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On this episode we’ve got an amazing special guest. Her name is Jodi Peters and she is the creator behind the Instagram account Just One More Build. If you’re not following her, you need to. 

Introducing Jodi

Jodi has built the house that they’re now living in from scratch with her husband, Damien. Between them, they’ve renovated five homes along with three knockdown/rebuilds. They have often lived on building sites with their family while working at the same time.

Jodi is passionate about sharing her journey. Her patience, perseverance and passion has resulted in the most beautiful property. But what’s even better is their story behind it – as a family they have worked really hard. People forget all the hard work that goes into actually owning a property like that. 

Jodi loves to upcycle, turning classic furniture into beautiful new items. One of my favourite posts is a boot room in Jodi’s house. It’s honestly the sort of thing you’d see in a magazine. She’s created it from scratch and shown you every tip on how to do that. It doesn’t cost as much as it seems. And I loved it when she told me that her stunning dining table was actually her Granny’s, and her husband initially deemed it suitable for the skip! You’d never believe it looking at it now!

Today’s episode

Today we’re talking to you about building your own property. Jodi will be sharing her top tips for building your own property or doing renovations of any kind. She’s here to inspire us all that the route to our beautiful forever home doesn’t have to take a predictable path. And in the current climate, pennies matter. 

Jodi, thank you so much for joining us on the Mortgage Mum podcast. Jodi and I actually crossed paths back in 2008. Jodi was my recruitment consultant, and she managed to get me the job I was after, and we’ve both come a long way since. 

When did you first fall in love with property, Jodi?

At 19 I bought my first flat. I was really young, and I think it was pretty crazy but I realised that a mortgage was cheaper than rent. I wasn’t earning huge amounts of money, but I saved up the deposit – which was about £5,000 at the time. 

I bought a flat for £88,000, which seemed a lot then. I moved in, I was working in the City and I was doing up the flat at weekends, evenings and on holidays. I roped in people to help. I sold it within two years and made a really good profit… and then I had the bug! 

I realised I could make money from property and I just really loved the process of creating something lovely on a budget. Money was tight, so I had to do a lot of the work myself and make the best of what I had.

How did you start developing properties as a couple?

I’d made quite a bit of profit on my flat so I could buy something bigger. My then-husband-to-be also loved renovating properties, so we sold what we had and started doing properties together. So we would go into work, do our normal day jobs and be on a building site in the evenings. 

I’d hold a torch and he’d be tiling. We learned how to tile, to do carpentry, to plaster, to fit bathrooms and decorate. We learned how to plumb a house at one point, because we didn’t have the money to bring people in, but we just loved to innovate. 

It was really hard work. There were times where we had no floor and we were climbing across floorboards, but we did it. 

What was the next challenge?

Next, we had a cottage that was detached and realised we could maximise its potential by going out on the side, extending on the back and going up a level. That was our first really big project – and probably where we made the most mistakes. I think we thought we knew it all. And that’s the thing with renovating, you’ve learned so much but every property is so different.

With every single property, we rushed into getting any available builder, which so many people do. It meant that the build time went over and we ran out of money, so it was a big learning curve for us. 

As a 19 year old I would not have been doing that! Where did your passion and discipline come from? 

I was renting a room in London and partying and having a great time, and my family, I think, wanted to calm me down a bit. They persuaded me to come home for a while. 

I remember having a discussion about rent being so expensive, and wondered about buying somewhere. A mortgage adviser told me I could get £88,000, and I found this flat. Their chain had fallen through, so they’d knocked the price down significantly.

My offer was accepted – it felt like it wasn’t real until I got my keys. I had to go for a property that needed renovating because that’s what I could afford. If I could have bought a swanky lovely pad at 19, I would have!

Do you get ‘the feeling’ when you walk in a property? Can you get that with a renovation, or is it a different mindset?

I’ve never had that, ever. I have never liked a property I bought. Almost to the point where the worse the property is, the more of a dump it is, the more likely I am to buy it.

