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All you need to find is the land and planning permission.


A £24m funding package was put together earlier this year to help first-time buyers in Scotland get a foot on the property ladder.

But just how much would they have to spend to build their own home?

The answer could be as little as £4,000.

That is the estimated price tag attached to a property which has been built in southern Scotland over the past four years.

The walls are made of straw, the roof out of turf and much of the rest of the building from items other people threw away.

The end product is a warm and watertight cottage which gets its water supplies by gathering rainfall and its electricity from a car battery.

It is something that anybody could easily learn to do most of, with help

Steve James

In Pictures: The £4,000 house

Plans are also in place for a water wheel to provide power for the property later this year.

According to 52-year-old software engineer Steve James, who built the Galloway home, there was a dual motivation behind his "grand design".

Firstly, he has always enjoyed manual labour and the idea of building a home with his own hands appealed to him.

"I have never built a house before but I have done a bit of joinery and have done a lot of practical work," he said.

"Most of my life I have been a hands-on worker.


House roof joists - Picture courtesy envisioneer.net

£600 supplies for volunteers

£500 sarking

£400 floorboards

£400 pond liner

£300 straw

£200 plumbing

£150 reclaimed joists

£150 plywood

£150 equipment hire

£150 glass

£100 quicklime

£100 wiring

£100 tarpaulin

£100 paint/varnish

£100 batteries

£100 fixings

£100 miscellaneous

£100 fuel for power tools

£70 water pump

£50 water heater

£50 stove chimney

£30 cooker

"So, first of all there is the personal satisfaction of putting my skills to making a house."

However, the project may also help to highlight wider issues of housing space and land availability.

He believes a three-bedroom family home could easily be built for £10,000.

"It is something that anybody could easily learn to do most of, with help," he said.

"The real cost of a house is fairly small. It is always the land that makes about 85% of the cost.

"Adding the compound interest to the final cost of a mortgage reduces the actual house price component of the total to as little as 2%."

The Galloway project has taken about 10 months of actual building time to complete.

The operation started four years ago when the foundations were put down and a first set of walls put up.

However, these had to be demolished after the rain soaked them through when tarpaulins failed. A second set were put up in 2005, when the roof was also added.

A year later it was time to render, floor, plumb and wire the building.

Cubicle doors

In 2007 a stove, decoration and internal fittings were put in place.

Local forestry like larch, spruce and elm were used to construct much of the property.

Sand, gravel, rock and turf from nearby fields and burns were also a part of the build.

And straight out of other people's rubbish came a roof velux, shower tray, front window, front door and an oval bedroom window.

House interior with stove - Picture courtesy envisioneer.net

The stove chimney for the home cost just £50

Mr James's favourite pieces of reclamation work include the Tudor-style panelled timber ceiling.

It was made out of solid pine changing cubicle doors salvaged from old Victorian public baths in Govan.

A traditional Belfast sink was constructed out of items from a decommissioned primary school.

And worktops and windowsills came from a Cedar of Lebanon in Pollok Park in Glasgow which was felled by a storm.

They have all been brought together to create a home which aims to be both ecologically and economically friendly.

At last estimate the average house price in Scotland stood at about £158,000.

Mr James believes 40 home owners could build their own properties for that money.

And you would also be guaranteed a home which looked nothing like your neighbour's.

Sure, there's no room for discretionary purchases, but it beats keeping an ex-pat landlord in sangria.

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  • 294 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?

      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%

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