'Property Intelligence' - Self Build Heaven

Grant Shapps’ promises to make self-build a major part of Britain’s construction programme is likely to herald the rise of this niche from quirky to mainstream.

Currently about 12,000 homes a year are built this way (it was almost twice that figure before the downturn) and a lot of the people who do the hard work pass through Buildstore’s National Self-Build and Renovation Centre, a vast shed with 67,000 square feet of space, just off the M4 at Swindon.

If anyone thinks self build is what new age people do when they get too old to play irritating nosepipe music in Brighton, they should visit this centre – it’s an extraordinarily professional and slick resource hub for what may turn out to be Britain’s new army of housebuilders.

The centre – built for £5m and opened in 2007 - boasts 250 exhibitors, has stands and exhibitions showing different stages of self-build from foundations to completion, has four permanent key advisors on different aspects of self build, and three complete self-built houses. Although 20,000 people set foot in the centre each year (roughly half seeking inspiration on renovating their existing home, the others wanting help with building from scratch) there’s plenty of space and time to look.

It has a range of different seminars and courses, mostly free, and there’s an emphasis on mortgage advice from Buildstore itself – an inevitable piece of self-promotion but, on this occasion, a useful one because of the difficulty in getting self-build loans from mainstream mortgage companies.

Buildstore admits that when it launched the centre it had planned to get 50,000 visitors a year by the end of 2010. But that launch took place six months before the credit crunch and the ensuing financial traumas.

Now, you sense, self build is on the march again. Whether the coalition delivers in terms of freeing well-located reasonably-priced land from public bodies and private volume housebuilders (the key to self build taking off to the level it has in mainland European countries) remains to be seen.

But if you’re even simply thinking about creating a home from scratch, this centre is the place to visit. If only our house builders had a similar showcase for new homes...

The National Self Build & Renovation Centre
Lydiard Fields, Great Western Way, Swindon, SN5 8UB
0845 223 4455

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