Finding land can be one of the most challenging steps on your self build journey, and a hurdle that many self builders struggle to overcome.
One of the easiest ways you can help to ensure the process is as smooth and stress-free as possible is to be well prepared. Knowing what to expect at each stage, and understanding that patience and compromise are often key, can help to make the process easier and more enjoyable.
Right to Build
Right to Build is a piece of legislation that’s part of the Self and Custom Build Housebuilding Act 2015. It means that all local authorities within England are required to make sure there is adequate land provision for anyone looking to build their own home.
We strongly encourage anyone who has decided to self build to sign up to the register as soon as they can. Each local authority has its own register, so you’ll need to sign up to the one within the area you’re looking to build. You’ll also be asked if you’re registering as an individual or a group, and what type of plot you’re looking for. After registering, local authorities have 3 years to show that they have made an adequate number of plots available to meet the demand, and with the appropriate planning permissions.
Before you start hunting for the perfect piece of land, one of the first things you should do is sit down and really think about what you want from a plot. Take into consideration where you want to live, your price range, how much space you’ll need and what type of plot would be most suitable for your needs.
It’s also important to consider which areas you would be happy to compromise on, as you may need to revise your requirements if the search isn’t going well. Maybe you’re able to spend a bit more for the right plot, or you might be happy with less space if it’s in the perfect location. These are all useful things to know before you begin your search.
How to find a building plot
It can take many months, or even years to find the ideal plot, especially if you have a very specific list of wants and needs in mind. Land is becoming more scarce and expensive within the UK, so whilst the plot you choose to buy needs to be right, it’s also important to be realistic and flexible in your search.
To get ahead of the competition it’s a good idea to use a number of different methods when searching for a plot. Whilst the internet can be a great starting point, you’ll need to be checking the main plot listing sites frequently if you want to be one of the first to enquire. Many plots in the UK are also sold long before they ever make it onto the internet. Putting in some manual work, such as calling estate agents, auction houses and even driving around the community you’d like to live, can all help you ensure you’re the first to hear about anything suitable.
Appraising a plot
Sometimes a plot isn’t exactly as it appears on the surface, and that’s why it pays to do your research before making any firm decisions. A plot that seems to be a perfect fit can end up being anything but with further digging. Obstacles such as planning conditions and other legal requirements can make a plot a much bigger risk than you’re willing to take on, so you’ll want to make sure you’re fully informed before you sign anything. Occasionally it goes the other way too; an unusual or less obvious plot can become a golden opportunity under the right conditions, and could save you a lot of money.
When appraising a plot you should start by checking that it meets your requirements first. It should be within your budget, in the right place, and meet all of your other non-negotiable needs and objectives for the finished build. With the personal requirements checked off, you’ll then need to look into the more technical aspects. Spend some time understanding and carefully considering the planning potential, access and service needs, and any construction risks of your potential plot. These can cause huge issues down the line if you’re not fully prepared.
A pre-application meeting is strongly recommended before making an offer on any plot.
The plot buying process
Once you’ve found your dream plot, it’s time to put your offer in and get the paperwork completed. Buying land is a similar process to buying a house. Whether that’s a cash purchase from a private seller, bidding at auction, or negotiating through an estate agent, there are a number of different ways to buy.
No matter how you’re purchasing your land, there are some things that you should always do before making an offer. Always make sure you’ve fully assessed the viability of the plot and understand any legal considerations attached to the land, especially if they might have an impact on your plans to build. Assessing the value of the land is another key consideration, as you’ll want to make sure it’s realistic and that you’re paying a fair price.
With your background research completed, you should now hire a solicitor (if you’re using one) before making a formal offer. If your offer is accepted, you’ll then need to complete the paperwork to finalise the transfer of ownership.
Don’t forget, you’ll also need to register your land - or update the ownership information - with the HM Land Registry. If you’re using a solicitor, they will usually take care of all of this for you as part of the process.