What is custom build?

Becoming more available in the UK, custom build is a popular and easier self build choice. Tom Connors highlights how to find a plot, finance your build and what the build process entails.

By Jenny Mcfarlane | 17 June 2019

If you’re interested in self-build but don’t want to go it alone, there is an alternative route that’s becoming more available in the UK, says Tom Connor.

the exterior of box house by studio bark as part of a custom build homes t Graven Hill as featured in Grand Designs The Street 2019

Image: Designed by Studio Bark, this is the UK’s first U-Build House; a cost-effective CNC modular plywood system, made off-site, delivered flat-packed and installed on site. The plywood theme continues in the interior with exposed pipework for an industrial look. A doubleheight void brings light into the dining area.

For some people, self-building may seem like a daunting task, albeit one with many benefits.

So, if you dream of creating your own bespoke home but don’t want to undergo the whole process yourself, there is another option: custom-build. This route allows you to work alongside a specialist developer or enabler, to create a home that suits your requirements, with the advantage that some of the hurdles that self-builders often face have been removed. An enabler facilitates the availability of serviced plots, either on their own land or on behalf of someone else, as opposed to a developer who also supports the delivery of a home.

If you want to have a role in the design of the property and save money in comparison to buying from the standard residential market, then this could be the option for you. What’s more, it doesn’t differ too widely from the typical self-build principles.

Read on for more information on custom build so you can assess whether it’s right for you.

A fresh approach

Custom-build is a successful and proven method of house building throughout Europe and further afield, but is still a relatively new concept in the UK. The term was first mentioned by the Government in 2011’s Housing Strategy for England. Building on the principles of localism, the Government is hoping to shape an environment in which  custom-build can become a mainstream option to provide good-quality new housing to those areas of the UK that need it the most.

There are crucial differences between custom-build and traditional self-build.

Essentially with self-build you are accountable for every aspect of the project. With custombuild, much of this responsibility is taken off your shoulders by a developer. The developer or custom-build enabler you choose to work with will take on various aspects of the build process from sourcing a plot and connecting utilities, through to project management, and even help with finding finance.

Custom-build developers fall into two distinct camps. There are enablers that  simply offer a serviced building plot and, if you so wish, a helping hand with construction arrangements (known in the industry as the golden-brick approach), and developers that, in addition to the plot, will provide a menu of construction options. For example, they  might offer to build your home to a watertight stage and you are then responsible for fitting out the interior. A turnkey solution may be made available where you are involved in the design stage and a developer does the rest.

This is known as a tailored finish option. There are a whole host of custom-build opportunities offering varying levels of personal involvement, and a good route to finding what’s available is by visiting Custom Build Homes, which has a list of custom-build sites across the UK. The National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has a Self-Build Portal with advice and support.