Guide to Choosing to Self-Build Your Home

Houses are getting more expensive to buy, and even when you can afford one, you’re limited from a design standpoint to what developers have chosen. A route you could go down is commissioning a self-build for your new home. A self-build will allow you to build your own home from the ground up so that you can tailor it to both your design preferences and your budget.

What is a Self-Build?

A self-build is where someone commissions a house to be built from scratch, on land that they own. With a self-build, you have the option to have complete control over the design and build process, meaning you can choose things like the layout of the building and the materials it’s made from.

Most people tend to work with architects, architectural technologists, or professional design and building teams.

Unless you have experience in any of these areas, working with professionals means you can build your dream home, while still working within building regulations and maintaining structural necessities.

A man in a yellow hard hat and high-vis jacket is standing on a wooden frame of a house, working.

Types of Self-Build

When it comes to building your own home, there are two routes that you can go down, the “self-build” route or the “custom-build” route. Both have their pros and cons, and depending on your situation, one might suit you better than the other. They both have differing levels of involvement throughout the design and construction process, which will be a factor in which route you want to take.


Opting to go down the self-build route for your new home means you will need to be much more involved in every aspect of the building process. Everything from the design stage, and choosing the right trades people, to choosing the finishings and sorting out legal documentation.

You don’t necessarily have to organise everything yourself when choosing to self-build, some people will decide that hiring an experienced project manager will be beneficial to them, taking some of the stress away from themselves.

The biggest benefit of choosing to self-build is that you have complete control and input over creating your home. Effectively, as long as your budget allows for it and that it meets building regulations, you can build your dream home.

Custom build

Custom-builds are similar to self-builds in the fact that you get to build your home from scratch on your own land. The key difference is that you work with a developer who will help to oversee and manage the project for you. This includes:

  • Finding a plot of land, if you don’t have one
  • Helping create a bespoke design
  • Organising planning permission
  • Organising services to the property (like utilities and roads)
  • Project management

One of the downsides of choosing to go for a custom-build home rather than a self-build, is that it will be more expensive because you’ll be paying the developers who are helping to oversee and manage the project.

Self-Build Routes

So, you’re building your own home and have decided to choose the self-build option. Before you get started, there are several self-build routes you can go down, depending on the level of involvement you want in the build.

Package Company

Using a package company is one of the more hands-off approaches you can take, and will be similar to a custom-build route. A package company will help to guide you through the design and build process, considering your requirements and preferences.

As the name suggests, they’ll bundle a lot of the services needed in one package, such as architects/designers and building teams. The level of management that you have during the build will vary depending on the company and the terms of the contract you sign with them.

Part of this service may involve having to compromise on certain elements of your new home, depending on how viable it is for the company to deliver.

Architect + Contractor/Project Manager

Opting to hire an architect, alongside a project manager, is the ‘middle’ level of involvement you can have in a self-build project. You’ll work with the architect and project manager to design and plan the self-build, but you’ll have to either be more involved in the physical work or hire a team of contractors to help with it.
Unlike using a package company, you’ll have a lot more to organise yourself. This could potentially include things like finding a plot, sorting out planning permission and services for the property, and finding all the right tradesmen to carry out the necessary jobs.

Project Managing Yourself

As the name suggests, this involves managing the entire self-build process yourself. You have full control over everything with this route; however, this also means it’s up to you to organise everything from planning permission to hiring contractors.

This self-build route isn’t recommended for most people, unless you have a lot of project management experience for building homes. Bad project management can massively delay the project, increase costs, and in a worst-case scenario, make the project fall through entirely.

Financing a Self-Build Home

A big factor when it comes to buying any property is finance. The process of buying any home is lengthy and expensive, and most people don’t have the cash on hand to buy a house outright, so use methods like mortgages to finance their home. Self-builds aren’t much different.

How Much Does a Self-Build Cost?

It can be difficult to give a definite figure on how much a self-build home will cost. There are many variables that can impact how expensive the process can be before building even starts. And like with any big project, unforeseen costs can arise too. However, as a general rule of thumb, a self-build home can cost anywhere from £1000/m2 to £3000/m2.

Factors That Affect Cost

There are many factors that can impact the cost of a self-build house, which can include:

Location – like with any property, location can play a big part in the price of the land, materials and labour. Being closer to big cities like London can hike up the price.

Size – The bigger the house, the more expensive the project will be.

Plan/Layout – A more complex design will be more expensive to build.

Number of storeys – More storeys will make it more expensive to build, however, building up is typically cheaper than building across as it doesn’t require more foundations being put in place.

Specification – Opting for standard features that are more common will save money.

Your involvement – The more work you do yourself, the less you spend on labour.

How to Finance a Self-Build Project

When it comes to financing a self-build, there are a few options available, just like if you were going to buy a home from a developer. The options available typically which can help to finance your self-build home are:

  • Savings
  • Equity in existing property
  • Self-build mortgage
  • Help to build scheme

Savings and any equity you have from an existing property are fairly self-explanatory. These are the easiest assets to work out, once you’ve had your current property evaluated, and can be used directly to partially or fully fund your build. Self-build mortgages and help to build schemes are a little more complicated.

