25 Aug 2016

How to find the perfect plot for your self-build

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If you’re looking for a self-build opportunity, securing a plot will be top of your list, but where should you start your search? BuildStore’s Raymond Connor investigates.

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One of the most common problems for those wanting to build their own home is finding a suitable plot of land. Unlike the traditional housing market, where estate agents have hundreds of houses for sale in a variety of areas, individual building plots are not so obvious to find. However, with over 12,000 people successfully self-building in the UK every year, there is clearly land available if you know where to look.

While it’s a good idea to hunt for land with flexibility in mind, a common mistake is searching over too wide an area. If you don’t focus your attention on a specific and manageable geographic location, you may find that the sheer scale of the task is overwhelming. Pick the general area you want to be in and focus all your attention on uncovering an opportunity in the vicinity.

Starting your search

It’s a good idea to start your search on the internet – this is the best source of plots around. Your first port of call should be registering with PlotSearch (www.plotsearch.co.uk), which holds the UK’s largest database of self-build, renovation and conversion opportunities. Not only will this give you an idea of the types of plots available in your area, it can also be used as an invaluable tool to assess average land costs.

In addition to online activity, register your interest with local estate agents – while they may not regularly have plots of land on offer, they will know who to contact when something comes up. They can also direct you towards local land auctions, where plots suitable for single houses are regularly sold, be they infill sites, knock down and rebuild projects or brownfield land that’s ripe for regeneration.

Keep an eye on your local authority’s website too, as this will publish a list of planning applications in the area. You may discover that applicants are seeking consent in order to sell the plot on rather than to develop themselves. Nothing ventured is nothing gained, so contact the applicants to enquire whether they are interested in selling.

It’s also worth noting that from April this year, local authorities have a legal obligation to keep a register of individuals looking to self-build – this is part of the Self and Custom Housing Bill 2015. When reviewing local plans, councils will now have to make provision for those interested in creating their own property and have to ensure there is adequate land provision for them. Custom Build Homes from BuildStore (www.custombuildhomes.co.uk) provides the UK’s biggest and longest running record of demand for custom build. It works closely with councils throughout the UK to ensure that their obligations are being fulfilled, as well as alerting those who have registered towards new plot opportunities when they become available.

Elements to consider

Your plot will be the biggest single purchase you make for your project. The general rule of thumb is that the final value a self-build can be split into three; one third on the plot, one on the construction costs and the final third is profit. However, you must bear in mind that in areas where land is at a premium, your plot may account for up to 50% of the overall end value.

It’s human nature to have a preformed idea of what the perfect plot is – but you have to be realistic about what you can obtain within your budget. In reality, the ideal parcel of land will be hard – if not impossible – to find, and will come with a hefty price tag. So when searching for somewhere to build, the vast majority of people will need to make some sort of compromise, be it on size, location or the condition of the site.

Keep an open mind when going on viewings. Some of the best opportunities are uncovered beneath a tangle of brambles, and you’d be surprised by the spaciousness of houses that can be created on the tightest of plots. In many cases, you can change what you don’t like about a plot with a creative house design, but if the compromise seems too big to bear, then move on to the next opportunity.

OPP and DPP

When looking through plot advertisements, you’ll discover that they are mostly available with one of two types of planning consent – outline planning permission (OPP) and detailed planning permission (DPP). In general terms, the former means that in development, consent has been granted in principle, while DPP means that specific plans have already been approved.

Don’t dismiss a plot on the basis that the permitted design isn’t to your liking. Even with DPP in place, it’s possible to submit a revised design or even a completely new application for something totally different without revoking the existing consent.

Remember that in the UK, land is notoriously expensive and the difference in cost between a plot with and without some sort of planning permission can be huge. However, don’t be tempted to make a purchase on something that doesn’t have some sort of approval in place. A cheap parcel of land will be low cost for a reason; don’t buy into the idea that ‘it’ll get permission one day’ as it’s an expensive, and potentially fruitless, risk to take.

To start your search for the perfect plot, visit plotsearch.co.uk, to register your interest in custom build go to custombuildhomes.co.uk and for more information on self-build go to the BuildStore website.

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