I always go for the worst house on the best street. A house that really no one wants to take on. The house we’re in now was originally a bungalow and was on the market for about six months. That’s unheard of in this area – but no one could see what to do with it.

And strangely, one of the children that grew up in the house knocked on my door one day. He said he couldn’t believe what was now there. They’d sold it because they didn’t think anything could be done with it. 

They’re the houses we love, where you don’t want to step onto the carpet because it’s so disgusting, or the walls are caving in. Usually I open a door to the house that we’ve just bought, and think, what have I done? That was less the case before we had children. We loved a challenge, so it was exciting, but since having the children you realise it impacts on them as well.

It must be tough to have quality family time when you’re in the middle of a project?

Exactly. But we knew this was the road to go down to get what we wanted in the end. We just couldn’t afford what we wanted. If we could have bought our dream house, already done perfectly, we would have.

Also, you pay a premium to buy a property that’s all done. And it would never be exactly as I wanted it, but I’d be paying a premium for it anyway. So I’d rather buy something and work really hard to put my own stamp on it.

Where do people start if they have a dream of building their own home?

So many people think they can buy a plot of land and build their own house. But it’s almost impossible to do. There’s not many plots, and if you do find one that has planning permission or the right to build, you’ll pay a fortune for it. 

So for us, a bungalow or a property with a good plot size has lots of potential. We would focus on a bungalow where there aren’t many others left on that road, for example. Generally bungalows are on a bigger plot and if most of the houses on that road are already much bigger, you’re likely to get planning permission. 

The first property that we knocked down had existing foundations and one third of one original wall. So although we almost took the whole house away it was still classed as a renovation. It was detached, so we knew there was space for us to go out on the side on the back and to add an upper level. There was so much potential. So it’s all about finding a good plot size in a good location.

Would you always knock the original house down?

We’ll always look at making good of the existing property if we can, because it’s expensive to start from scratch. Taking the foundations away is not a cheap way of doing it. But with this particular property, the foundations were not deep enough for us to build the property we wanted on it. So we had no choice. Otherwise, we would always try to work with what we’ve got, if we can.

One bit of advice I can give you is that if you can and it’s not too awful, move into the house and live there. We lived in the bungalow for a year because we had to apply for planning and that was a long process. That gave us a year to decide what we wanted and get planning through. But also you get a feel for the plot. What we originally thought we’d build changed completely by the time we did the plans. It gave us time instead of rushing into building.

It’s not nice, though. In some of the rooms, we put cheap, clean carpet down. I was pregnant with my youngest and I could not be around filthy carpets.  We made do and made it safe for the little ones. 

We also had time to get to know the neighbours and talk through our plans with them, because it was a big change. People can be scared when they know a big change is happening. Although we develop properties, that’s not what we were here to do. We were building our home. 

Rumours go around and people panic that you’re going to build a block of flats. So we spoke to them and put their minds at ease. Not everyone was on board, of course, because it was a big change, but most people were.

What did people think of what you were doing?

Everyone thought we were absolutely bonkers. They said things like: “You’ve just finished a lovely place. Why are you starting again?” But to us, it was worth it. And that’s why I have the Just One More Build account, because that’s the joke with my friends and family. I keep saying “Just one more build, and I’ll get it out of my system.” 

I think for us, the next step will be doing them on the side, as projects rather than living in them. But if the perfect house came up… Who knows? I don’t know if I could ever say I have my forever home.

What I will say is, this is the home that I dreamed of having, that I never thought would be even remotely achievable. My children are happy here, and we built the home for how we want to live. When you buy a house that’s already done, you might say “I wish the utility was here,” or, “I wish the door opened this way,” there are all those little niggly things. We get to design our home our way, which feels really good for us as a family. 

We planned for the children growing up and what they might need when they’re older. We created space for our parents or guests, with their own bathroom and their own little kitchenette. And never in a million years could we ever have afforded to buy what we’ve built.

