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The University of Sussex

 26 Sept 2001 

Do-it-yourself homes take an increasing share of property market

'Self-build' homes account for a growing proportion of new houses. But they are increasingly the choice of well-off households wanting a distinctive 'designer' property, rather than do-it-yourself builders who cannot afford the conventional property market.

New research by Dr James Barlow at the University of Sussex with colleagues from the Davis Langdon Consultancy finds that the number of self-build homes completed each year has risen from around 2,000 in 1978 to 15,000 in 1999, with a marked increase in the early to mid-1990s. These properties include homes where the owners were involved in the actual building work as well as design, and those where construction was handed over to others.

However, the study identifies a shift in the past 20 years from self-builders who are not eligible for social housing or cannot afford mainstream owner-occupation, to those who want an individual design or particular location.

The sector accounts for around 8 per cent of new houses, although in Northern Ireland the proportion is as high as a quarter. Almost all self-build homes are detached, most have four bedrooms and they are usually located in rural or suburban areas. Market research suggests the average cost in 1999 was 150,000, including land.

The study finds that in addition to the end of land price inflation in the early 1990s, growth in the sector was stimulated by greater willingness of mortgage lenders to finance projects and growing public interest, stimulated by a specialist self-build press and exhibitions.

The report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation notes that self-builders often include elements of technical innovation or design that are out of the ordinary, such as central vacuum systems and under-floor heating, or the inclusion of loft living space or a basement. But the use of more innovative features is often constrained by planning requirements, concerns over resale values and limited experience of the latest advances in construction.

The authors conclude that the sector may stabilise at around 18,000 homes annually, but could grow to provide as many as 20,000 homes per year - 10 per cent of all completions. They suggest that further expansion is likely only if there is increased public awareness of self-build. This would also require greater flexibility in planning policy and practice, with a possible 'enabling' role for local authorities in making suitable plots of land available.

 Notes for editors 

Homes to DIY for: the UK's self-build housing market in the twenty-first century by James Barlow, Robert Jackson and Jim Meikle is published for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation by York Publishing Services at 12.95 plus 2 p+p.

A summary of findings is available at:

For further information, please contact Dr James Barlow in SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research on 01273 877166, email or Alison Field in the Press Office on 01273 678888, email

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