How to Find a Building Plot
Published on: 23rd August 2017
There’s no shortage of building plots in this country, but finding the right one for you is arguably the toughest part of any self-build project. It takes patience, energy, commitment, and tenacity, not to mention a small helping of luck. But there are a number of straightforward tactics you can employ to make your search much less of a headache.
1. Highlight a search area on a map
It’s easy to become overwhelmed when looking for a building plot, so keep it manageable by confining your search to a certain geographical radius.
2. Keep an open mind and manage your expectations
Give yourself a firm talking to at the start of the process: the right plot for you isn’t necessarily perfect.
Laurence Associates Managing Director, Richard Mardsen, said: “Perfect building plots are rare, if not non-existent, and success with a self build relies in part on being able to compromise and adapt.
“Be clear about what you can live with, and what you can’t. Stay committed: decent land is snapped up quickly by developers and you need to be nimble if you’re going to get in there first.”
3. Let people know you’re looking for a plot
If you’re not already, spend time familiarising yourself with the area you’ve selected. Speak to local people who can be an untapped font of useful information. Let people know you’re on the lookout for a plot. Word of mouth is a powerful tool.
4. Use plot search websites
There are a number of free-to-use specialist websites with extensive nationwide databases of building plots for sale. PlotBrowser, plotfinder.net, the UK Land Directory, and PlotSearch are all easily navigable, useful resources. Register with estate agents and and trawl property portals like Prime Location, Rightmove, and Zoopla.
5. Think outside the box
Study Google Earth and OS maps to identify otherwise hard-to-see potential infill sites, disused land or large gardens with capacity for development. Planners are more likely to green light schemes within existing boundaries.
6. Visit auctions
Property auctions can be a good way of picking up a bargain, but be warned: bids are made on a ‘sold as seen’ basis and once the gavel comes down, both buyer and seller are legally committed to the deal.
7. Register with your local authority
All planning authorities are legally required to keep a local register of self builders looking to buy plots and use that information to match them with potential sites. The scheme is still embryonic but a useful tool to gauge demand in any particular area.
8. Knock it down and start again
Devon and Cornwall are rich with super-prime areas, including Salcombe, the South Hams, Padstow, Rock and St Ives, which have become honeytraps for the affluent homeseeker. Plots are so rare and priced at such a premium that demolishing an existing property and replacing it is often the only alternative.
Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay bought a £4.4-million holiday home in Rock on the banks of the Camel Estuary in 2015, quickly snapping it up after it came on the market for the first time in 30 years. Mr Ramsay successfully applied for consent to raze the 1920s home and replace it with a five-bedroomed mansion and swimming pool, and an adjacent 3-bedroomed boathouse. There’s little doubt that he wouldn’t have been able to find a building plot of that size in such a prime location.
For those of us with more modest budgets hoping to build in a specific area, buying an older, less attractive house, tearing it down and replacing it with a bespoke home is still a viable alternative to acquiring a building plot.