One in three people are interested in self build, but being able to finance it remains the biggest barrier.

To mark Right to Build Day on 30 October, the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and the Building Societies Association (BSA) shared new market research into self build aspirations and how COVID-19 had changed people’s perceptions of their home.

In terms of people’s aspirations to self build, the data found that:

  • Nearly a third of GB adults (32%) are interested in designing and building their own home.
  • 9% of people said they were likely to build their own home at some point in the future. This compares to around 5% of new homes currently being built as custom and self build annually**
  • Interest is highest in the young, with nearly half (48%) of those between 18 and 24 saying they were interested. This aspiration reduced with age, with less than 1 in 5 (18%) of those aged 55 and over being interested.
  • The main benefit for building is seen as the ability to design a home to the owner’s exact specifications (74%), followed by the ability to create a home that can adapt to meet current and future needs (50%).
  • Finding the money to finance the project, including mortgage finance, is seen as the biggest hurdle (59%).
  • A third of people said living in a home that had less impact on the environment and was more sustainable was a key benefit of building a home (33%), and nearly 9 in 10 people (89%) said energy efficiency would be important if they were to build a new home.

In response to COVID-19 and the way we see our homes, the data showed that:

  • Almost 2 in 5 (39%) said the pandemic has made them need a home office space.
  • Almost half (48%) said they would like more space as a result of the lockdown. 36% said they would like more indoor space, and 37% said they would like more outdoor space.
  • Nearly a third (31%) have considered home improvements at some point in the future as a result of lockdown.
  • 1 in 20 (5%) considered designing and building their own home in response to the crisis.

Self Build Aspirations

NaCSBA and the BSA welcomed the fact that nearly a third of all people surveyed said they were interested in having a house built to their own needs and specifications. 9% of all people said that they hoped to build, rather than just dreaming about it.

The findings indicate that it is the younger generation of 18-24 year olds that are most interested in self building (48%). This represents a disconnect between those people with the greatest ambition but the least access to funding, either through limited savings or earning capacity.

This is in tune with the findings that financing the build project remains the most significant barrier that prevents many from self building, which was cited by 59% of respondents.

To help meet the deposit gap, the 2019 Conservative party manifesto promised that the Help to Buy scheme would be extended to the sector, which was announced recently.

In addition, the desire for homes to have a reduced environmental impact was a driver for anyone wishing to self build, with a third (33%) of people identifying it as a core benefit of self building. Almost 9 in 10 (89%) of people said it was important that their newly built home was energy efficient, when asked to envision building their own home.

England has the smallest amount of self built homes in the developed world, a fact acknowledged by government and its ambitions to diversify housing in the UK.

The Right to Build legislation places a duty on councils to grant sufficient planning permissions to match the demand evidenced on their registers. However, despite legislation in 2015 and 2016, the survey found that 83% of people had never heard of the registers held by local authorities of people who would like to build their own home. NaCSBA urges all those looking to self-build to sign up to their local Right to Build register via

COVID-19 and our homes

Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 has impacted the way people live, 39% of people now stating that a home office was important to them.

The lockdown resulted in almost 1 in 3 British adults considering home improvements (31%), while 1 in 20 (5%) were interested in going on to design and build their own home as a response to the crisis.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA’s CEO said,

“The current lack of choice in our new homes market makes it different from every other country and every other consumer market.  Only when there is diversity of choice will we get the diversity of homes that we want and need.”

Paul Broadhead, Head of Mortgages and Housing at the BSA said,

“It’s great to see that there are so many aspiring self and customs builders, particularly among the youngest generation (18-24yrs). Increased levels of home working this year have led many to realise the importance of future proofing their homes to suit their individual needs. Mutual lenders are leading the way to help these self-build dreams become a reality, with 21 building societies currently lending to people building their own homes, they are the clear choice for many and are leaders in this space.”

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Duncan Hayes