Taking the first financial and emotional leap towards fulfilling a self-build dream by buying a plot of land can be surprisingly complicated, fraught and overwhelming. There are numerous elements to consider. Pinning down an ideal location, size, outlook, working within a fixed budget and then navigating what are commonly innumerable local planning dictates is harder than it seems and can result in many aspiring ‘Grand Designers’ taking years to make the leap or going off the idea altogether.
Surprisingly, although 13,000 people each year successfully complete their very own self-build, a jaw dropping one to six million would have liked to, yet never saw it to fruition. There are undoubtedly a great many frustrated self-builders-in-waiting out there and so, in a bid to help clear what can be a heavily obstructed view, we have put together a few expert tips on how best to source that ideal plot and take the first major step towards bringing the self-build dream to life.
Location, Location, Location
A common mistake when plot hunting is searching over a very large geographical area. Not only can this make the task overwhelming but also, needlessly time consuming. Stay focused and aim to narrow your search as much as is possible, preferably to a specific town or village. Once you’ve decided on a preferred location, leave no stone unturned. Drive, or even better, walk around your chosen town or village, scouting for an ideal plot. In truth, it could be anywhere, a run-down garage, side garden or overgrown grassland filled with brambles.
Whilst scouting for a plot, engage with local people and register with local estate agents. Not only will you get a quick idea of whether this is the place and community you see yourself in, it is also a good opportunity to ensure you’re in mind with those who might be looking to sell.
The Self Build Portal’s ‘Find a Plot’ facility is also a great place to start. Both plot buyers and sellers are able to detail exactly what they want, or have on offer. You can access their ‘Find A Plot’ directory here. Several other plot finding web portals are available, the best of which are listed below.
Set a Budget
Often, plots don’t come cheap. In some cases, they may represent the single most expensive purchase on your entire self-build project. In areas where plots are scarce, they can account for over 50% of the total value of your completed home.
Foresight and some amount of compromise can be highly valuable when searching for plots and can lead to getting far more for your money. Remaining open minded and having some flexibility around the vision of the end result will help you remain objective when faced with a run-down, tangled mess of overgrown hedgerows that could actually be the place you’ll eventually love calling home.
Planning permission - or trying to obtain it - can be a complex and taxing process which, in some cases, can take years to finalise. Land will most commonly come to the market either with nothing granted at all or with one of two types of planning permission - Outline Planning Permission (OPP), or Detailed Planning Permission (DDP). OPP consents for development to occur, leaving some particulars to be established further down the line, whilst DPP has a particular design already set in place.
Buying plots with existing planning permission will inevitably mean paying a higher price and is unquestionably the ‘easier’ option - certainly for those not interested in spending any time dealing with local planning departments. Anyone buying a plot with detailed planning permission for a particular house design should ensure however that they are happy with the consented design, or if not, at least ensure via an expert such as a Planning Consultant, that the house you actually want is likely to eventually get planning permission when you come to reapply.
Although opting for a site with no planning can be tempting, not only financially, but with the added choice of weird and wonderful plots available, obtaining planning permission is a difficult process. Believing your plot will be given planning permission ‘one day’ can be exceptionally risky although not completely futile. Seeking advice from a planning expert who has a clear understanding of current and future local planning laws can be very worthwhile and, in some cases, unlock a hidden gem at a throwaway price if they are able to offer a compelling argument to local planners which will get a new dwelling permitted.
Oliver Grimshaw, Head of UK Sales, Hanse Haus GmbH
Oliver Grimshaw is the Head of UK Sales for premium German supplier of pre-manufactured, high-efficiency homes. Founded back in 1929, Hanse Haus now erects some 400 homes annually Europe-wide and has been active in the UK since 2006.
With over 85 years’ experience in the construction industry and boasting more than 30,000 completed homes, the company is also a certified builder of the remarkable Passivhaus; a home that loses almost no heat through its walls, roof and windows, thanks to extremely high levels of thermal insulation.
Useful Resources for Plot Finding