Self-builds booming in the South West
third quarter of 2017, around 7.9 per cent of buyers in the South West opted to buy a plot of land rather than an existing home, according to estate agent Strutt & Parker. A year earlier, that proportion was just one per cent; between 2012 and 2015, it was virtually non-existent. By contrast, plot buyers accounted for just 2.6 per cent of the wider UK population in the June to September period last year.
This is a micro-trend rather than a revolution in the UK property market, as the actual number of plots of land involved is relatively small. But the shift in attitude among buyers in the South West has been sufficiently pronounced to catch the attention of estate agents.
“I have recently sold three plots of land on my patch at full asking price, and I have another three on the market,” says Blair Stewart of Strutt & Parker in Salcombe, Devon. “People are not scared of self-builds right now – in fact, they have become part of the norm. The running costs of modern homes, compared with period properties, are inherently attractive, while the cost of building homes from scratch has also fallen in the past few years.”
Local planning authorities have also played their part in encouraging selfbuilds, Stewart adds. “Planning in the South Hams, in Devon, is pretty forward thinking, compared with Edinburgh, say, where I previously worked,” he says. “Knocking down an existing house or getting permission to build something ultra-contemporary is not a bureaucratic nightmare here.”
He cites the example of a couple from Wiltshire, Mike and Carol Laithwaite, to whom he sold a plot of land in 2016. Within weeks, they had secured permission to build a Swedish-style eco-home that would have been unimaginable in Devon 30 years ago.
Christopher Bailey of estate agent Knight Frank in Exeter says that the current high rates of stamp duty has also contributed to the boom in selfbuilds. “If you want to mitigate the effects of the duty, which is levied at 15 per cent on properties worth more than £1.5million, one obvious way to do it is to buy an older, cheaper prop- erty, knock it down and erect a new property on the old site.”
He has also noticed more and more second home owners doing the same thing, but over a longer time period. “They buy a second home in the West Country, then 10 or 15 years later, when they are on the brink of retirement, they replace the old home with a stateof-the-art modern property, incorporating all the latest green technology,” says Bailey. “As a by-product of that, they cut heating bills in their old age.”
As well as stamp duty, high property prices in the South West are also driving more home hunters to the selfbuild option. If you want to buy an existing property in a sought-after location such as Sandbanks or St Mawes, you will have to pay a hefty premium for the privilege. But the cost of building a property from scratch varies very little from area to area.
Those who have cottoned on to this, says Bailey, have done very nicely: “We are now seeing a gross development
The Kingsbridge estuary in Devon, left, where a developer has built Estuary Edge The plan for a house on a plot in Trebetherick, above; its view over the Cornish coast, right