Self-Build Mortgages

A self-build mortgage is like a typical house mortgage, where you are given a self-build loan by a provider, which can be used to fund the costs of your project. Then you’ll pay regular instalments over a long period of time to pay back the loan.

What makes self-build mortgages different is that they’re not as common, and you’ll have to seek out a specialist provider that offers self-build mortgages. Typically, self-build mortgages work by releasing money in stages e.g. stage 1 is the cost of the land, stage 2 is the foundation work etc.

Arrears vs Advanced Mortgages

There are typically two types of self-build mortgages available, Arrears and Advanced Mortgages, which will pay out at different times of each building stage.

An Arrears Mortgage is the more common of the two options. This involves you paying for the work to be done upfront, and then once the stage is complete, you’ll be paid back by the lender from the mortgage.

An Advanced Mortgage, as the name suggests, is paid out before each stage, so it can fund it. These are less common and typically have less favourable interest rates attached to them. This option is for people who don’t have the cash upfront to pay for each stage.

Help to Build Scheme

In the UK, you can make use of a help to build scheme from the government which can help with some of the costs involved in a self-build or custom build project, including land costs and building costs.

The scheme is a loan that can range from 5-20% (up to 40% in London) of the project’s value. The requirements to get the help to build loan are:

Are that you’re 18+, and have a right to live in England
That you will live in the newly-built home as your only home
You have secured a self-build mortgage from a lender registered with Help to Build

Costs involved in a Self-Build

There are three main areas that make up the value of a self-build property, and need to be factored in before the project is started. You can work out the value using these factors:

Plot costs + Building costs + Profit to be made = Value of Self-Build Home

It’s important to factor in profit here because this will be your starting point if you eventually decide to sell your house.
Within those costs include all the survey costs, labour costs, materials etc. It’s important that immediately after working out of a rough total estimate value of your house-to-be, that you put away 10-15% of your budget as a contingency buffer. This is so any unforeseen costs don’t cause you trouble and potentially throw the project off kilter.

How to Find a Self-Build Plot

There are many ways you can find a plot that is suitable for your self-build project, but generally speaking, you’ll have to be very proactive in trying to find a plot – it’s unlikely that a plot will fall into your lap.

Some methods you can use to find plots are:

  • Use specialist plot finding services
  • Explore areas and ask locals
  • Go to plot auctions and see what’s available
  • Ask friends and family members to keep an ear out

The more methods you use, the more likely you are to find a plot you’ll love. It is important to remember that, depending on your requirements, the time to find a plot can vary, some self-builders will find plots quicker than others.

Other considerations to keep in mind when hunting for a plot are things like how easy is access to the plot, and are utility services already in the area. If there isn’t any access or services currently, this can hike up the price of your self-build project.

Essential Considerations of Self-Builds

Here is a quick list of some of the key elements that you will need to consider when starting a self-build project:

  • Planning permission
  • Building control approved
  • Are there any special permissions like listed building consent?
  • Safeguarding your investments with contracts, warranties, self-build insurance
  • What is access to the plot like?
  • Are there existing utility services near the plot?
  • Do you need a project manager or team to help organise and oversee the project?
  • What materials do you want the house to be built from?
  • What style or design do you want?
  • Do you require a mortgage or loan?

How Can Dakea Help?

At Dakea, we have plenty of resources available which can help you with your self-build project – especially when it comes to trade matters, loft projects, and roof windows. Roof windows can be a modern and stylish addition to your self-build project, and can help make your space feel bigger by incorporating more natural light, while improving your home’s air quality.

Get in touch today, and see how we can help you bring your self-build home to the next level.


Self-builds can be a great way to build your dream house, offering you the opportunity to design your house to perfectly suit your needs and budget. Depending on the level of involvement you want, it may be best to work with a package company or project manager to make the self-build process easier and less stressful.

An alternative to a self-build would be to work with a developer on a custom-build house, which offers a more hands-off approach, but still allows you to influence the design and build process.

While self-builds give you the ultimate level of control, the planning, time and money involved isn’t for everyone, and we recommend having a real passion for creating a self-build; otherwise the process could potentially put you off.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does a self-build take?

A rough estimate of how long it can take for a self-build project to be completed is around 40 weeks. However, this can be shorter or longer, depending on building methods used, the size and complexity of the project and if you encounter any unexpected delays.

Is it cheaper to self-build a house?

It can be cheaper to self-build a house, but it involves a lot more time and effort and planning than buying a home. The costs also include land costs, planning permission costs along with others that you don’t have to consider when buying a house. The upside is there are
no developer costs by default, which can save you a lot of money. A well managed self-build can even make up to 25% in profit, when it comes to the value of your house.

How much does it cost to build a house yourself in the UK?

The amount needed to finance a self-build house in the UK is within a rough range of £1000 m2 – £3000 m2, however this can change depending on the location of your self-build, the complexity of the design and how premium you make the specification. Typically, self-builds that are closer to major UK cities, like London, will be much more expensive.

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