Did you spend far less building the house than if you’d bought it as it is now?

Yes, it would have been completely out of our reach. But it was a big risk. You might look at my Instagram and, although it’s got pictures of my children sitting around a box because we had no table, you can’t see the huge risk we took. I remember buying this house, then seeing it being demolished and feeling a bit sick. There was nothing there – and we’d paid a lot of money. 

But you do your sums and make sure that it’s an educated risk. We had quotes from builders but we just couldn’t afford to get what we wanted with a builder. And we thought, we’ve done this so many times, we know everything. Then you get on site and realise you know nothing. It’s completely different to any plot or house you’ve done before. This plot slopes in a certain way and we’re putting a basement in which we’ve never done before. 

You will make mistakes every time, but it’s about sheer perseverance and hard work. I would labour on site, to save on costs. I was carrying blocks, clearing the site, helping put plasterboard up, plastering and all sorts.

The children helped us put the skirting boards in, they’ve helped us paint, and we’ve done lots to save money along the way. You’ve got to really be imaginative and creative to save money. 

What advice do you have for someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

If you’re going to get a builder, you need someone that’s highly recommended. Go to your local Facebook groups. There are renovation groups for pretty much every town, and usually there’s thousands of people there sharing information and personal recommendations. So if you ask on those groups for builders and other traders you’ll find the people that are really good. 

When you find the good ones, contact them. Go and see their work and speak to people they’ve worked for. You want to know that they’re good, decent people, not just great builders. They stick to their time frames, more or less. They’re the kind of people that you can have the children around. 

We’ve made this mistake. We didn’t want to wait a year for the recommended builders. So we found one online on a trusted trader website, and it was an absolute disaster. Within two months, he walked off site. So wait for the right people.

It will end up costing you more if you rush to get people that are available, unless there’s a really good reason, like a job’s fallen through. People who are available straight away, are generally not the builders or traders that you want.

I would get three quotes generally for a big job for example, our foundation, our windows, roofing. Sometimes you’ll go for the higher cost if it feels like they’re the right person.  You’ll get a feel for someone when you meet them. Don’t always go for the cheapest. 

Do you need experience to be able to project manage a build yourself?

It’s a whole job, and it never ends. What I found was really useful with me being on site was that if any of the trades needed materials, I would just go and get them, so they could carry on working. It saved a lot of money and time as well. 

Things are quite expensive when you’re building a house. There’s lots and lots of materials you need. I would go to the builders merchants that I knew had the best prices, whereas the traders would go to the closest. Those kinds of things make a difference. 

It also meant I was there, so everyone turned up, or I knew if they didn’t. If changes needed to be made, we could make them with no delays. Then I would pick the children up from school and go home with them.

Then I’d be planning for the next day. It’s really full on, making sure that the right materials are on site and everyone’s got what they need to do their jobs. You don’t want a trader on site who can’t do the job they’ve come to do. Time is money. Being on site made a big difference.

What is Right to Light and why is this important?

If you’re making big changes to the footprint of your property or building from scratch, you might need a Right to Light survey. It’s good value to get it done as early as you can. Most planning objections come from people being concerned about the impact to their own property. Your neighbours will be worried about how far out and how high up you’re going and whether it will affect the light into their property. 

Have the survey done beforehand, and you will know how far you can extend your property. Once you have your plans, you’ve already covered the light into neighbouring properties, so you’re one step ahead. If you can, speak to your neighbours beforehand and explain that you don’t want to impact on their home and their life, so you’ve had that survey done.

It helps to get people on side and speeds up the planning process as well. One of our neighbours was concerned about the height of the property, but we’d already had this survey. We included it with our plans and the objection was overruled instantly – we had evidence that it wouldn’t impact the light into his living space. 

How do you approach budgeting?

With your budgeting, look at what you need and what you want. We always have two budgets – what we would love to have, and what are the fundamental needs to live in the house. We have always lived on a building site. We’ve always done what we absolutely needed or what we absolutely could afford. 

