How to find land

Finding land

We recognise that finding plots of land for sale in London and across the UK is particularly difficult.


To that end, we’ve developed this detailed guide that we hope will help you find the plot for your dream home.


So you’ve decided to start building your dream home – well done. Before we start talking wallpaper, dream kitchens and French doors you will need to find a plot of land.


The task ahead is exciting but it can also be very daunting.


How do you find a plot of land?

Hopefully, after reading this blog you should have enough knowledge to find and buy yourself a plot of land – let’s get started.


Preparation is key

Firstly, mentally prepare yourself for the task ahead. Most people aren’t able to find a suitable plot of land for themselves is because they are not willing to compromise.


We agree with Homebuilding and Renovating, who suggest that it is as important to know your do’s as your don’ts so you know on what you can and what you should never compromise on.


Quite frankly, if you aren’t ready to make any compromises, chances are that finding your ideal plot might take you a very long time.


You should also keep in mind that the local vernacular will dictate the design of your dream house. So if you have a very set idea what your house should look like, you need to be flexible on the area.


If you want to live in an area with lots of English baroque buildings you might want to reconsider your plans to build a futuristic space house simply because your chances of getting planning permission will be quite slim.


However, this doesn’t mean that your search area should be too large either as this will often lead to you losing the plot!


Once you’ve determined the general location you’ll be looking in and the type of home you want it’s time to do some homework – do a bit of research and familiarise yourself with the area and begin gathering as much information as you can; you’ll be surprised about what you can find with a little work.


Before you begin, here’s a top tip from a former academic:


Be methodical and thorough – make sure you make notes about each and every plot of land you come across. This will help you when later on, when it’s time to compare plots.


It’s also important that you understand the different types of plots available as not all plots suitable for self-build and custom build come with the label ‘land with planning permission’.


Here’s a useful guide to plot types, which generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Spare Land This is land that has no current use and is hidden from view by walls or fences, which gives the illusion that the street scene is uninterrupted.
  • Garden Plots As their name suggests, these tend to be gardens that possess a wide frontage where sections adjoining a carriageway are lopped off.
  • Back-land Development This is another type of garden plot, where the development is at the rear of the existing house.
  • Brownfield Land This refers to land that previously had planning and has likely been previously developed, usually in the form of old factories and so on that is in need of redevelopment.
  • Greenfield Land These types of plots have not been previously developed.
  • Green Belt Land This is an entirely different designation from greenfield land in that its preservation is given legal status. In general, no new development is allowed on greenbelt land.
  • Replacement Plots These are plots that are currently occupied by a house/building that is either substandard or is not realising the full potential of the plot.
  • Fully Serviced Plots These plots will tend to have the services connected to already. 

Finding your plot of land

Now that you’re chomping at the bit to get started – here are a few places where you should start looking for your plot of land:


Find those auctions

Auctions are a quick way to buy a piece of land but you’ll need to make sure you go prepared.


You’ll need to ensure you’ve done your sums before heading to an auction you intend to bit at as a 10% cash deposit is required at the fall of the hammer and the remainder has to be paid within a month.


To ensure you get the best possible deal, make sure you’ve done the requisite research on the plot of land you’re interested in.


Failing to do so could mean that you end up being a victim of a property scam, which is something you need to keep an eye out for. Property scammers often advertise very cheap plots of land that will realistically never get planning permission.


As eternal optimists, we advise you that if it looks too good to be true it usually is.


Professional land finders

Alternatively, you can use a professional land finder.


Developers quite often make use of them and they will have the know how to find you the best plot possible. However, it usually takes them as much time to find land for multiple plots as it does for a single plot.


Land listing agencies

Land-listing agencies such as Plot BrowserPlot FinderPlot Search and the like are specialist agencies that list smaller plots of land that are available for sale in the UK by private individuals and specialised estate agencies.


These specialist land listing agencies are a great place to start, in order to get a feel for the price, availability of plots and popularity of your area.


Study maps

Google is your friend.


Google Streetview and Google Maps are great tools that you can use for FREE, from the comfort of your living room, or favourite establishment with WiFi, to look for empty plots that can be turned into the ideal residential building plot for your home.


Please note that you should, if possible, always visit the plot before considering making an offer.


Right to build register

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 requires local authorities in England to find the demand for self build and custom build in their constituencies, which they usually do through a register that you can find here, and to release land accordingly.


If you’re interested in learning more visit the Right to Build Portal, set up by the National Custom and Self Build Association or NaCSBA.


Use estate agents

Although estate agents might seem like the most obvious professionals to go to when looking for land for sale, beware as not all of them will be able to help you, say Homebuilding & Renovating. If you’re in the market for land, get in touch with our sister company – Rare Space – an estate agency for design lovers.


Bear in mind that in the UK, the commission on selling land is not as attractive as that for houses, so most agents have very little interest in selling plots of land.


On the plus side, they often will be able to give you useful information on plots for sale that may be released for development in the future.


