Would you like to build your own home?

Posted: 2 Jul, 2014.

We are a nation of aspirational Self-builders

Whenever you turn on the television you are guaranteed to find a property programme on a channel somewhere, feeding our national obsession with all matters to do with housing. For all the interest in watching there isn’t as much doing as might be expected with only approximately 7% of new builds being classed as self-builds. This is made more surprising by the fact that 38% of all new build in France is self-build and in Hungary over 50% of house completions are self-build. I must confess that my knowledge of French and Hungarian television is non-existent, but I’d wager that the proportion of property programmes is less than on our channels. Why should it be that in spite of the nation’s interest in property matters, there is a lack of self-building going on?

Why is the number of UK self build projects so low?

A survey commissioned by the Building Societies Association in 2011, suggested that 53% of people in the UK would consider building their own home. There is obviously a gap between the aspiration to do something and actually doing it, but even so one would think that this would translate in a figure higher than 7% of new builds being self builds. The survey found that the barriers to undertaking a self-build project were much as might be expected:

  • Expense
  • Planning permission difficulties
  • The right land being available
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Difficulty in obtaining a mortgage

It is interesting to note that a small survey of self-builders carried out by the University of York found that only 32% found the process of building a house difficult, this was outweighed by over 50% saying that finding land and dealing with planning permission as difficult.

It is clear that there is a desire to self-build, but the obstacles, real or imagined that lie in the way, deter people from carrying it out. Although the self –build market is only 7% of the total it is believed to be worth £3.6 billion to the UK economy, and is therefore of great interest both to suppliers like JB Kind Doors and also to the Government. In 2011 the Government Housing Strategy for England was produced which set one of its aims as increasing the number of self-builds over the subsequent decades by 100,000. This strategy document also introduced a new term, ‘custom build’ into the lexicon of building methods and it appears to be a sort of halfway house in that you use a specialist developer to create the house for you, and takes away the potentially more stressful task of completely doing it yourself. Of course it also helps the homeowner to concentrate on the more aesthetic and design elements like the doors for instance!

‘Right to Build’

The 2014 budget included a fund of £150 million to help provide up to 10,000 serviced plots of land for custom build. There has been an onus placed on councils to make land available for self-build and prospective builders can register with their local council for a plot to be made available. This is encompassed in a ‘Right to Build’ proposal where councils will have to monitor the demand for plots and make them available where possible. One innovative idea from Cherwell District Council is seeing a former MoD site near Bicester being turned over entirely to self-build with the scope for over 1,900 homes to be built, and for 2,000 jobs to be created (see more information) So the push for more self or custom builds is on and that can only be a good thing for the construction sector and the economy generally, According to a MORI poll from 2013 (summary here) around 26% of people watch television programmes about self-building and 2% intended to take action to start a self-build project. So who knows, maybe we will start catching up on our continental friends and extend our self-build sector. It will be interesting to see if all these initiatives bear fruit.


By Tina Jones

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