How to find a plot of land for sale

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 some self build land for sale.

We recognise that finding plots of land for sale in London and across the UK is particularly difficult. Even more difficult is finding land with planning permission! To that end, we’ve developed this detailed guide that we hope will help you in your search.


Before you start your search


Be specific about your wants and needs

This will help you narrow down all the land that you come across, and will also guide you as to where you might want to search.


Next, decide which of your wants and needs are deal breakers, and which are ones you are more flexible on. As Homebuilding and Renovating says, it is as important to know your do’s as your don’ts as it is to know what you will and will not compromise on.


The truth is, if you aren’t ready to make any compromises, finding your ideal plot could take you a very long time.

Some things to consider when looking for self-build plots for sale:



Keep in mind that the local vernacular will dictate the design of your dream house.


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


So if you have a very set idea what your house should look like, you need to be flexible on the area.



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.


Be methodical

Be thorough and make notes about the plots of land for sale that you come across. This will help you later on, when it’s time to compare. Our MD Gus loves his excel spreadsheets, and we can see why. They’re a very useful tool!


Here are some of the things you might want to make note of:

  • address/postcode
  • link to the property page
  • price
  • planning permission – yes/no
  • average price of nearby plots/properties

It’s easy to get overwhelmed and waste lots of time while trawling through various land finding and property portals. So do yourself a favour and be diligent, whether you’re a spreadsheet lover or not.


What are the different types of land?

It’s also important that you understand the different types of plots available as not all types are 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 with planning permission previously that 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.

Where should I search for plots of land?

Land auctions

Auctions are a quick way to buy all sorts of property but you’ll need to make sure you go prepared.


You’ll need to ensure you’ve done your sums before bidding at an auction as a 10% cash deposit is required at the fall of the hammer, and the remainder has to be paid within a month. If you don’t have the financing in place, you could well lose your deposit, and many have.


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. If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.


Property scammers often advertise very cheap plots that will realistically never get planning permission. Even if the sellers have less nefarious intentions, it’s worth looking twice if no one else seems to be interested in a particular lot. What do they know that you don’t?


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 and contacts to find you the best plot of land possible. However, it usually takes them as much time to find land for multiple homes as it does for a single home, and this is of course more costly than looking for self build land on your own.


Land listing agencies

Land-listing agencies such as Plot BrowserPlot FinderPlot Search and the like are specialist agencies that list smaller plots of land 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 price, availability, 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 to look for empty plots that can be turned into the ideal site for your home. If you see something that you think might be a good spot to build on, you can find the landowner through Land Registry.


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, 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.


Estate agents

Although estate agents might seem like the most obvious professionals to go to when looking for land for sale in the UK, bear in mind that the commission on selling land is not as attractive as that for houses, so most agents have very little interest in this side of the market.


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.


If you’re in the market for land, check out our Custom build register, where we send out plots that have been vetted by our MD Gus as opportunities worth looking into.


Planning departments

If you want to be ahead of the game then find a planning register. They are a public record of all previous planning applications, available from the planning department of local councils, and a valuable source of information.


Look for any recent applications, preferably outlining plots of land 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 they go to 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 sites in the area you 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.


Self build and custom build developers

Contacting companies that specialise in self-build and custom build homes are another good approach.

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


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

What if I find the perfect plot of land, but it has current plans for something I don’t like?

You’ve found the holy grail – land with planning permission! But if you hate the design that the land has been approved for don’t despair. This piece of advice might look a bit controversial and might seem a bit counter-intuitive on first glance but… 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.


Speak to a planning consultant to see what’s possible and to determine how much a new planning application will cost in terms of both time and money.


Similarly, rather than finding an empty plot of land for sale, there might already be a house or some other structure in your dream spot. 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.


So, all the time and work you’ve put in has paid off and you’ve found a plot of land to build on. Before you jump in with eyes  closed, make sure you won’t have buyer’s remorse.


New to Unboxed Homes?

We make self-build easy. We build customisable eco friendly new homes that you fit out yourself, or we fit out for you. 

If you’ve ever wanted to build your own home but have been daunted by the idea or you want a project but don’t want the risk of buying a Victorian terrace that needs modernising, then sign up for our newsletter or our custom build register and we will send you emails with opportunities and land for sale that has been vetted as a good opportunity by our MD Gus Zogolovitch

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