Visit planning departments

If you want to be ahead of the game then find a planning register, which are available from the planning department of local councils.


Planning registers are public records with all the planning permission applications. Although getting your hands on a planning register might sound complicated, it’s not and they are a valuable source of information.


Look for any recent applications, preferably outlining plots of land with planning permissions for single houses, that haven’t been approved yet. A plot will usually be advertised for sale when the approval has been granted and subsequently will also be more expensive, this is something known as planning gain.


This is a good way in which to approach sellers before plots of land even hit the open market and you’re inevitably faced with competition.


Keep an eye out for any outline applications you come across as plots with outline planning will usually be sold once planning has been obtained. This is because, from the seller’s perspective, there is no point in drawing up a detailed set of plans that may be changed by a purchaser in the future.


Although sometimes owners of outline permissions do not intend to sell, there is no harm in asking if the plot is for sale, so do not hesitate to approach them politely – you might just get yourself your ideal plot at an incredible price.


Land owning companies

There are a handful of companies, organisations and institutions around the UK that own significant amounts of land, which they sell off periodically.


One option you have available to you is to do a bit of research and try finding and contacting them to see if they are or will be selling off any plots in the area your are looking in.


These types of plots of land tend to be a bit larger and might work slightly better for a group self build or group custom build rather than for an individual.


This is also a strategy that will require a lot of work and can be disheartening at times as big developers often snap up desirable bits of land that are placed on the market.


Local newspapers

Once you’ve identified the area you want to live in, find out if the area has any local newspapers, which are a great source of information.


A little proactivity here goes a long way – you can place ads in the local newspapers you’ve identified, letting people know that you’re looking to buy a plot of land to build a home on.


You’ll often find that landowners who have a bit of land to sell want to live next to a nice person rather than selling their land off to a developer.


Ignore current plans for the site

This piece of advice might look a bit controversial and might seem a bit counter-intuitive on first glance but bear with us.


What if you come across a plot of land that seems perfect; the location is ideal, the dimensions are perfect and the price is fantastic – the only holdup is that the current planning permission for the site doesn’t suit what you have in mind. What do you do?


Ignore the current plans!


Landowners and developers looking to sell a piece of land often apply for planning approval with the least controversial plans possible to maximise their chances of adding value to the plot of land via planning gain. This means most plots of land with planning will tend to be for some sort of mundane housing scheme.


Try not to worry about this too much – speak to a planning consultant to see what’s possible and to determine how much a new planning application process will cost in terms of both time and money.


Similarly, there might already be a house or some other structure on your dream plot of land that simply isn’t your dream house.

What should you do?


Again, speak to a planning consultant, who will help determine if what you want to build is realistic for that particular site and the relevant costs.


If it’s possible to build your dream home on that perfect plot, then don’t allow that existing structure to stand between you and your dream home – bring it down!


Use self build and custom build developers

Companies that specialise in self-build and custom build homes are another great way to find your ideal plot of land.


These companies have the know-how to find good plots of land and usually buy larger sites, which they split into individual plots to sell to you and people like you.


Here are a couple of custom build and self build developers:

  • Unboxed Homes (shameless self promotion)
  • Custom Build Homes
  • Plot
  • Concept2Homes
  • TOWN

You think you’ve found the ideal plot

The plot thickens – you’ve finally found your ideal plot and you’re chomping at the bit to view it.


Now what?


First off, make sure you visit it a couple of times as you’ll be looking for different things.


During your first visit, really look at the size, location and surroundings of the plot and determine whether the pricing seems justified.


If you like the plot of land you’ve found, visit it for a second time; this reduces the likelihood that you missed something on your first visit.


Try and visit the plot by yourself on at least one occasion to ensure no one has influenced you on its merits. Take your time and decide whether this plot is right for you; you will want to make a deliberate decision and not be rushed into anything.


Make sure you take note of the existing housing in the area and that your dream home fits into the area. This will increase your chances of getting that planning permission for your dream house.


Do your research (again)

You’ve now seen your ideal plot a couple of times and have fallen in love with it; it ticks all the right boxes.


All that’s left to do is to buy it for a good price, right? Not quite, what you’ll need to do is more research!


Determine the price per sq ft of your plot and then go to Rightmove, Zoopla, Plot Browser, Plot Finder, Plot Search and find the price per sq ft of plots in the surrounding area – this should help you determine how much to offer and whether the guide price is realistic and accurate.


You’ll also need to make sure you know what the current planning permission status is of the residential building plot you’re interested in as well as the planning status of the land in the immediate surroundings. The latter is actually really important; ensure you check for contaminated land, tree preservation orders, flood risks etc.


If you have any doubts definitely hire a specialist to do more research – especially when  it comes to environmental issues.


Although this might sound tedious, these issues are often very costly and could potentially interfere with getting planning permission for the home you wish to build – so make sure you do your due diligence.

Some more land finding tips
More about custom build
Found land? Top 10 things to look out for
Find an architect for your build

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