If you want to build your own home, but traditional self build routes are not an option, you should familiarise yourself with custom build, which alleviates some of the biggest hurdles faced by self builders — namely plot finding, planning permission and getting services to site.

Find out more about the process in the steps below.

1. Choose a route

First, read more about the custom build routes.

The route you choose will depend on how much emphasis you place on the following:

  • Privacy
  • Sense of community
  • Location
  • Cost

The package route suits those who simply want a one-off home, but also want to choose where it is (even though the package company will help find this). This will offer more privacy and autonomy than, say, a group project where the aim is perhaps more centred on creating affordable homes in a development with a strong sense of community.

To other people, owning a home they have designed is the main purpose of their project, so they may be more open to buying a serviced plot on a development. It won’t offer them as much say in location as the package route, but there is still the option for a high level of customisation at a lower cost.

2. Choose a developer or scheme

If you are going down the package route, you will want to choose a company that offers the style of home you like and the level of service you want. The same applies if you have already formed a group and are looking for a developer together.

However, if you are buying a serviced plot or custom build on a development, this is less about choosing a developer and more about finding a scheme near you. This is not to say that liking the developer’s work is not important, but unless you are willing to move to an area where your chosen developer is currently working on a scheme, you will have less say on who that developer is.

3. Sort finance

Again, this depends on the route you take. Some package companies help arrange finance, so it might simply be a case of checking your budget. In the case of those buying serviced plots, it is likely you will have to arrange a self build mortgage from one of the many self build mortgage lenders.

Many people use a stage payment mortgage that releases the money starting with the purchase of the plot and then the money for the build, in four or five stages up to completion. It is likely that the amount of deposit you will need for a custom build, especially at entry level, will be lower than for a self build as some of the risk (which adds to the cost) is mitigated by the developer.

For group projects, some require a deposit and then offer something similar to a mortgage (try Ecology), while others use a share scheme. Either way, if you are part of a group, make sure they have looked into the various funds and grants that may be available.

As with self build, you could benefit from two important tax breaks: reduced or zero stamp duty land tax (SDLT) and full exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

Looking ahead, expect to see new finance products aimed specifically at custom builders.

4. Secure your plot

If you are working with a package company, they might do this for you. If however, you are buying a serviced plot or having a home built on a development, it is time to make sure you get your place on the scheme.

If you are part of a group, perhaps the site has already been found and the project devised around an available site. Even so, your group will need to be sure you have possession of the plot prior to the design process.

5. Design and build

If you are working with a package company or developer, you will probably have a range of designs to choose from. They will then build it for you (either completely, or just to weathertight stage).

However, if you are buying a serviced plot, and the developer is allowing individuals to design their homes, this now becomes a standard self build and you will need to find an architect and complete the planning process. You can find more advice on hiring an architect here.

The build process will also be down to you. So again, you need to decide which build route to take. Do you want to build it yourself (on a full or partial DIY basis), or find a project manager who will sort the whole process for you?

Cohousing schemes and group self builds require a slightly difference design process due to the number of people involved.

6. Upgrade wisely

You may choose to add more features than are available in a base model. If you are going down the custom build route because you want equity in the house, be careful that you don’t specify it so highly that it actually ends up costing more than it is worth.

7. Check your warranties

Just as with buying any new house, it is essential that your custom builder is providing a warranty, so that if anything goes wrong with the project you have an insurance policy that pays out to put it right. Make sure your policy covers you so that if the builder goes bust before the house is finished, there will be a payment made to get someone else on site to complete the property.

While custom build is seen as safer than self build, it is still worth checking that the developer is a decent size and has a good track record.

8. Decide where to live during your build

Many people will stay in their current home while the new house is being built. Others will rent nearby. The timeframe you need to live in alternative accommodation will vary depending on who you are working with and the size and complexity of your build.

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