What is a ‘Self-Build’?

On average, an estimated 13,000 people decide to self-build their own properties as opposed to purchasing a developer-build property or an existing property. To put it in simple terms, self-building is a term used to describe a process where an individual decides to commission the design and construction of a property to their specific needs, normally from scratch.

The Self-Build Process

Many people get the wrong idea of what a self build is and the process involved in designing and building their own homes. They often picture themselves going it alone, sketching designs and being on-site mixing cement and constructing their newly designed home with their bare hands, but this is often not the case. In fact, self-building could mean a number of approaches to creating a bespoke home that meets your requirements. Simply purchasing an empty plot of land and hiring a design and build contractor to work for you is the perfect example of a self build. In fact, hiring a design and build contractor to be involved in the project from an early stage to work with you to create a design is probably the safest and most cost efficient way of carrying out a self build, simply due to the expertise the contractor brings to the table in managing the risk of the design and construction process. If you have ever watched Grand Designs, you will notice that many projects often run over budget and run significantly behind schedule, which can result in financial turmoil in some cases. However, for those who are hands on and have time served in the construction industry, a self-build can be an exciting challenge.

At the very least, a self-builder will source and purchase a vacant plot for their self build based on their requirements. If you are not familiar with the planning process, it would be wise to speak to a professional who may be able to advice on the likelihood of planning approval. You will normally employ a designer who has planning expertise in order to work with you in forming the basis for your dream home to be approved by planning. This will be a basic design that captures the idea of your self-build in terms of general exterior appearance, number of bedrooms and layouts. Once approved by planning, it is now time to bring a design and build contractor into the mix. A design and build contractor will take the outline design, and work with you to develop a more detailed design to better capture your requirements, but more importantly to provide a blueprint throughout the construction process. The design and build contractor will work with you to establish a construction programme and a cost before beginning work on site and eventually completing the project and handing you the keys to move into your new dream home.

Who Self-Builds Their Own Home

The short answer is that anyone can self-build their own home. People from all walks of life with varying income status and professions, with varying budgets can benefit from self-building their own properties. Other demographics include young couples looking to start a family, as well as mid-career professionals and retired couples can all have their own motivations for taking the self-build route.

Self-building offers the opportunity to put your own unique stamp on your home and can serve as the embodiment of one’s creative nature. It is an opportunity to build something different that would not normally be served by the standard developer-built market, which can meet your own needs in terms of style, space and location. A self-build project could also serve as the basis for developing your own ‘eco-home’, which has the benefit of being extremely cost efficient as far as utility bills are concerned.

Things to Consider Before You Self-Build

Self-building your own home doesn’t come without its risks and there are some key considerations to take into account:

  • Budget – Be realistic about your budgets and stick to them! Ensure that you are clear from the beginning about how much you want to spend on the self-build process. This involves ensuring that you have covered your land cost and closing fees such as stamp duty, design & planning fees, construction costs and any interest on loans. Be sure to set a contingency of 10% – 15% to cover any unexpected events.
  • Financing – How will you finance your self-build? Will you self fund it or will you take out a loan? Some specialist mortgage brokers specialise in self-build mortgages that will help you purchase your plot and fund the construction process. However, these loans tend to require a large deposit and will carry a higher interest rate. Once you have established your land and building cost, it will pay to speak to a mortgage broker who will be able to structure a financing that will suite your needs.
  • Insurance and Warranty – Many things can go wrong on construction sites, from negligence by building contractors, to theft and natural disasters. Be sure to speak to an insurance provider who should be able to recommend the relevant cover and advise you on building warranties. 
  • Management of Construction Process – As mentioned earlier, the construction process of a self-build is likely to be the riskiest activity concerning the self-building process. Watching a building come together from scratch can be an exciting feeling, especially when it is your own creation. This can often lead self-builders with little building knowledge to want to manage that process themselves. However, given the risks involved, it is advisable to leave the construction process to a principle contractor, preferably a design and build contractor. Although this is a more hands off approach, your lender is likely to feel more comfortable in the decision to lend you money if an experienced construction professional is managing the construction for you. It also removes the risks from you and makes it the responsibility of the principle contractor or design and build contractor.


Self-building offers an opportunity to build your dream home in your desired location. Although more time consuming than the conventional method of purchasing existing stock or developer-built homes, it gives self-builders the opportunity to design and build a home which is more aligned with their individual needs. There are key decisions to be made regarding land buying and planning, design, finance, insurances and construction, but with a wealth of information available online and through obtaining professional advice, the process can be made simpler for you. The key to self-building for non-construction professionals is placed on the emphasis of risk management. It is recommended that you hire a competent principle contractor or design and build contractor to manage the construction process on your behalf.

If you are considering carrying out a self-build project, why not speak to us to find out about our project management and design and build services.

What is a ‘Self-Build’?

Get In Touch

Start Your Next Project With Us Today

Are you interested in using any of our services for your next project? Simply get in touch by phone or email and we can arrange the next step to help you.