What is self-build and custom housebuilding?

There has been lots of talk about self build and custom housebuilding recently. It’s all thanks to an independent review entitled: “House: How putting customers in charge can change everything”.

We already knew that the appetite for custom housebuilding and self build homes is there. And this has been borne out by Richard Bacon MP being commissioned to lead the review by the Prime Minister.

It looked into recommendations for scaling up the self-build housing industry, to make it cheaper and easier for people to build their own home.

So no surprise that here at ‘Cost My Self Build’ we were keen to take a look at the resulting published report with the sub-title that reads: “The Prime Minister’s independent review to develop a plan for a major scaling-up of self-commissioned new homes – across all tenures – to boost capacity and overall housing supply.”

It’s a long read: 114 pages long. So over the next few weeks we’ll be breaking down the six main recommendations into, hopefully, digestible chunks.

In the meantime, we thought we’d share with you one particular page of the report, page 11, which unpacks the definition of ‘Self-build and Custom housebuilding’.

What is Self-build and Custom housebuilding?

Many people are unaware that each year in the United Kingdom several thousand houses are commissioned to order by the customer who will live in the house once it is completed. In the UK around 13,000 houses are built this way annually. This makes self and custom housebuilding in the UK collectively equivalent in size to one of the larger national housebuilders – if it were ranked with them it would probably come fourth or fifth. Self-commissioned housing is much more common overseas, often accounting for a third of total housing supply and, in some cases, such as in Germany, it is the dominant method of delivering new housing (55%).

But what does “self and custom housebuilding” actually mean? Self-build and custom housebuilding are terms commonly used to describe a home that is built to the design and specifications of the person who will live there – the occupant. Self-build and custom housebuilding are defined within the Self-Build & Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (as amended by the Housing & Planning Act 2016).

Many prefer the term “self-commissioned housing” which is clearer. In practice the self-commissioned housing market is a spectrum. At one extreme, people may find a plot and undertake every element of the build themselves – a home that is literally self-built. At the other extreme, people may select a model home from a catalogue and have it erected for them on their chosen serviced plot, which they have purchased from a landowner or builder. What both approaches have in common is that it is the customer who makes the key design and lay-out decisions, rather than a developer building a home speculatively in the hope that, at some point, someone might like it enough to buy it. “Self-build” is increasingly associated with a home built on a single plot. By contrast, “custom build” involves homes built by professionals on behalf of new homeowners on permissioned serviced plots in line with a framework of rules that define the nature and delivery of the site.

Self-build and custom housebuilding is often associated with detached homes but has proven that it can deliver semi-detached, terraced rows of townhouses, conversions of existing buildings and even high rise apartment blocks (see page 55 in the full report). Clearly such developments result in some limits to the choices available to occupants. For example, an apartment block may fully define the external look of the building and only offer interior layout options and fitting out of a shell to the occupier’s design specification.

Custom build suppliers encourage customer choice and it is integral to the sales process and maximised where possible. This is not just about kitchen or bathroom tiles or paint colours but offers choices over room layouts, design specifications and the ability to customise the home to suit an occupier’s needs.

Self-commissioned housing can also deliver affordable housing under a range of tenures, from intermediate affordable housing such as discount market sale and First Homes to shared ownership and even rental properties.

This may involve occupiers moving into a customisable property which they have finished to their design requirements with “sweat equity” that is offset against the cost of a deposit. In other cases, the occupants may even build the homes themselves.

Our estimators have years of experience providing costings for both customers building on their own plot as well as developers building on plots for one, two or multiple properties – detached, semi-detached, terraces and apartments. So whatever approach you’re looking to take on the ‘self-commissioned housing spectrum’, send us your plans and we can tell you the fee and timescale for pricing the project.

And there’s no obligation to go ahead once you have a quote for our service. So give us a call on 0117 916 7878 or upload your drawings here.