28 Oct 2016

The ins and outs of custom build


If you want to create your own home, but don’t want to go down the solo self-build route then the custom build option may be the perfect fit, says BuildStore’s Tom Connor.


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There’s no denying that building your own house is a monumental task, albeit one with many benefits. If you dream of creating a bespoke home, but don’t want to manoeuver through some of the hurdles faced by self-builders, then there is another option – custom build. With this type of scheme, you work alongside a specialist developer to create a home that suits you, with the benefit that much of the hard work is done for you by a team of experts.

Custom build holds many of the same principles as self-build – creating a home to suit your needs, having a role in the design of the property and saving money in comparison to buying from the standard residential market. There are a variety of routes to custom building, but the common feature is that they will have some degree of involvement from a specialist developer.

Although it’s a successful and proven method of house-building throughout Europe and further afield, custom build is still a relatively new concept in the UK. The term was first introduced in 2011 in the Government’s Housing Strategy for England, and the DCLG is hoping to shape an environment where custom build can become a mainstream option to provide good quality new housing to the areas that need it the most.

The basics

In general terms, this route to home ownership removes some of the pressure of doing a traditional self-build – essentially you’ll be working with a team of knowledgeable specialists throughout. The developer or custom build company you work with will take on most of the gritty issues that self-builders often have to face on their own – this can be everything from providing a plot and connecting services, through to managing the construction and even arranging the finance.

Some people are concerned custom building means they will get less of a say in the design and layout of their new home, but this really shouldn’t be the case. A good custom build developer will work with you to design a property that perfectly matches your requirements. In fact, some custom build developers will provide a menu of construction options too – for example, they may offer to sell you a serviced building plot that you then take over and organise a schedule of works using their approved contractors; or they might offer to build your home to a watertight stage enabling you to finish it off and fit it out; alternatively, a turnkey solution may be made available where you only get involved in the design stage.

There is a whole host of custom build opportunities throughout the nation, and the best way to stay on top of what’s available is by visiting custombuildhomes.co.uk, which has a detailed list of the best and latest custom build sites across the UK.

Structure and finance

As with self-builds, this route to home ownership differs significantly to purchasing a home from the traditional residential market – so unsurprisingly, the timeframe and payment process differs too.

The first thing to do is find a site and custom build developer that you like. To ease this search, register with BuildStore’s Custom Build Register (custombuildhomes.co.uk/custom-build-register), which will alert local authorities and landowners to the fact you’re interested in custom build, and will keep you informed of any new sites that become available.

The next step is to secure the plot – this is usually done by paying a reservation fee, which can range from £500 up to £5000. The reservation period is usually between three and six months. During this time, the plot will be taken off the market and you will be given the opportunity to finalise your design plans. Once you’ve agreed upon a bespoke layout, the developer will draw up the appropriate plans and submit these for detailed planning consent and Building Regulations approval. If you are asked to pay a house design and approval fee, this is usually nominal and is often included in the plot price. Once planning approval is in place, it’s time to purchase the fully serviced custom build plot.

The construction and build–out phase comes next. Unlike self-build, where you arrange the builder or subcontractors yourself, here the custom build developer will build out the house for you as per your design, or arrange for a building contractor to do so. This minimises risk as everyone involved in the project will have been quality checked and monitored to make sure that whoever is building and fitting out your home is doing it in the best possible way. Custom build sites involve a number of building plots and bespoke homes, so by carefully vetting those involved, it’s easier for the developer to make sure the overall site’s schedule of works can be adhered to – meaning you won’t be living next to a building site for longer than discussed, and vice versa for your neighbours.

If you’re using a mortgage to fund your project, you need to work with a specialist who is able to arrange an adequate stage payment system. Custom build stage payments come in two phases and the number of stages varies from development to development. The first phase of costs involves the plot reservation fee, house design and approval fee and the serviced plot payment. The second phase comprises the construction work and is usually broken down into four stages: ground works (foundations and services); wind and watertight; internal/external finish (including external works); and completions to handover. BuildStore has created custom build stage payment mortgage options to suit the multi-phased process. What’s more, BuildStore works in tandem with the majority of custom build projects in the UK so it has an incompatible knowledge of the market.

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