More Plots Required

Build It expert Mike Hardwick
by Mike Hardwick
19th November 2013

More land is needed for self-build homes, and while the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)  was designed to free up the planning process and allow local authorities to grant the permissions needed to increase housing stock, I do wonder if it’s having the desired effect.

Self-building is a non-contentious and incremental way of creating thousands of quality properties without the need to dump housing estates in the countryside.

I have recently realised that every single project on my books is a ‘knock down and rebuild’, therefore self-builders are not adding as much to the stock as they could. However, virgin plots are often impossible to come by, and planning policy on greenfield sites is still very restrictive, so this has become the default option for finding land.

In my ‘patch’ of the south of England, it’s not uncommon for clients to pay a seven-figure sum for an existing house, only to demolish it. Despite these incredible figures, clients can still expect their new home to be worth at least as much as it cost to build. This is particularly true in the Home Counties where property values have not really taken much of a hit in the recent recession, and have continued to rise in many areas.

But does it really matter if the numbers don’t add up? I was chatting to a potential client and I queried the viability of the replacement he was contemplating just outside the M25. I was concerned that the end value would be less than the property he was originally buying (it would be considerably smaller). I was surprised to hear that he was unconcerned by this. This was the only way he could get a good plot to build his perfect retirement home on.

It’s a matter of one’s motivation to build. I see more and more people for whom the dream is simply to build the perfect home, with little or no compromise,and to live in it forever. In that case, what does it matter if it is worth less than the house you started with? You could argue that it only becomes a problem if you sell.

What this tells me is that the supply of previously undeveloped land for individual builders, particularly in the south of England, is still critical and if we continue to rely on knock-down-and-rebuild then the net supply of housing through self-build will stay the same. However, if we ease up a bit on the non-contentious ‘greenfield’ sites, the quality housing stock goes up and houses that need just a bit of TLC will be renovated and loved again rather than simply demolished. I still think that’s a sensible way forward.

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