providers may inspect the building as construction progresses.

Banks and building societies are likely to require a warranty before they will lend against the completed building.

NB Kit houses may qualify to reclaim the VAT paid on eligible building materials and services. See VAT refunds on self-build homes for more information.

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