LAST UPDATED: 3rd January 2023 by The Editorial Team
Summary: Finding a building plot for self build with planning permission, plot for a self build project and the factors to consider
Finding a building plot
A building plot, also known as a building lot or land lot, is a piece of land with planning permission that is intended for the construction of a building or structure. Building plots are typically sold by developers or land owners, and can be found in both urban and rural areas.
For most people, this is the hardest and most frustrating part of the self build process. Building plots are not easy to find and demand is greater than supply.
The size of a building plot can vary greatly, depending on the location and the intended use of the land. In urban areas, building plots may be smaller and more densely packed, while in rural areas there may be the opportunity for a larger development. Building plots may also have different zoning regulations, which determine what types of buildings can be constructed on the land and how the land can be used.
When purchasing a building plot, it is important to carefully research the location to ensure that the land is suitable for the intended use. It is also important to consider factors such as access to utilities, the slope of the land, and any potential environmental hazards.
Factors to consider
Some additional things to consider when purchasing a building plot include:
- The price of a building plot can vary significantly depending on the location and the size of the land. It is important to consider the budget for the project and to compare prices with other plots in the area to ensure that the price is fair. It is common to split a third for land costs, a third for build costs and a third for profit (this may be hypothetical if you do not plan on selling).
- Title: It is important to carefully review the title of the land to ensure that there are no restrictive covenants or other issues that could affect the use of the land.
- Surveys: It is a good idea to have a professional survey conducted to determine the boundaries of the land and to identify any potential issues such as floodplains or easements.
- Soil quality: The quality of the soil on the building plot can affect the stability and foundation of a structure. It is important to have the soil tested to ensure that it is suitable for construction.
- Utilities: It is important to consider access to utilities such as electricity, internet, water, and sewage, as well as the distance to these utilities and the cost of connecting to them.
Overall, purchasing a building plot is a significant investment and it is important to carefully research and plan to ensure that the land is suitable for the intended use.
How to find a plot with planning permission
To maximise your chances of success you will need to be as flexible as possible about location and use as many of the following methods as possible.
Estate agents or property sites
It is definitely worth speaking to your local estate agents. Although most will only sell the occasional plot, they are still your mostly likely source of a plot. Many agents will have good contacts with property developers and landowners. They may also be aware of properties with large gardens with building plot potential. Remember to keep in contact with estate agents on a regular basis as they will rarely contact you except when they are trying to dispose of a ‘difficult’ property.
Setting an alert on one of the large property sites, such as Rightmove, Zoopla or OnTheMarket can help you quickly identify a plot. There will be lots of people doing something similar, so be prepared to move fast once the alert has gone out.
There are a number of commercial databases which have details of building plots normally organised by county. Usually you have to pay a fee to see the plots available. These services are worth trying but don’t get your hopes up too high. The best plots go very quickly and most of these databases will contain a fair number of hard to sell/undesirable plots. Many of the best plots never get onto these services. If you do subscribe to a building plot service, make sure that the plots on offer have planning permission.
Large estates or builders
Many parts of the country have large estates which may contain a variety of building in addition to the main residence. There may be opportunities for change of use for some of these properties or there may be planning possibilities where ruins exist. Opportunities sometimes arise following the death of the main landowner when Inheritance Tax is due.
Occasionally local builders may be prepared to sell off part of a development area, for example if they need to raise some cash quickly.
Sometimes local authorities will sell off land with development potential. This may include land with commercial buildings which can either be converted or knocked down and replaced. Remember though, even if there is a house on the land, you will still need planning permission to convert from commercial to residential use. Some local authorities, particularly new towns, have also been known to sell off individual plots of land to self builders instead of developers.
Group with likeminded people
While most self builders look for single plots with planning permission for a single house, most developers purchase land with planning permission for a number of houses. If you can find a group of likeminded people, you may be able to club together to buy development land and then sub-divide it between you. If you decide to take this route, it would be strongly advisable to use a solicitor draw up a legal agreement between each member of the group prior to purchasing the land.
Demolishing existing property or searching yourself
In areas of high house prices, it may be financially worthwhile to purchase a poor quality house and demolish it to create a building plot. For example, some areas have poorly constructed bungalows on fairly large plots surrounded by larger houses. You may decide to risk purchasing the property before getting planning in order to keep the price down. However it is always worth speaking to the local planning officer to see what the local planning office’s attitude is to this type of development.
It is always worth doing your own research to try and identify potential building plots, particularly in urban areas. This is best done by using a combination of google earth, large scale maps and walking around an area. In general terms you are looking for potential infills, for example large back gardens or waste ground. If you locate any potential sites you will then need to try and locate the owner via the neighbours, Land Registry or local council.
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