In the run-up to actually deciding to build our own house, we poured over house manufacturer catalogs, we dreamed, we saw what felt like hundreds of houses we would like to build. Funnily enough, with an actual plot in mind, the choice suddenly turned bewildering and difficult. Suddenly, the plot dictates what can go on it and not, and it turns out the majority of houses in the catalogs can be discarded, and suddenly none quite fit!
We had discussed between us and come up with some requirements for us as a family of four:
- A red house with white corners (rött hus med vita knutar) – stereotypically Swedish and a long-term dream of ours.
- A fully completed house, ready for us to move in (nyckelfärdigt) rather than one where own work was required.
- A full two floors, rather than as is often the case in Sweden with many 1.5 storey houses, where the upstairs sits in the eves of the house.
- At least 150m2 of living area.
- The kids to have their own bedrooms
- A reasonably sized guestroom for family and friends to come stay.
- An open plan feel to the house, but without ability to see the kitchen worktops from the livingroom (yes, a rather specific requirement that came from our first flat in the Netherlands, where the sheer guilt of seeing the post-dinner mess in the kitchen, prevented any relaxation until it had been taken care of!).
Our plot had in turn narrowed our choice (see Part I), and we knew we were looking for a house of a maximum footprint of 100m2, with the entrance on the short side of the house, and living area maximised along the side facing the garden and the light.
Choice vs Cost
We had gone into the house building process with open minds, open to letting the situation of the plot guide the selection of the house. What we had not perhaps expected was for it to be so difficult to find something that fit. We were, after all, looking for somewhat of a “standard” house shape. It turns out, however, that most prefab homes (modulhus) we found interesting had:
- Entrance along the long edge of the house, rather than the short edge (gavelställt). While we were not entirely against this, it would feel natural for this to be towards the garden rather than the side facing a future neighbour, which in turn led to losing living area in the side of the house with the best light.
- Open plans running lengthwise across one side, giving full line of sight between livingroom area and kitchen.
- A footprint too big (>100m2) to fit within planning restrictions. While we could have applied to be given special permission, success in this was not guaranteed.
- Little scope for adjustments or changes to internal walls, kitchen layout, style etc, all of which we wanted.
It also turns out that from being open to everything, we suddenly found many many things we wanted to change with nearly every house. If we were going to build a house, getting it exactly like we wanted was now a key requirement!
Making many changes, however, means moving away from prefab. While not an issue in itself this automatically leads to ruling out some of the cheaper manufacturers (Smålandsvillan, Älvsbyhus, Movehome), and our choice from this point became an exercise in the finding the most choice for the least added cost.
We went through many manufacturer catalogues and had several in person meetings with agents. While there will obviously be local variations when it comes to experiences, we were very interested in Eksjöhus but found their sales rep disinterested and difficult to get hold of. We liked Anebyhus and Ahus, but when it became clear their prefab lines would not work for us, the jump in terms of price to a “premium line” allowing changes was too much for us to justify.
Fiskarhedenvillan on the other hand approach matters slightly differently; Starting from their standard houses, you can change nearly anything, and the change in price is strictly related to the amount of additional work and materials. Because they essentially deal in loose timber (lösvirke) as opposed to prefab / modules, it lends them significantly more flexibility, which for us made them the perfect match. It also helped that their sales representative – Emil – was absolutely fantastic and put us at ease from day one.
It should be noted that the flexibility comes at a cost though, as the process is not nearly as quick as with prefabs, which we have heard can be put together in a month – where we will be looking at a six month build.
We are building a heavily modified version of Tidlös 06 by Fiskarhedenvillan. And when I say heavily modified, we have really changed nearly every single wall, door and window in the house. We have also widened it compared to the original dimensions, and raised the downstairs ceiling to increase the sense of space.
For an idea of the extent of our changes, these are the Fiskarhedenvillan floorplans and a photo of the Tidlös 06 standard model:
See the original Fiskarheden model at: