Taking a leap into the unknown in order to get a foot on the housing ladder
PUBLISHED: 11:49 26 January 2019 | UPDATED: 09:51 05 October 2020
House prices in Suffolk are still rising, and it can be almost impossible for people under 40 to buy their own home. But one woman has an innovative solution to get her foot on the property ladder.
Isobel Dide Siemmond is an accomplished writer, composer and artist, who speaks six languages and studied philosophy at Cambridge University. But despite her life achievements, the 30 year-old has found it “ridiculously difficult” to be able to get a mortgage.
“A lot of my friends all have different kinds of jobs, but the only ones that have been able to get a mortgage have been helped to do so by their families,” says Isobel, who is from near Framlingham. “Some have even considered starting a commune to get on the property ladder. It doesn’t matter what job you have, or where you went to uni, it’s very hard.”
Isobel’s mother gifted her a very small plot of land in Suffolk, which opened up new possibilities.
“I started researching all kinds of options, and thought for a very long time I would have a container conversion,” she said.
There may be up to 40 million shipping containers in the world right now, and only six million of them are in use. They are said to be a strong, secure, practical and of course affordable alternative to conventional housing, for those who don’t mind small spaces.
Isobel got the planning permission last summer for a 40x10ft container, but then changed her mind and decided to go ahead with a similar design, but using SIP - insulated wooden panels, with insulated foam cores sandwiched inside - instead. She came up with the design for a 30sq ft house, with one bedroom and a study, all made from SIP, as well as a garage and green house.
SIP housing is starting to catch on as a much cheaper alternative to bricks and mortar, and in fact, the AJ Architecture Awards House of the Year 2018 was made from SIP (Lochside House, in Scotland). But it’s still practically unheard of in Suffolk. So Isobel had to recruit a SIP builder all the way from Wales, Rhodri Foote’s Superior Sips, to construct her home.
“SIPS have better insulation for walls and ceilings,” she explained. “A container can be good, but I think overall, SIPS are more environmentally sound - and ultimately cheaper too. The overall price of the cheapest container, including cladding, is £45,000, whereas for SIP houses it’s more like £30,000 to £40,000.”
One of the big advantages for Isobel of going down the SIP route was being able to design her home from scratch. “I was able to design it with my needs in mind, so I can really get to own it,” she said. “Everybody told me not to have a study, but that was important for me. It will be my own space - I can shut the door to Netflix and be at peace!”
Isobel didn’t want to make the design too quirky, which might deter future buyers. “I am very well aware that this is my only chance to get on the property ladder, so I’m trying to also make it aesthetically neutral for home buyers to make selling or renting it out easier,” she said.
The plot where the build will take place is “a really inspirational place,” she says, with views of a stream and fields and a little wood. “I don’t know if I could see myself living there for 20 years, but for a while.”
Isobel is currently still waiting for the building work to begin after encountering a number of hurdles in the process, but is hopeful it will start next week.
“I applied for planning last April, which was a nightmare - it was left on somebody’s desk for months on end. Then we had to go through lots of surveys.
“It’s been such a difficult process and I’m still not sure if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“But when I think it’s actually happening, I get ridiculously excited.”
If all goes according to plan from now on, Isobel will be left with a house that ticks all her boxes, and only cost her around £35,000 (which would have been £70,000, including the price of the land) - compared to £267,000, which is the average property price in her area of Suffolk.
“I believe that a house should always be made to be as beautiful as possible for others - within financial constraints,” she said. “Mine will be low cost, environmental, and beautiful too.”
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