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Creating your dream home with Custom Build

Find out how to get a dream home for less

Rosie Murray-West

Rosie Murray-West

Virgin Money mentor and award-winning finance journalist

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.

We all know that getting the home you want is no easy task. Everyone has a different wish-list in terms of room configurations, sizes and finish. Even if you buy a new build property you often find that you have to compromise on space, location or style.

Some people get around this problem by building their own property to their exact specifications. Anyone who has ever watched Grand Designs will be aware of the hugely innovative and exciting homes that can be achieved this way. However, Grand Designs also serves as a caveat for the inexperienced, an over budget and overrunning project may make for great TV, but is very stressful for all concerned.

For those who are daunted by the idea of self-build, there is a halfway house. It is called ‘custom build” and it is becoming increasingly popular with those who want their home to be individually designed, and to save some money at the same time.

Custom build allows you to pick many aspects of your new home layout and design. It might sound expensive, the equivalent of buying a Jermyn Street suit instead of a T-shirt at Marks & Spencer, but it turns out that buying a house is not like clothes shopping. In fact, buying a home off the peg can actually be more expensive than having one built to your own specifications. That is because of various tax breaks surrounding custom-build.

There are growing numbers of specialist custom-build developers in the UK. They offer varying levels of customisation and finish to their customers. The service you get ranges from a fully bespoke design on a small development to a larger group site where your property is part of a readymade community. 

Custom builders benefit from paying less stamp duty, since it’s only payable on the land rather than on the property itself. They are also exempt from a fee called the Community Infrastructure Levy, which larger housebuilders have to pay, and which can push up the price of new build homes.

Another attraction is the high level of choice. With some custom build homes you can choose the entire design, while others allow you to choose an internal layout.

The two difficulties with custom-build homes are how to find a plot and developer, and how to get the finance. A larger deposit is often required, and finance for the build may need to be paid in stages. Fortunately, both of these stages are becoming easier. Websites such as are attempting to put together a list of projects, and a quick search for custom build developments online will also throw up many of the major players.

Traditionally, custom build projects have required self-build mortgages, which are often more expensive than other types of mortgage, and funds are released at stages throughout the build rather than in full. With major players such as Virgin Money entering the market, it is becoming more competitive, however, and as custom build continues to become more mainstream there are likely to be many more options on the market going forward.

If you are passionate about a family home and prepared to put the time in, custom build could give you exactly what you need.

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Links to external websites are for information only. Virgin Money receives no income from them and accepts no responsibility for the website content. The information in this article is correct as at 19 October 2017.