Custom build homes

Custom build homes

Custom build offers buyers a much wider say in the design and specification of a new home. PHPD visited Fairgrove Homes in Derbyshire, one housebuilder that is at the forefront of developing this concept, to find out more.  

In operation since the mid-1990s Fairgrove Homes has over 20years experience of building new homes in the East Midlands. Based in Derbyshire this family-owned business was building around 50 homes a year prior to 2008, and this year is on track to get back to that number once again. Its Managing Director Steve Midgley has been building homes a lot longer, starting out in the industry in the 1980s working for a company in Lincolnshire, before setting up Fairgrove Homes in 1995.

CLP_Fairgrove Kimberley Interior - 17As a SME developer the company looks to build new homes on smaller plots in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. The majority of the company’s output is standard residential new build homes. However, over the past decade it has also become a leading business in the custom-build market.


Steve Midgley recalls noticing ‘something’ in the self-build market around 2004 – a requirement from the self-build market for ready to build serviced plots, with basic infrastructure in place.

Pursuing the idea further, in 2006 Fairgrove Homes bought a site near Nottingham that would take seven plots. Planning permission was obtained in 2007. They called it Plot2Build. The company started selling the plots but quickly found they were often being asked to do the build phase on behalf of the purchaser as well.  Then, as the recession kicked in, Fairgrove found a demand for building one-off houses.

Steve recalls, “Whilst doing the one-off houses we realised we hadn’t quite got it right on Plot2Build. People wanted to self-build, but they didn’t want to get their hands dirty, they wanted someone else to do it for them.”

Gold standard

Fairgrove Homes - The Roxham showhome Hollywell Fields KimberleyFor Fairgrove Homes this was the start of their journey towards custom build. Since then it has developed and refined its custom build concept and the housebuilder now offers buyers a number of options on a plot. With planning already in place the house design is fixed – design changes would require a new planning submission – but customers get a wide choice over things like number of bedrooms, internal layout and specification level.

Fairgrove Homes has created Bronze, Silver or Gold specification packages – with each level offering slighter higher standards of finish and equipment. Costs vary accordingly. A Platinum level is also being developed for those buyers wanting total luxury.

In order to keep costs competitive, customers are not given a completely blank slate on specification because from a decade of experience in custom build Fairgrove has learned that buyers benefit from their guidance, plus it enables them to keep to regular suppliers.  Steve explains that often in the past, customers would change their minds at points in the process when options cannot be amended without a considerable cost. This was one of the reasons behind the creation of the Bronze, Silver, Gold (Platinum) approach.

“As long as everything is dealt with before you start building it really isn’t that difficult or expensive,” comments Steve. Customers can even have choice over internal layouts and the number of bedrooms they would like. Steve recalls a number of customers who opted for three larger bedrooms rather than four slightly smaller ones, for example.

Downstairs the company usually designs for open plan spaces and can alter the design to offer, say, a separate kitchen and dining rooms for example, should the customer want it. Steve notes, “it is far easier to put a wall in than take one out.”

When deciding on the levels of specification for a new home Steve says, “I’ve always tried to push it a little bit.” The company has built homes with smart controls and automated lighting but he feels they do not offer the ‘wow’ factor that buyers want. While kitchen and bathroom specification remains key, one option he is keen to explore is whole-house music solutions with hidden speakers in the walls. “People liked that more than the lighting,” he notes.

Latest developmentFairgrove - Kimberley photograph (man on roof)

Steve outlines the options for Fairgrove Homes’ custom-build while we tour the company’s latest development, a former brewery in Nottinghamshire. Dating back to 1832 the Kimberley Brewery was established and operated by the brewer Hardys & Hansons, before it sold the site to Greene King which ceased production in 2006.

On the site the company is building around 100 new houses and creating over 60 new apartments including roughly 40 conversions.

It is the largest development Fairgrove Homes has undertaken to date and Steve thinks it will take around three to four years to complete. Midway through the first phase (27 plots) he confirms that its custom build option will be offered on future phases. At present the company also has custom build plots available on the Dominion development near Doncaster and Pilsley in North Derbyshire.

Second phase focus

One of the barriers to custom build that has been identified by Fairgrove Homes is that many people want to see what the completed house is going to look like before they buy. Steve notes, “Buyers struggle to visualise what their home will look like off-plan,” which is a challenge for custom build as the model relies on sales off-plan.

He believes that offering custom build on the second phase of homes on larger developments will help people understand what their custom build property will look like before they commit. Then, up to a cut-off date for a phase, buyers can take the custom-build option.

Another crucial factor in custom build is timing, Steve notes. “Offering such a great deal of personal choice and involvement by the purchaser may result in a slightly longer construction time, but when fully understood and accepted, home buyers using the custom build route will end up with an exceptional home they have helped to create.”

“We are offering something here that makes it really worthwhile buying off-plan ahead of time,” he concludes.

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