Howard Yarnold

Self-build or custom build, creating your perfect home

| Published on January 26, 2017

Self-build or custom build, creating your perfect home

When buying a house many of us have a clear picture of our ideal home but finding that home can be another matter. Self-build or custom build can give you ultimate control over the design and construction of your new home but there are potential pitfalls to be aware of.

Howard Yarnold, Partner at Humphries Kirk in Dorchester looks at recent developments in this area and explains why you should always get specialist conveyancing advice before embarking on a project.

Self-build, custom build and serviced plots

Self-build and custom build are not legally defined terms.  However, the term self-build is usually used where people buy a plot of land and physically build on it themselves, with or without the help of sub-contractors.

In contrast, people who opt to custom build will usually commission the construction of their home from a builder, contractor or specialist package company.

Some building plots may just be bare patches of land, whereas others may be sold as serviced plots for which the seller has already obtained outline planning permission and where access roads, electricity, water and waste disposal services are already in place. All the buyer and their builder then need to do is obtain any additional consents, build the property and physically connect into the services.

Encouraging self-build and custom build projects

Recent changes to the law should make it easier for those looking to build their own home.

Local authorities must now keep a register of people looking for serviced plots and must take account of this demand when formulating their planning policies.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 places a further duty on local authorities to grant enough development permissions to meet the demand evidenced by their registers. The government has also increased funding to boost the number of shovel-ready plots for the construction of customised homes with the aim of doubling the number of self-builds by 2020.

The importance of specialist conveyancing advice

If you plan to build your own home, you should talk to your conveyancer at an early stage. You should be careful to choose a conveyancer who is experienced in the sale and purchase of building plots and in self-build and custom-built projects. The issues involved in these sorts of transactions will be more complex than those likely to be encountered in respect of properties that have already been constructed.

For example, it is crucial to make sure that when you buy your plot of land you will, subject only to any mortgage you may have, own the plot outright once the sale has been completed. It is also important to ensure that you have sufficient rights to access the plot and, unless you are buying a serviced plot where utilities have already been laid, to lay any necessary services. Issues such as these can be harder to identify and anticipate where there is no building on the ground.

Your conveyancer should advise you on any planning permissions and any development obligations the local authority may seek to impose. Together, you will also need to consider the contracts with those responsible for any building works or services. In particular, you should be clear on the agreed specifications because it is these that will ensure you end up with the building you have planned and which is authorised by the various consents granted.

Plan ahead, selling a house you have built

Focused on creating your ideal home, it can be easy to overlook what you will need when you come to sell. Thinking ahead can save you a lot of problems later.

For example, most lenders and buyers will want guarantees for major works and warranties from the main contractors, although some may accept a certificate from the architect or supervising professional instead. Always discuss the proposed arrangements with your conveyancer before committing yourself and before any work starts. Obtaining guarantees and warranties retrospectively may not be possible and their absence could affect the value of your investment.

If you are looking to self-build or custom build your new home, or you are buying or selling a house or flat, please contact Howard Yarnold, Partner in our property team on 01305 251007 or email

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