It’s a difficult balancing act. Attempting to address the country’s housing shortage, whilst also making efforts to preserve the environment was never going to be easy, but throw in a global pandemic that has seen demand far outstrip supply, and the problem is exacerbated even further.

Self-build properties could be a way to reach the estimated 300,000 new homes needed per year, whilst allowing people to create their dream homes at the same time. A win-win situation, surely? The government appears to believe so, recently announcing its plans to review laws to make self-builds easier.

In April 2016, legislation was passed to grant the public the right to build their own home in the area they wish to live in, using local Right to Build Registers. Two years later, additional pressure was placed on local authorities to prove that enough suitable plots are being supplied to those who wanted them, and now we’re hearing that the process is to be made even easier and more transparent.

What makes self builds so ideal?

Eco-friendly choices and control over design are the biggest motivations behind self-builds.

Research shows that 28 per cent of people cite the ability to make environmentally friendly decisions as the biggest incentive for their self-build project. Sourcing local, sustainable materials, as well as installing energy-efficient measures such as solar panels and triple glazing can really help reduce the impact on the environment. And with so many new housing developments taking up more of our green open spaces, this has to be a good thing.

This in turn helps homeowners save money on heating and electricity bills. When we also consider that self-build plots are zero-rated for VAT purposes, and free from Community Infrastructure Levy, it’s perhaps no surprise that financial reasons also factor in people’s decisions to build their own homes, with some potentially substantial savings to be made.

Creative control is also high on potential self-builders’ priority lists, with more than half (51 per cent) interested in being able to design their own layout.

This way, more people get a foot on the property ladder and the gap in suitable homes begins to close. All the while, we remain mindful of our carbon footprint.

So far, so good!

What more needs to be done?

Despite a real surge in awareness over the benefits of self-builds, leading to a commitment from the government to prioritise the process and planning permission for these, the UK is still lagging behind its European counterparts on this front. We currently have the lowest number of self-build and custom-build properties in Europe, although it is promising to hear that this number has increased by 50 per cent in the past two years. But more still needs to be done if we really want to see self-builds become a big part of our future.

A recent survey suggests that 1 in 3 British adults are considering a self-build project at some point in the future, so we know the concept is of interest. However, not all local councils have embraced the Right to Build legislation as much as they could. Whilst some have been welcoming, other Right to Build Registers are buried deep into websites, making it harder for people to find and complete them.

Issues like this will hopefully be addressed as part of the government’s review of self-build rules.

What do people need to know about self-builds?

It’s important to remember that self-build properties require a self-build mortgage, rather than a standard residential product. The money for these is released in stages as the build progresses and can be a little more expensive than a typical residential mortgage, due to the complexity for the lender.

However, working with a lender that operates a manual underwriting approach can be really beneficial. Such lenders will assess each application on its merit and take your individual circumstances into account. Seeking the advice of a mortgage intermediary who specialises in this area can also be helpful.

Joanne Leek is Digital and Campaign Manager of Ipswich Building Society. Ipswich Building Society offers self-build mortgages and operates a manual underwriting approach, so applications are reviewed by an individual, not a computer.