Finding a Self Build Plot
As contributors to many Self Build seminars and shows, ACA meet a variety of interesting people, all at different stages of their intriguing Self Build projects. Many have subscribed to the magazines, bought the books, watched every episode of every property programme on TV, and are bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. They’ve made their inspiration boards on Pinterest, and know all the fine design details – right down to the light switches they’d like! However, sometimes enthusiasm can get the better of prospective Self Builders, and they approach all of these creative aspects before securing the most important element of the project: the land.
Finding a Self Build plot can be difficult if you don’t know where to start – but there are more and more people developing an interest in building their own home, so additional help is being offered to support potential Self Builders find an appropriate plot.
Local councils south of the border are beginning to supply more serviced plots in some areas, in an attempt to encourage the Self Build industry – but what if the area you want to live in doesn’t offer these? What route can you take to find the ideal plot for your Self Build dream?
It’s important to think about where you would like to Self Build before you start. Giving yourself too wide an area to search for plots can be overwhelming, and may sap a lot of your time and energy through travelling around and researching individual plots. If you can identify a specific and practicable area to search thoroughly, you can concentrate your effort on finding a Self Build plot in an ideal location for your family’s project.
Once you have settled on your areas, spend time visiting them to get a feel for the location. Score the specific areas on aspects that matter to you – for example, is it important to be secluded or near a town or village? Are there accessible commuter links to shops, restaurants and pubs, what are the schools like….for example? The location of your Self Build is just as important as the design, so it is worth approaching these questions as early as possible to get the most out of your new home.
Finding a Self Build plot is now being managed a lot more professionally, and searches can be much more efficient thanks to technological advances. To help outline an area, there are many websites available listing plots of land by region in the UK. Featuring information on prices and planning permission, complete with zoomable pictures of the plots, these web pages are a solid starting point for your Self Build plot search. A particularly useful website for accessing plot information is www.theselfbuilddirectory.co.uk – which lists all of the Self Build plot-finding websites. Typically, Self Builders register with Plotfinder provided by Homebuilding & Renovating, which has access to the largest selection of sites for sale in the UK.
Alternatively, registering your interest with estate and land agents in your favoured area can have a successful impact on your Self Build plot search. By staying in touch with local surveyors and architects, you might be able to receive information about new plots very early and as they become available.
Along the way you might come across several companies selling land for (literally!) unbelievable prices – at only a few thousand pounds or so. It tends to transpire that these sites lack planning permission but, if reviewed properly by a professional, they could hold great potential for your project. This is where you might find the best value for your money and can unearth some real bargains – however, this approach comes with some obvious risk. If the plot of land you like does not have planning, it will hold higher chance of gaining planning permission if the plot is on a ‘gap site’ between existing houses, at the bottom of a large garden which has suitable access – or even at the end of a village, near the settlement boundary. This is also the case if the plot is in the countryside as part of a potential grouping of houses which could be added to – or on agricultural land with derelict outbuildings which could be converted and extended.
A current trend sees more and more Self Builders buying old bungalows or houses, with the view to demolishing them and replacing them with new, and much larger homes. Most councils have specific guidelines regarding the size which any replacement home can be – but the uplift can typically add as much as 30% on top of the existing total floor area. This total can include outbuildings and garages on site too! Despite this being a more expensive option, it does come with a variety of positives; these types of projects are almost guaranteed planning approval, and are already situated in inhabited areas – meaning services already exist.
Contacting people with experience in property auctions can be beneficial to finding the right Self Build plot too. There are a number of websites offering updates on forthcoming auctions – and consulting them can be useful when gauging what type of plots go out to auction. Plots suitable for single houses are regularly sold at auction, and tend to be brownfield sites which suit renovation projects, or require demolition before new Self Builds can begin. Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine provide a great guide to buying a plot from an auction, as it can be difficult for potential Self Builders approaching auctions for the first time. There are also a number of popular online auction sites, including www.allsop.co.uk, and www.savills.co.uk.
If you’d rather take a hands-on approach to finding a Self Build plot, exploring the area you would like to build in gives you the opportunity to look at potential plots that might not be available through websites or auctions. Looking into overgrown side gardens, disused garage blocks and other derelict properties can open up potential Self Build plot opportunities. By using Ordnance Survey maps, or online services such as Google Maps, you can gain insight into boundaries. Calling or writing to locals with enquiries about parts of their land can often be a great way of unlocking a previously unavailable plot for your Self Build.
The more unorthodox methods for finding sites include putting ‘Land Wanted’ adverts in local newspapers – or appealing to locals with leaflets enquiring if they have extra land available suitable for a new home. Owners may never have realised they were sitting with a source of income for themselves until somebody states an interest – so always ask if you find a plot you think might work for your Self Build project!
Some real adventurers take that extra step to add some excitement to their Self Build plot search, and have even gone to their local helicopter flying school to hire a helicopter for an hour. It can be surprising how out of date Google Maps can be in some areas, so getting a good look at a large area in a helicopter can be a valuable investment at around £200 for an hour!
There are a high number of protected areas across the UK, so planning regulations have had an effect on the greenfield sites available to potential Self Builders. Many greenfield sites have already been picked up by housing developers, meaning that the Self Build plot options available, in high-demand areas, tend to come in the form of previously developed brownfield sites.
When budgeting your Self Build project, the amount you set aside for your plot will be the largest single purchase you will make. Your budget can play a significant role in what type of plot you are able to acquire, meaning the design you perhaps envisaged might have to be compromised if you can’t afford a site to suit your original plan.
Finding a suitable and affordable Self Build plot can be difficult in certain areas, so looking into a group project on a larger plot can sometimes be a cheaper alternative to doing it alone.
Upon finding a plot you might like, have it properly surveyed by a fully qualified land surveyor, especially if the site does not have planning permission. It is always a good idea to have the boundaries checked, as doing so could save you from any costly neighbour disputes further down the line.
Finding the ideal Self Build plot for your dream home takes time, and there can be several frustrations along the way – but by planning carefully and consulting the variety of avenues available, you might just find a Self Build plot for a bargain, or a site that captures your imagination. The perfect plot for you might be right under your nose – so get searching!