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Last edited 26 Apr 2021
With self-building, the prospective home owner instigates the development of the home themselves, whether by purchasing a kit house, employing a design and build contractor, employing consultants (such as an architect) and a contractor, or managing the entire process and ordering all the goods and services required themselves. Self-building does not necessarily mean that the physical construction is undertaken by the home owner.
- The home owner manages the design and construction.
- The home owner manages the design, then appoints a contractor.
- Purchasing a kit home.
- The home owner works with others to acquire a site and manage the design and construction.
- A social landlord or the Community Self Build Agency works with the home owners to acquire a site and manage the design and construction.
- The home owner works with a developer (this is sometimes described as custom building rather than self-building, see Custom-build homes for more information).
- A developer organises a group and builds the homes, which may be finished by the self-builders.
A 2012 Build It survey revealed that:
- 35% of self-builders acted as a project manager, managing the contractors themselves, and carried out 25% or more of the work themselves.
- 17% acted as project manager but carried out less than 25% of the work themselves.
- 13% acted as a project manager but carried out the decoration themselves.
- 15% employed a general contractor to carry out all the work.
- 4% employed a contractor on a turnkey contract for design and build.
In theory, self-building can result in lower costs and a home that is more suited to the occupants personal needs and preferences. However, the process is very complicated and is extremely time consuming and the risks can be high. As a consequence, projects can get out of control, with costs increasing, quality reducing and programmes slipping.
Collaboration has the advantages of:
- Greater influence over the local planning authority.
- Greater buying power.
- Lower cost land than might be possible for a single plot.
- Favourable terms for finance.
- Shared infrastructure costs.
Proceeding alone has the advantages of:
- The potential for greater privacy.
- It may be simpler to find a single plot than a larger site.
- The potential for developing more individual character.
- The potential for higher investment value when completed.
- Increasing the availability of mortgages for self builders.
- Reducing red tape.
- Creating the self-build portal.
- Providing short-term financing.
- Increasing the availability of land for self builders.
- Giving exemption from the community infrastructure levy.
- Council tax discounts.
- The Community Right to Reclaim Land.
NB: In July 2017, Homebuilding and Renovating reported that the self build and custom build market in the UK had recorded its third consecutive annual rise, growing at 6.25% year on year, and predicted to reach 16,500 home completions by 2020.
There remain concerns however about whether self builders will be able to navigate their way through the legal and legislative complexities of building design and development. Particularly difficult issues include:
- Finding, assessing and acquiring a site.
- Preparing a brief.
- Agreeing fees contracts and warranties.
- Managing consultants and contractors.
- Cost control.
- Planning permission.
- Building regulations.
- Health and safety and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM Regulations).
- Association of Self-Build Architects (asba).
- Build It.
- Build Store.
- Homebuilding and renovating.
- Jewson Self-Build Pack.
- National Self Build Association
- Plot browser.
- Self-build and design.
- Selfbuild Central. Green information for the self builder
- Self-Build Portal
- The self-build guide.
Self-builders will still generally find that they need professional help during the course of a project, this may include; a project manager, an architect, engineers, lawyers, financial adivsers, health and safety advisers, and so on.
 Other matters
The previous, 2007 version of the CDM Regulations exempted domestic clients from most CDM obligations. The 2015 CDM Regulations removed this exemption, but transferred the client’s obligations to the contractor on a single contractor project or to the principal contractor on a project involving more than one contractor. Alternatively, domestic clients can choose to have a written agreement with the principal designer to carry out the client’s duties.
If domestic clients on projects involving more than one contractor fail to appoint a principal contractor and principal designer, those duties will fall to the designer and contractor in control of the pre-construction and construction phases.
Part 4 of the Regulations sets out a number of additional requirements for work carried out on a construction site that contractors must comply with. However, a domestic client who controls the way in which any construction work is carried out must also comply with these requirements where they relate to matters within the client’s control.
Self-build homes and the conversion of non-residential buildings into dwellings may qualify to reclaim the VAT paid on eligible building materials and services. See VAT refunds on self-build homes for more information.
From 1 April 2016, local authorities will be required to keep a register of aspiring self and custom house builders when planning for future housing and land use. See Self build and custom housebuilding registers.
In April 2021, the government launched a £150 million Help to Build Initiative, providing an equity loan on completed homes, similar to the Help to Buy scheme, so that self and custom home building can become a realistic option to get onto the housing ladder through lower deposit mortgages.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building an extension.
- CDM for self-builders and domestic clients.
- Community right to build.
- Custom-build homes.
- Help to Build.
- Kit house.
- Neighbourhood planning.
- Open source architectural plans for modular buildings.
- Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill 2014-15.
- Self build and custom housebuilding registers.
- Self-build home project plan.
- Self-build homes negotiating discounts.
- Self-build initiative.
- Serviced plot.
- VAT refunds on self-build homes.
 External references
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