Self-builds boom­ing in the South West

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

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

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