Finding and choosing a self build plot

In our first blog series, we have partnered with Armitstead Barnett, Harrison Drury Solicitors, David Cox Architects and Handelsbanken to share our thoughts and experiences on self-build homes. 

In June last year, it was reported that self-build mortgage completions had grown by 144% compared to the same period in 2019* while The National Custom & Self Build Association reported that 1 in 3 UK adults are interested in self-build**.

The Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged many of us to reflect on our home environment and we only expect interest in self-build to increase.

While designing and building your own home no longer seems out of reach, it remains complex and it’s important to understand the process before committing to it. For the purpose of these blogs, we are looking at self-build projects which are built as homes and not investments to be sold on. In the first of our self-build blogs, we look at finding the perfect plot. 


Finding and choosing land for a self-build project

Hannah Towers, BSc (Hons) MRICS FAAV MNAEAHead of Agency, Armitstead Barnett

Location, location, location

Typically, we are approached by two types of self-build client; those who have a very specific location in mind and those who have no idea where they would like to build but know the kind of lifestyle they would like to lead through building their dream home.

When buyers contemplate the location of their plot we ask them what is important to them.  Typically we will ask them to consider things such as:

  • The environment you want to live in – rural, village or more urban?
  • Do you want to be within walking distance of amenities?
  • Are you looking for nurseries, schools or colleges?
  • Are you a commuter who needs close motorway links?
  • How do you like to spend your free time – do you want to walk to a local high street, pub or park?
  • How will you use your outside space at home?

When we do this with our clients, it helps us to identify potential locations for those who have not already chosen an area. For those who have found what they think is the perfect plot, it can help to affirm that or may present new, unexpected options.

At this stage, it’s about understanding what your priorities are.

Finding your self build plot 

Once you have built up a picture of the type of home and environment you are striving for, the next step is to find sites which match those needs.

This can be done through a land/property marketing database. Well-known ones include Rightmove and PlotSearch. 

Working with an estate/land agent can introduce you to landowners and developers, opening up purchase opportunities before they even go to market. This is an ideal situation to be in as the market can be very competitive.

Where you don’t find a suitable match through traditional methods, social media can be useful to reach local landowners. We have run targeted posts highlighting what you are looking for, and where, can attract landowners who may not have previously considered selling their site. We have had notable success with this for areas where development land is scarce.

It can take time to find the perfect plot and can be frustrating. If it is taking longer than you would like, it may be worth considering if there are any requirements that you are willing to compromise on and having an open mind to alternative ideas.

I have worked with clients who have set out to buy a plot of land to develop on but are unable to find the perfect site. Instead, they have opted to buy and renovate an existing property or have demolished it and built a new home on the site. Those early conversations about lifestyle aspirations allowed me to understand the client and suggest something a little more out of the box. 

Get professional advice

Finding a site can feel like a reason to celebrate but we strongly advocate an assessment of the site before any offers are made. It’s important that you do your due diligence to make sure it is suitable to build your home on.

You should consider:

  • boundaries and access
  • services and utilities
  • drainage
  • planning
  • ground conditions

You should also consult the Local Plan to check if there are future plans to develop the site or the surrounding area.  A planning consultant can help with this. 

It’s important to get professional advice on these matters so that you do not incur costs or delays later on.  Which leads me to the next blog of the series, in which Deborah Smith of Smith & Love will explore planning considerations and permission for self-build projects.

“Hannah recommends consulting the local planning authority as they have an obligation to keep a register of any individual or community groups looking for land to build their own homes.   Nominal fees were recently introduced to be added to the register and inclusion is subject to criteria but it’s worth registering in the search for the ideal plot.” – Deborah Smith, Smith & Love

For help finding the perfect self-build site, email hannah.towers@abarnett.co.uk

References

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**https://nacsba.org.uk/news/1-in-3-adults-interested-in-self-building/