How to self-build your own house

To get the home you’ve always dreamed of, why not build it yourself?

Rosie Murray-West – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Rosie Murray-West | Independent Money Mentor

Award-winning personal finance and news journalist


Imagining your dream home is a lot easier than finding it. You know exactly what you want – right down to the hexagonal swimming pool, countryside views and walk-in wardrobes. A self-contained guest wing for when the in-laws visit would be nice too.

The problem comes when, after months of searching, you discover the perfect property doesn’t actually exist. Unless, that is, you join the growing ranks of property investors choosing to build their ideal home from scratch.

According to the Custom and Self Build Market report, the sector is forecast to grow by 41 per cent by 2020. We’ve all seen the tailor-made homes on TV shows and ever more of us can see the appeal of building the bespoke property of our dreams.

Thanks to improvements in the financing available and innovative ways of building the home you want, more people now feel confident about taking on such projects.

At their best, self-builds can save you money, especially on stamp duty, as well as giving you a home that suits you perfectly. However, the process is not as easy as dictating a wish list and requires expertise. The tips below could help you decide whether self-build is for you, and how you can get started.

Understand the plot

The first thing to do when deciding whether to build your own home is to find somewhere to put it. It’s frowned upon to just stick a pin in a map, pitch up and start building. Unless you already have a plot of land, you will need to find one that is available. The Land Bank Partnership specialises in the sale of land with planning consent, or you could try the Self Build Portal’s Need A Plot service . Other useful sites include plotfinder.net. Your local council also has to keep a register of anyone who wants to find a plot of land, and you can find details of the Right to Build registers at righttobuildportal.org.

Get the money in place

Funding a self-build requires a different form of financing to an ordinary mortgage. Typically, the money is released in stages, rather than as a single amount. Usually the lender releases the money to buy the plot first, and then the rest of the money as the different stages of the build are completed. Most mortgages pay this out in arrears, in other words after you’ve incurred the costs, meaning that it is important to have some savings first, although it is possible to find mortgages that will pay out in advance of stages being completed. It is important to have a contingency fund as things can overrun. Anybody who has ever watched a TV show like Grand Designs knows that a simple 12-week project can end up dragging on for a whole lot longer.

Assemble a team

You’re going to spend a lot of time with the people who are building your house. There will be victory cups of tea when the walls go up and the roof is on. There will be commiseration cups of tea when a thunderstorm blows in and halts construction for the day. There will even be strategic cups of tea when you change your mind at the last minute and ask for an extra en-suite in one of the bedrooms. So finding the right team to help you build your dreams is vital and should not be rushed. Visit lots of projects carried out by the teams you like, get as many quotes as you can and be honest with yourself about whether you can project manage the experience. If you’re daunted, bring in a professional project manager to ensure things go smoothly.

Apply for planning permission

It usually takes ten to twelve weeks to get a planning decision, so ensure that you factor this in. The Government Planning Portal can give you lots of guidance.

Get insured

Before embarking on your project, you’ll need to arrange insurance. Specialist insurers offer a self-build policy which covers the building site and any materials or tools. In addition, public liability insurance covers anyone working on the site for injury. If you are using a contractor or builder, they may cover this within their fees so make sure you check if they do. In addition, you may want to consider structural warranties. Structural warranties cover building for ten years for major defects, some self-build mortgages insist you have this in place.

Consider a custom build

If the prospect of getting your head around building schedules and architect briefings and having to manage the construction of your dream home sounds too difficult, there is another cost-effective option. Consider it a halfway house. Custom build companies work with you to design your property on a site, either as part of a small community or on a single plot. The result may not be as completely tailored to you as a self-build, but you can make changes and still save on stamp duty. The Self Build Portal can help you to identify custom build developers and projects in your area.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.