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

On Right to Build Day (30 October) the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and the Building Societies Association (BSA) are releasing the findings of new online market research into self build intentions and the effect of COVID-19 on people’s perceptions of their home.

On Right to Build Day* (30 October) the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and the Building Societies Association (BSA) are releasing the findings of new online market research into self build intentions and the effect of COVID-19 on 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 welcome the news that almost 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.

Importantly, the data shows that it is the youngest generation of 18-24 who are most interested in self building (48%). This represents a disconnect, as these people tend to have the least amount of savings and less earning potential due to their age.

This marries with the perception that financing the build project  is the most significant limiting factor preventing people from self building. 59% cited this as the most significant barrier.

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 NaCSBA continues to push for.

Having a smaller environmental impact was also a key factor behind the ambition to self build, with a third (33%) of people identifying it as a core benefit of building a home. 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.

Housing diversification is a core part of the Government’s wider housing strategy, as England has the lowest known rate of self-commissioned homes in the world. The Right to Build legislation requires 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 their Right to Build portal.

The pandemic and our homes

It is no surprise that the COVID-19 crisis has affected people’s perceptions of what they want out of their home, with the need for a home office being important for 39% of people.

Further to this, the lockdown inspired almost 1 in 3 British adults to consider making home improvements as they re-evaluated their living space (31%), while 1 in 20 (5%) considered going on to design and build their own home as a response to the crisis. Clear evidence that the pandemic has made many of us reassess what we want out of a home.

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 Mortgage and Housing Policy at the BSA said:

“It’s great to see that there are so many aspiring self and custom 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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Building societies offering self and/or custom build products

 Bath Building Society

 Beverley Building Society

 Chorley Building Society 

 Darlington Building Society

 Buckinghamshire BS

 Earl Shilton Building Society

Dudley Building Society

Furness Building Society

 Ecology Building Society

 Ipswich Building Society

 Hanley Economic Building Society

 Mansfield Building Society

 Loughborough Building Society

 Penrith Building Society

 Melton Mowbray Building Society

 Saffron Building Society

 Progressive Building Society

 Scottish Building Society (Scotland only)

 Stafford Railway Building Society

 Swansea Building Society

 Vernon Building Society


PR enquiries


Duncan Hayes, Media Officer, NaCSBA

Hilary McVitty, Head of External Affairs, BSA



07714 004257

07741 984042

Notes to Editors 

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA CEO and Robin Fieth, BSA CEO are available for interview


NaCSBA/BSA logos are available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/qpp2si7kwdb9fpe/AAAO7ghQLiPUHC5cygtym7Vua?dl=0

An infographic can be found here  and a copy of the leading facts and analysis can be found here  

Graphs and charts of the results are also available on request.

Case studies of self builders are available on request.

Image(s) credit: Build It Education House at Graven Hill www.self-build.co.uk/ourhouse

Right to Build Day

As part of wider Right to Build Day activities (30 Oct) NaCSBA is also announcing:

  • The publication of new Good Practice Planning Guidance for professionals, to sit alongside National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPG).
  • The relaunch of the Right to Build Task Force website, for sector professionals.
  • The announcement of a new Custom Build Delivery Task Force, to support delivery.
  • The launch of NaCSBA’s annual Freedom of Information survey into local authority activity.

For further information contact Duncan Hayes

Details of the survey

NaCSBA and the BSA commissioned YouGov to conduct the survey. Data is based on total sample size of 2017 adults, with the survey carried out online on 9 -11 October 2020. Figures are weighted and representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

*Right to Build Day is the annual date when councils must show that they have matched numbers on their Right to Build registers with ‘sufficient development permissions’ granted, for the close of the preceding 3-year rolling base period. On 30 October 2020 councils must therefore demonstrate that they have granted sufficient ‘development permissions’ to reflect the demand evidenced by people that signed their local Custom and Self Build registers between 31 October 2016 to 30 October 2017. This should equate to 15,000 permissioned plots. NaCSBA will be sending a Freedom of Information request to all English authorities to track activity and will report again in early 2021.

*The figure for 5% of all UK homes being custom and self build is by NaCSBA and is based on an estimated 245k new homes across the UK annually, equating to between 12-13,000 owner commissioned homes annually. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/922911/Housing_Supply_Indicators_Release_June_2020.pdf

The legal context

 The ‘Right to Build’ places two legal obligations on Local Authorities in England:

  1. All Local Authorities in England must keep a register of people and groups of people who are seeking to purchase serviced plots of land in the authority’s area and to have regard to that register when carrying out their functions. Registers were required from 1st April 2016.
  2. Local Authorities in England must grant sufficient ‘development permissions’ to meet the demand for Custom and Self Build housing in their area, as established by those joining a register, on a rolling basis. Permissions equivalent to the number of people registering from 1 April 2016 to 30 October 2016 should have been granted between 31 October 2016 and 30 October 2019. Permissions equivalent to the number of people registering from 30 October 2016 to 30 October 2017 should be granted between 31 October 2017 and 30 October 2020 and so on.

About NaCSBA

The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) is the voice for the Custom and Self Build industry across the UK. Its vision is to make custom and self build a mainstream choice for all those seeking a home of their own. Visit www.nacsba.org.uk.

About the BSA

The Building Societies Association (BSA) represents all 43 UK building societies as well as 6 credit unions. Together these organisations serve around 25 million customers across the UK. Its objective is to push for the best outcomes for building societies and other members from the new and changing regulations and legislation in UK and Europe. Visit https://www.bsa.org.uk/

What is Custom & Self Build?

The term self build can be misleading as relatively few individuals physically build their own home. A typical self builder may do some of the work but primarily they manage the process of building their own home including finding the plot and engaging the different parties in the build. A custom build approach more typically involves a prepared plot of land with services already supplied and a single main contractor for the build.

For the purpose of the survey, we said that:
Self build is where you find a plot of land, determine the design of your home, and then select a contractor to build it.
Custom build is where you buy a pre-prepared plot of land and then engage with a specialist design and build contractor to construct it.

Owner-commissioned homes are in tune with many current themes in housing, including building better more beautiful homes with higher build quality, with a greater sense of place and community. They are also typically built by small- to medium-sized (SME) housebuilders and consequently boost local economies and with scope for local training opportunities.