London's new "custom-build" homes: made-to-order homes could be the future of housing

Custom-build homes, crafted to suit buyers, may soon become part of the fabric of the housing market.

Creating your own home from the ground up is a monumental task. But there is another option for buyers seeking something more personal. With a “custom build”, you work alongside a specialist self-build developer.

The concept is a bit like baking a Victoria sponge from a mix. A lot of the work is done for you, but you do have a chance to put your personal stamp on things, and you save some money on the building costs and stamp duty.

Since custom build is a new concept, first introduced in 2011 in the Government’s Housing Strategy for England, individual developers are approaching it in different ways.


You can buy an off-plan property which the developer will allow you to customise. Building firms can also gather a group of would-be homeowners who then become the clients, and the company acts as their contractor to help with finding a site and designing their homes.

Another option on offer at the moment would be to buy a house at Blenheim Grove, Peckham, a boutique development by Inhabit Homes on a once derelict plot. The land was bought by Inhabit last year and it now has planning permission to build five houses. It will build the super-structure of the homes, leaving the fitting out to the new owners.

Blank canvases: Inhabit is building five homes at Blenheim Grove, Peckham

Prices start at £740,000 for a shell house (1,266 sq ft) which, when completed, could have up to four bedrooms. Fitting it out would cost from £75,000 — less if the owners are prepared to do some of the work themselves, more if they have designer tastes.

Gus Zogolovitch, managing director of Inhabit and a keen designer/developer of small spaces, estimates that buying a finished house would cost about £900,000 — representing a saving of about £85,000. There will also be a saving on stamp duty. Buyers of these custom homes only pay stamp duty on the land — the houses are tax-exempt as they are new-builds. This, says Zogolovitch, adds another saving of £22,000. He is now looking at more custom-build sites in Camden, Hackney and fast-improving Sydenham.

In Enfield, award-winning architect Luke Tozer, director of Pitman Tozer Architects, is working with community housing group Naked House and the local council to create what is set to be London’s biggest custom-build project to date. Plans are being drawn up to construct between five and nine flats on 11 small council-owned sites in the borough.

Personal touch: custom builds offer the chance to create the perfect home to suit your lifestyle

Like Blenheim Grove, the homes will be sold part-finished and are designed to be affordable to buyers earning between £25,000 and £85,000.

“We think that selling homes in this ‘self-finish’ state will mean they are about 20 to 25 per cent cheaper,” says Tozer, who is chairman of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ custom build committee.

Planning applications for the developments will be submitted this year and the first residents — who must register with the council and Naked House — could be in situ by next summer.

In the commuter zone, Kevin McCloud’s HAB housing has just launched a small development of custom-build homes in Kings Worthy near Winchester, within an hour of London by train. Four-bedroom properties start at £465,000 although, of course, the owners will need to be prepared to finish off their homes before moving in next year.

There are not many developers working in this sector right now, so finding an opportunity is a challenge.

In the future, however, custom build is set to become a real option for Londoners outpriced by the mainstream market. Later phases of building on the Olympic Park will include an element of custom build.


Do it yourself:self-building can be tough

Igloo Regeneration, the firm planning to build Britain’s first “floating village” at Royal Victoria Dock, is considering making all 50 or so homes on the site custom build. They will float on pontoons alongside new restaurants, bars and offices. A planning application for the project is due to be submitted later this year and work could start by 2017.

Custom build is also likely to feature in the Government-backed plan to create a new garden city featuring up to 15,000 new homes at Ebbsfleet.

Late last year, it was confirmed that developers ZeroC had been commissioned to lead a custom-build development, Trumpet Junction, at a former hospital site in Basingstoke.

Meanwhile, in Dagenham, Mayor Boris Johnson is considering regeneration options at Beam Park, where a new station and 2,000 homes are to be built just a 20-minute train hop from the City. It is thought Johnson — known to be enthusiastic about custom build — is likely to include this option within the scheme.


Self-build mortgages are not cheap — rates are currently about five per cent. However, the Government’s Help to Buy scheme, which offers 40 per cent loans to first-time buyers, has been extended to the self-build sector, which cuts entry prices, and once the house is built, owners will be free to remortgage and shop around in the mainstream lending market.

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