Guide Self-build and custom build

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2. What is self-build and custom build?

The terms 'self-build' and 'custom build' are used where individuals or groups are involved in creating their own home.  The amount of personal involvement will vary.


Self-build projects are defined as those where someone directly organises the design and construction of their own home.  This covers a wide range of projects from a traditional DIY self-build home to projects where the self-builder employs someone to build their home for them. Community-led projects can also be defined as self-build.

Custom build

Custom build homes are where you work with a developer as an individual or a group to help deliver your own home.  The developer may help to find a plot, manage the construction and arrange the finance for your new home.  This is more of a hands-off approach but your home will be tailored to match your individual requirements.

Legal definition of self-build

In East Devon we tend to use the term ‘self-build’ to incorporate both self-build and ‘custom build’.

The 2015 Self Build Act defines self and custom housebuilding as “the building or completion by: individuals; associations of individuals; or persons working with or for individuals or associations of individuals, of houses to be occupied as homes by those individuals”. It does not include "the building of a house on a plot acquired from a person who builds the house wholly or mainly to plans or specifications decided or offered by that person”.

This means that the person who first lives in the house must have the primary input into the design of the home if it is to be considered self-build.

It does not require the first occupant to make any physical contribution to the construction of the home.

Self-build in East Devon

Historically in East Devon a significant proportion of planning permissions for housing have been granted for individual or small numbers of houses.  This has helped to provide a supply of opportunities to people wishing to build their own homes in East Devon.  

We are considering what else we can do to improve opportunities for self-build.  Policy CB12 of the emerging Cranbrook Plan requires 4% of the houses built in the expansion areas of this new town to be for custom or self-build.   

Additionally the adopted East Devon Local Plan includes a policy (H2) to encourage the provision of some plots on larger sites for people wishing to build their own home, although no sites have been delivered through this policy as yet.

The Self-Build Portal

For more general information please visit The Self-Build Portal - The Gateway to more Self and Custom Build Homes which is endorsed by the Government.