Finding the Right Building Plot
How can you find some land to build that new home on? There is a bewildering number of sources to potentially find building plots on now - some free, others not. Let's have a look through the options so you can make a more informed choice.
Land or building plot?
Finding a building plot is very different from finding land. Land, especially rural land is cheap but it is extremely unlikely that it can ever be built on. Therefore, it is important to note that you are looking for land that either has some form of planning permission on it. Either outline planning permission (OPP) or detailed planning permission (DPP).
How much will my plot cost?
Its no good getting that dream location for a house and then having no money left to build it. Keep in mind that the building plot is typically about 33% of the total cost of building a new home and maybe more depending on location.
This is traditionally the most popular way of finding a building plot. Estate agents have a large number of contacts within the building industry (property developers, builders, etc) and if they think you are serious about buying a plot then they can be a great resource. The key to finding something through your local estate agent is engagement - no not committing to marriage. You can improve this by
- Visiting the office rather than calling. You are then a face instead of just a voice or worse an email message.
- Talk to them about your plans to convince them that this is not just a ‘we might build our own home and was wondering how much...' but instead ‘we are ready to build our own home and just need to find the right building plot'.
- Make it known that you may be interested in knocking down dilapidated properties as well as new sites.
- Ask them to keep an eye out for properties with large gardens where the owner might be persuaded to split the sale into a house plus building plot (note planning permission issues apply)
- If possible mention that you could be a cash buyer - ears prick up!
Some estate agents will also go one step further and actively prod the market and other sources for some land for you. This service may cost extra so enquire at the start to avoid any nasty shocks later.
If the housing market is very busy then be aware that the agents are likely to be making lots of fairly easy money selling houses and so may need pestering to keep them aware that you are still interested.
Find local estate agents here
As the name suggests they are like estate agents but rather deal specifically with land. Their more specific knowledge of the market can make them useful. Note they sell land for non-building use as well so be aware that not all of it has planning permission. Be particularly wary of any services that suggest it is easy to get planning permission on a piece of land or that solicitors aren't required as the purchase cost is so low. In these cases continuing with this discussion is likely to results in wasted money on your part. Remember you are after a building plot not somewhere to raise sheep on!
Note this is not searching eBay. Look out for local public auctions of land. Land comes for auction for a few reasons. It may be that the plot has been on the market for a long while and no one has purchased it, so it goes to auction as a last resort to get a sale. Another reason is that maybe the owner has gone bankrupt and its being sold on by the creditor. Either way as long as you are careful you are likely to pay only the market value or less for the land. However, watch out for
- Getting carried away and paying too much - keep your overall budget in mind!
- Do your research beforehand so you know what you are getting. Get the brochure and always visit the plot to investigate it before bidding.
Online Land Databases
With the assumption that most things can be done better online many people are attracted by the idea of searching for land from the browser. The most comprehensive way of doing this is to check some of online databases which are just lists of plots for sale that can be sorted by area and price. Listed below are a few of the ones I looked at in no particular order of ranking.
The site is free for sellers and buyers. So, looks like a good one! At the time of using they had 1415 plots for sale.
They have a map that allows you to narrow down the location by area. You are then presented with a list of plots available. You could also just type in a location name and see what came up. The list of properties tells you how much they are (guide price) and clicking on the link gives more information and may include a picture of the plot. If you wish you can then contact the seller for more information and maybe arrange a site visit. http://www.plotfinder.net/
They had 7186 plots for sale at time of using. The site is run by home building and renovating magazine. It is free for sellers but £40 for potential buyers.
The home page is uncluttered and simply prompts you to enter place name or postcode. This then takes you to a results page with an advanced search form pre-filled in for an area search of 20 miles radius around your location entered. You can also see the properties on a google map. The advanced search feature is a nice addition. The downside is that in order to see the full details (i.e. who owns it, how big etc) you have to subscribe which costs just under £40 at present.
They had 9156 building opportunities at the time of writing. The site is run by buildstore and charges for both sellers and buyers.
You are initially presented with a map that will show you how many plots are available in each county as you hover the mouse over them. Clicking a county shows a list of plots but no prices. To view more details you are required to subscribe either for ever for £40 or £29 for 3 months.
The site has some of the land agencies properties available in one place. It doesn't specifically say how many properties it has in total but they had plenty in the Cambridgeshire area. The site is free for buyers and sellers.
Initially you can see a map which when clicked allows you to drill down to your county. You then have a list of land available. On the left hand side there is an advanced search which means you can filter the results by planning permission status, price and land use. You can then contact the seller for more information for free.
If you know the area you want to build then go and drive/walk around looking for areas of land that either are for sale or may be suitable for building on. It's not a quick process but can reap rewards. If there is any land that looks suitable (say potential infill) then you can usually find out who owns it by looking on the land registry.
Personal searches can also turn up derelict or seriously run down properties that local authorities may be keen for someone to take over and renovate or better for you knock down and start again.
These can be used in two ways. The obvious is that you may find that people will advertise plots in them. The second is that you could advertise that you desire a plot and does anyone have something for sale.
Councils own quite a bit of land and may be under pressure in order to allow so many new builds per year. Some of them won't have any for sale but its worth making an enquiry.
Like estate agents your solicitor may have good contacts in the industry and is worth asking.
Many builders have a portfolio of land that they are going to build on at some point in the future. Depending on the economic climate they may be willing to sell on some of the plots.
Like the local councils some of the utility companies may have land available for sale.
Tips for finding a building plot
- Narrowing down roughly where you want to live can help crystallize the decision process else you could e snowed under with loads of information sources and potential plots.
- If you find a building plot then act fast - they go quick. BUT you must visit the site before making an offer.
- You could consider trying to get together with some other self builders and look at buying a larger plot.
- Many local authorities have maps showing where the recent planning applications are and whether they have been granted or turned down. These are useful resources.
Watch out for cons
Some services will offer cheap land for sale - but without planning permission. False economy.
Others offer land that nobody apparently owns. Well it isn't registered but someone almost certainly owns it. Again be careful.
Conclusions of Finding Land
Hopefully the above are some useful sources for trying to find land to build your plot on. Now all you have to do is buy it and build a house. Simple, eh?
"Very helpful and well written in laymans terms. Thank you for this informative article."