Be­gin­ner’s guide to find­ing land

The first step in your self build jour­ney is track­ing down a vi­able build­ing site. Keep your­self ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion with Build It’s plot hunt­ing tips

Build It - - CONTENTS -

Max­imise your chances of find­ing the per­fect piece of land for your needs with our es­sen­tial plot hunt­ing tips

Above: Gor­geous plots do ex­ist – but if you have grand de­signs on that dream ru­ral set­ting, bear in mind that it’s in­cred­i­bly rare to get plan­ning con­sent for a com­pletely new house in the coun­try­side. De­mol­ish and re­build may be a bet­ter route

Track­ing down the right plot for your project is a lit­tle more com­plex than pur­chas­ing an ex­ist­ing house. The good news is 13,000 peo­ple man­age to do just that ev­ery year – but if you want the best pos­si­ble chance of iden­ti­fy­ing a vi­able site, it’s worth get­ting to grips with the process first. Here’s what you need to know.


Few self builders sim­ply stum­ble on a great plot by chance and end up build­ing on it. Iden­ti­fy­ing the right op­por­tu­nity can take con­sid­er­able time and ef­fort, so it pays to adopt a mul­ti­pronged ap­proach. So what are the best land hunt­ing routes?

Use your con­tacts

Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate the power of net­work­ing. Tell your friends and co-work­ers that you are look­ing for a plot. They may have heard of some­one sell­ing in your pre­ferred area, for in­stance, or even have a large gar­den they’d be will­ing to split at the right price. So­cial me­dia can be a big ben­e­fit here, spread­ing the word even quicker.

Ex­plore the area Walk around the area to iden­tify empty land be­tween houses, gar­den plots or dis­used garages – all of which could of­fer po­ten­tial build op­por­tu­ni­ties. If you spot a site that you think could have the po­ten­tial to be de­vel­oped, then ap­proach the owner and let them know that you are in­ter­ested. If the owner isn’t ob­vi­ous and you can’t find out via the Land Reg­istry, try speak­ing to the neigh­bour.

Talk to lo­cals

Head to pubs and shops in the area you’re con­sid­er­ing to meet res­i­dents, as they may be able to tell you about op­por­tu­ni­ties not yet listed. Pro­fes­sion­als such as ar­chi­tects, build­ing sur­vey­ors or plan­ning con­sul­tants in the area may be a use­ful source of leads, too – and you may want to use their ser­vices fur­ther down the line.

Speak to busi­ness own­ers

Lo­cal farm­ers, brew­eries, univer­si­ties and other or­gan­i­sa­tions may have sur­plus land they want to sell (or would con­sider sell­ing). Many do so via es­tate agents, but there’s no harm ap­proach­ing them di­rectly.

Sign up for your Right to Build Coun­cils are now obliged to main­tain of­fi­cial self build regis­ters, thanks to the gov­ern­ment’s Right to Build leg­is­la­tion. You can record your in­ter­est in ob­tain­ing a plot and state the type of project you are keen to pur­sue. If 200 peo­ple sign up, the coun­cil is then sup­posed to per­mis­sion 200 vi­able sites within a three-year pe­riod. You aren’t guar­an­teed land, but the leg­is­la­tion should see the avail­abil­ity of build-ready plots im­prove dra­mat­i­cally. FUR­THER READ­ING

Visit the coun­cil’s web­site Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties list cur­rent plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions on­line, usu­ally un­der the ‘plan­ning’ or ‘hous­ing’ sec­tions – with de­tails of the scheme, who has ap­plied and when. If you find a likely-look­ing op­por­tu­nity and can get in touch with the owner be­fore they get con­sent, you’ll be in a strong po­si­tion to se­cure a pur­chase.

Use plot find­ing data­bases Build­store’s Plot­search (www.plot­ lists thou­sands of sites with plan­ning con­sent across the UK. Hap­pily, it’s also free to use. As well as giv­ing you the chance to find a good plot, this re­source helps you get a feel for land prices and avail­abil­ity in dif­fer­ent ar­eas. You can also see which es­tate agents are ac­tive in your re­gion. Turn to page 121 for a taster of what’s on of­fer.

Check out prop­erty auc­tions Many plots change hands this way. Auc­tion houses such as Clive Em­son, All­sop and Sav­ills sell a va­ri­ety of sites, so get on their mail­ing lists for cat­a­logues. Re­mem­ber you will need to have fi­nance in place – once the ham­mer goes down, the con­tract is trig­gered. FUR­THER READ­ING­tions

Many build­ing plots are still sold through tra­di­tional es­tate and land agents. Mon­i­tor the books of both types, as some may have over­looked the plan­ning po­ten­tial of prop­er­ties they’re sell­ing (eg for a de­mol­ish and re­build op­por­tu­nity). The per­sonal ap­proach can pay div­i­dends with this route, too – if they know you, they’re much more likely to give you a heads up when some­thing’s com­ing onto the mar­ket.


Be­spoke homes can be con­structed on a range of sites, and know­ing about them can help you spot land with po­ten­tial for your project. Here are some of the key kinds of op­por­tu­nity avail­able to self builders:

Brown­field sites This is ba­si­cally pre­vi­ously-de­vel­oped land that is or once was oc­cu­pied by a per­ma­nent struc­ture. Gov­ern­ment pol­icy sup­ports the pro­vi­sion of new hous­ing in such lo­ca­tions, so coun­cils tend to look favourably on plans that have the po­ten­tial to im­prove these plots. Plus on a prac­ti­cal level, ser­vices are likely to be in place al­ready.

De­mol­ish & re­place A type of brown­field op­por­tu­nity where you could knock down an ex­ist­ing build­ing, such as an old bun­ga­low or for­mer non-res­i­den­tial struc­ture, and con­struct a new (usu­ally big­ger and more at­trac­tive) home in its place. It’s of­ten cheaper than ren­o­va­tion, as VAT can be re­claimed on a new build. Learn more on page 102.

In­fill plots There’s no for­mal def­i­ni­tion of this type of site, but many coun­cils take it to mean a small gap be­tween an oth­er­wise built-up frontage or group of houses. In­fill­ing is usu­ally al­lowed within set­tle­ments’ de­vel­op­ment bound­aries

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