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The Independent Culture
DAVID AND MONICA Robinson didn't think it was too much to ask for - a new home with just a couple of bedrooms. After all, their family had grown up and left, and although they'd decided they would like a large house with plenty of space to entertain, they didn't need five rooms for guests. They wanted to spend around pounds 300,000 in the Milton Keynes area, but after a lot of fruitless searching, drew a blank.

David, a systems consultant who teleworks, recalls: "We went to several agents looking for something in that price bracket with two or three bedrooms, but we were constantly told it didn't exist - even though they'd say, 'We're often asked for something like this.' So then we started to explore the notion of building something ourselves, but realised you need either a project manager, or a lot of time.

"It was when we began looking at new houses that we came across Prowting Homes. We told them that we'd need to redesign the house that we were interested in, which was situated on an estate overlooking a golf course near Bedford. And they were only too pleased to help."

Fortunately, work on the upstairs part of the house hadn't yet begun. "We turned a five-bedroom house into a three-bedroom house, with one of the rooms as my study. We also had an archway put in to open it all up." The couple went for "wasted space", a principle very popular in the States, whereas "builders here like to put lots of walls in and create more bedrooms," says Mr Robinson, who paid a non-returnable indemnity to cover the work. They also chose a number of extras, including a specified kitchen and the colour scheme for each room.

"I think that in the housing market, there is a general willingness to try to accommodate you, but that can very quickly evaporate if another customer comes along and says, 'I'll have that just as it is,'" says Mr Robinson. "You have to get in very early, at a building stage."