It’s common to confuse custom build and self build – many people assume the terms are interchangeable. It all boils down to how much a developer is involved. A custom build house is somewhere between a self-build house and a developer-built new build.

  • Self-build = no developer involvement
  • Custom build = some developer involvement
  • Traditional new build = developer led

A custom build is usually part of a wider development, where the developer has bought the land, carved it up into plots and received planning permission for the whole development. An upside to this is that all your future neighbours will have undergone the same process and there will be a ready-made community. For some this is a downside, if you want to fully break the mould and create something completely unique.


The degree of developer involvement can vary greatly in a custom build home. Broadly there are three categories within ‘custom build’:

  1. Serviced plots
  2. Shell homes
  3. Customisable turnkey.


What is a serviced plot?

Serviced plots are building plots that are sold with certain permissions and infrastructure to give you security that your self build can progress and provides a running start to building your home. What is confusing then – admittedly – is that once you have possession of your serviced plot, your project becomes a self-build. In fact, the serviced plot route is a very common one for most self-builders. Serviced plots will usually include some or all of the following.

  • Having carried out a feasibility study, there is assurance that the plot can be built on.
  • There are services, at least to the boundary line, e.g. water, drainage, gas, electricity.
  • There is planning permission (at least outline permission/permission in principle).
  • There is a road or track for access.


What is a shell home?

A shell home where the developer will take your new home up to a point where the house is externally complete. From then, you would be responsible for the interior fit-out.  For this, we would recommend using an interior architect. They can work with you to design the electric and lighting layout, plan the internal layout, choose finishes and fittings.


What is a turnkey custom home?

A turnkey when the developer carries out all the work to completion. When it comes to a custom home, this would mean that there are some customisable elements to it.


Finding the right architect for your custom build or self-build

Here at Design for Me we specialise in matching clients with the right architect for their self-build project (and it’s free!)

  • Quickly see who’s interested in your job.
  • Create a shortlist.
  • Invite up to three for a no-obligation consultation.

Emily  Design for Me

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