We could bring traders in when we could afford to, but often we’d be doing a lot of the work ourselves. You can achieve your end goal, but you might have to wait a bit longer to get there. So figure out what you absolutely need first and get your budget for that, then everything else is a bonus.

How long did it take to get your home completed?

We bought the property in 2018 and moved into it after a year. We had three rooms done at that stage. We had no staircases, and our ground floor was a complete building site. But the rooms that we really needed were done: kitchen, bathroom, children’s bedrooms. 

People would visit, and I’d warn them that it was a building site, and then they’d arrive and be amazed at what a building site it really was. By about 2020, it was livable.

You could walk into every room and it might not be finished, but it felt like a room. It took until last year for it to feel like ours, to feel like our space to relax in.

It’s fascinating that you put the kitchen in the basement. How does it have so much natural light?

The house is on a slope, so originally the back of the house was six feet above ground level, with steps going down to the garden. That’s partly why we went into the basement.

We now walk straight out onto our patio. We raised the ceiling height quite a lot and there are glass doors right across the back that bring in a lot of light. We were digging down anyway, so we decided to go a bit deeper for the height and the light. It doesn’t feel like a basement at all, even though it’s actually underground.

What do you wish you’d known going into this field?

I wish I’d known how important the builders are and making sure they’re highly recommended.

Next, I’d say plan what you can get on a budget. What I enjoy most about doing properties is getting a high-end look on a low-end budget. We were quoted £3,500 for cabinets to store all the plastic horrible things that the children have. Instead, we did an Ikea hack for about £500 and it looks great. 

But it takes time and effort. Pinterest is amazing. You can get so many ideas, so many tips. If I can find anything secondhand, I will. We upcycle. You’ll see my granny’s table on Instagram – now my children sit to eat at that table every day. My husband wanted to throw it in the skip. 

Those imperfect pieces make your home feel perfect – because they’re part of you. With things that take a bit more work, you appreciate them so much more. 

Tell us about your new project in interiors?

Whenever we’ve dressed houses to sell, buyers would ask to buy the furniture. I’d be ready to sell but my husband would say we needed them for the next one. I just love dressing houses. It’s kind of my passion.

I’m always asked by friends to help them, so I decided to start my own homeware and furniture brand, called Jodi’s Style House. The website is just about ready to launch, which is really exciting. Everything that I’ll be selling through Jodi’s Style House will be the kind of things that I have in my home that you’ll see on Instagram. 

It means I get to dress so many other houses and I just love finding beautiful quality pieces that will last, that you will love for a long time. And now I can share those with people for their homes.

It sounds perfect – this is where your journey has led you. Do you have any last thoughts for this episode?

Just don’t be afraid. Like I said, I’ve opened the door and thought, what have I done? It’s daunting, taking on a project. But we started small, and bit by bit you build more confidence and you learn so much along the way. 

Lean on people that know what they’re doing. You will have friends that have done this before and can give you advice. If I, aged 19 and without a clue, could do it – you can do it. You’ve just got to go for it and be brave. 

If you wait for the perfect time to do these things, it becomes more and more difficult. The more responsibility you have, the more time constraints… You just have to go for it and figure it out. 

You will make mistakes. I made huge mistakes, but I didn’t do them again – it’s all part of the process. We still saved a huge amount of money, and achieved something that we never would have without making all those mistakes. So don’t be afraid.

Coming up next…

Next month, you’ll hear the first of seven months of guest hosts on The Mortgage Mum podcast while I go on maternity leave. So this is my last episode for a little while. 

I’m really excited about this refresh on the podcast and some really great content – it’s going to be brilliant. So do keep feeding back to me while I’m feeding my baby. Thank you so much for your support. If you’ve enjoyed this episode of the Mortgage Mum podcast, please share, subscribe, rate and review this podcast, and let’s keep supporting each other.