Your Guide to Finding & Buying a Perfect Self-Build Plot

The idea of custom building your own home is a wonderfully exciting prospect. But with so much to consider, it can also be a daunting challenge. The first step – and arguably the most important decision you will make on your self-build journey – is finding and buying the plot on which you will build your dream home.

But with a myriad of different factors to take into consideration, finding available plots, evaluating their suitability and gaining planning permission can be a minefield. So, we’ve pulled together this short guide to offer some advice and guidance to finding and buying land specifically for self-build projects.

Be prepared to compromise

Unfortunately, there is no secret pathway and it is very rare to find the perfect plot that ticks all the boxes on your wish list. So, keeping an open mind from the outset, and being prepared to compromise on certain aspects that aren’t critical to your plans is sensible. If you’ve found what looks like a suitable site, always seek expert advice before making any form of commitment. Even on the most straightforward sites, planning approval is never a certainty.

Starting your search

Once you’ve established what attributes a suitable plot needs to have – and what you’re prepared to compromise on – it’s time to start your search:

  • Online is an excellent starting point with several resources like Rightmove, Plotfinder, and Buildstore. Be aware though, this is where you are likely to encounter most competition. So, expect to pay a premium for any plot, especially if it has any unique qualities.
  • Don’t just sit behind your laptop – get out there and register interest with local agents, and enquire with local builders, and architects. Industry professionals are usually the first ones in the know. Make a list of who you have called; call back on a regular basis, and try and build a rapport with them. Calling at the right time could make all the difference!
  • Finally, Local Authorities are now required to record the demand for self-build in their area – so register your interest! They use this information to determine how many self-build plots are required, and this will also help to guide their local planning and housing policy. This is more of a long-term option with no guarantees but if you’re lucky they may contact you directly with opportunities in the local area.

Take the search into your own hands

If you have the time, jump in your car and start driving round your chosen area to see what land may be available. While this route is potentially quite time consuming, it could yield better plots at lower values. However, a basic knowledge of your Local Authority’s planning policies is useful. And here are some other useful pointers to consider:

  • Be aware of settlement boundaries: These boundaries determine where towns/villages end, and countryside begins. Development is likely to be more feasible if the plot is within settlement boundaries.
  • Gaps and gardens: Be aware of any gaps in road frontages or houses with large gardens – could a plot be viable in this space?
  • Replacement dwellings: Perhaps you’ve seen a house that needs some serious modernisation. Consider if it would be worthwhile demolishing the original to construct a new house – it’s sometimes possible to build larger than the original construction.
  • Use redundant outbuildings: Depending on the structure and the location some outbuildings can be approved for conversion into residential. Some Local Authorities are slowly tightening up on this method, but it could still be a viable option.
  • Brownfield and Commercial Land: Don’t discount disused commercial buildings. While these are often hard to visualise, and could potentially have high remediation costs, a potential residential opportunity could await.

Is your site financially viable?

Even when you’ve found a potential site that ticks sufficient boxes and meets planning guidelines, there are still many other practical factors that need to be considered to ensure it is financially viable for a self-build:

  • Access: Does the site have good access? Is the access safe with good visibility in both directions? What is the cost of creating suitable access?
  • Utilities: Can you get electricity, water, gas, and telephone services to your plot? If so, where are they coming from, and from how far?
  • Existing services: Are there any large power lines running over the site, or public sewers underground beneath the site? Diversion costs can be eye-wateringly expensive.
  • Ground conditions: Look out for nearby signs like marshes, lakes, geographical landmarks, or historical mining areas that may indicate potential ground conditions.
  • Environment: Be aware of the environmental implications your building could have on nearby trees and local wildlife. Planning could be refused if your development risks endangering these.
  • Past planning: Has planning already been granted? Search Council records for any onerous conditions attached to the land.
  • Title searches: Are there any restrictions on the land? Historical searches are easily accessible on Land Registry.

Get a Planning Appraisal

Finally, if you’ve found what looks like a suitable site, always seek expert advice before making any form of commitment. Even on the most straightforward sites, planning approval is never a certainty.

At CB Homes, we have a proven track record of delivering successful planning applications throughout the North West, and are well placed to guide you along your self-build journey. We offer a free, no obligation consultation service to evaluate your potential plot. Fill in our land enquiry form and we will contact you to discuss the plot and explore your self-build aspirations in greater detail…