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Self-Build and Custom House Building: Part 1

Always dreamed of building your own home but never knew where to start? Well grab a coffee and take a break from what you’re doing.


Why do a self-build?

Self-building is the act of commissioning a bespoke home that’s tailored to your design requirements and suits your lifestyle, as well as your budget. There are many routes you can take but above all you are in control to manage both your time and budget and how you choose to invest them in the project, which ultimately should not only give you a great experience but also a superb home.


At the very least self-builders will likely find and purchase their own plot. They also like to have a hands-on approach in the design - working alongside the architect to create a very bespoke home. Whether that be the style, layout, construction technique or environmental factors.


Many go on to ‘project-manage’ the build – from appointing various sub-contractors along the way, to purchasing materials or even getting stuck in and doing some of the build themselves.


For us the most fantastic thing about self-building is that you’ll end up with a property that’s unique to you. This is your chance to specify exactly what you’re looking for in a home, from major areas such as looks, layout and running costs to the little details, such as quality of finishes and fittings. And that’s where we come in. So if you’ve ever fancied any of the above then maybe a self-build is the way for you!


In this 3 part series we look at every aspect of the process from finding a plot and funding to the designing of your new home and building/construction.

Timber clad self-build dwelling in rural Leicestershire

Planning approved self-build dwelling in rural Leicestershire by marcus tams architects


PART ONE – the basics


1. So, what is a self-build?

First of all let’s define what is classed as ‘self-build’ and ‘custom house building’.

Why? Well as a self-builder or custom house builder you are exempt from a number of costs that ordinary building works entail such as CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) and BNG (bio-diversity net gain).


The Government guidelines states: self-build and custom build means the building or completion by—

(a) individuals,

(b) associations of individuals, or

(c) persons working with or for individuals or associations of individuals, of houses to be occupied as homes by those individuals.

Importantly -  it does not include the building of a house on a plot acquired from a person who builds the house wholly or mainly to plans or specifications decided or offered by that person.


2.  Finding a plot

Be proactive! If there is a building plot on Rightmove you can be pretty sure it’s been offered to  a number of local developer already and if they’ve passed it up, so there may be an issue with it – find out what it is. Is there a planning restriction or maybe something in the legals? Or is it simply just too expensive for a developer to make a decent profit? Putting in the hard graft could save you thousands and might just find you a dream plot, remember though, always check and ask a professional for advice before committing to purchase a piece of land.

So where to start? Well simply go to Google Maps and hunt around a village or town that you like the look of and ask yourself:

  • Are there any large plots around, where only half the plot has been built on? These are known as double plots and often occur where a land-owner previously purchased a second plot of land to build on but never did.

  • Could the back garden of one house be the whole plot for another? Back garden development is generally frowned upon by Councils but there are some exceptions

  • If it’s remote does the plot have existing access off the highway? In remote areas lack of access can often lead to planning refusal

  • Who owns the plot and how do I approach them? Approach the land-owner with a good old fashioned knock on the door or a hand-written letter - you’d be amazed at the positive reaction you could get!

Planning permission is often the greatest hurdle to building on a plot, but you don’t need to go through the time and costs of submitting a planning permission to get a feel for if the planners would support a build – pre-applications and PIPs (Planning in Principle) applications are a cheaper and quicker way to get an answer. Give us a call if you want to know more.

Once you’ve found the plot and you’ve established that a house can be built there you need to buy it. Always consult a legal professional first. As well as advising on contracts they can obtain a Title Search that will tell you all you need to know about the site along with any legal way-leaves or restrictions such as access, overages or easements.


3. Appointing an architect

Next comes the fun part – appointing an architect!

There’s lots of us to choose from. Chances are if you’re reading this you’ll have already seen the sort of work we do on the website, or we’ve been recommended to you by a client or fellow professional. Whichever way you’ve found us you need to know that we’re the right fit for you. After all designing is a collaborative thing!


That doesn’t just mean that we design houses that you like the look of it also means that we get YOU – we understand your ideas, what you aspire to and what you want to achieve not just from your new home and the way you live, but how you want to achieve building it. And to do that we work with you every step of the way to bring enthusiasm and encouragement to the process backed up by professionalism and know-how so that you end up with a fantastic home inspired by creation and knowledge.


After all your new home will be a place to live, love and experience. You’ll likely be bringing up a family there and if it’s your ‘forever home’ you’ll want to enjoy growing old there too.


Finding the right architect is key to all of this - what might be the right fit for one person isn’t necessarily the good for another so shop around. Don’t go with one just because they work local to the plot or pop up first on a search engine. That’s unlikely to find the best fit for you.


There are many reasons why you might pick one architect over another but we suggest you go with the architect that has the ability to understand you and what you want from the project and above all - one that inspires you!


If you want to discuss a project, a potential plot of land or require further information about self-builds before you take the plunge, please give us a call on 0115 8700454


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