When looking to self or private build it is of upmost importance to investigate thoroughly your options in choosing a plot.

Plots can be found everywhere from a large garden that can be partitioned or vacant lots. Through some detective work of the local area, map consultation and basic footwork, many plots which otherwise would not be considered may come to light.

Being more confident in your outlook to find a suitable plot will play a part in finding the ideal purchase. Use terms such as private-build as opposed to self-build when conversing with estate agents and sellers.

In purchasing a potential plot it will be noted that there are a range of different types of plot for purchase:

  • Infill Plots – This is an area of urban land occupying a vacant space, it comes in two forms.
    • Spare Land – Land currently without purpose which maybe hidden from view.
    • Garden Plots – Land with carriageway access which can be partitioned.
  • Backland Development – This is similar to a garden plot though is in the rear of the property, this must have right of way access to the carriageway.
  • Brownfield Land – Land with a previous planning use such as light commercial or industrial, which is open to redevelopment.
  • Greenfield Land – Land which has not been developed previously.
  • Greenbelt Land – Government legislation dictates that this land cannot be developed.
  • Replacement Plots – A plot with an existing building of substandard construction or state of disrepair, which can be knocked down and replaced.
  • Fully Serviced Plots/Custom Homes – A plot brought to market by a developer, with service access such as sewers and roads already in place.

Before purchasing any plot for the purpose of building a residential property it is important to have a legal option drawn up. This should state that once planning permission has been granted the plot will be sold to you. The document may have a cost associated though this may be deducted from the price of the sale once completed.

In any plot purchase you must be aware of any restrictions included by the current owner, such as access to the property for services like drains or other utilities, the placing of overlooking windows in your property. These restrictions may ultimately negate the purchase of the plot for development purposes.

After you have found your plot the next step is to ascertain who owns the plot. By consulting adjoining owners, local services such as the post office or shop, church records this can be verified. In the case of infill plots it may be as simple as directly knocking on the door.

The land registry office may yield results. A small fee of £4 can be paid to see if the land has been purchased. The land registry office will have details about the property such as the owner, the price it was purchased for, any planning permission already applied to the land. If there is a mortgage on the property and if it has been paid off and who by. It will also contain the boundary details and any flood risk assessment. If the land has not changed hands in recent times this will not provide useful information.

Having found the land you would like to self-build on you should consult a local estate agent to gauge the value of the plot in question without planning permission. Plots are valued on the direct result of the value of the current house an equation can be used to calculate this, though not 100% accurate it will work under more circumstances.

The land costs (A) + the build costs (B) + a 20/30% margin (A + B x 20/30%) = the end value (C).

The result is a the value a house in this location would be worth, by cross referencing this with local land values from state agents and the land registry you will get a rough answer whether the self-build is financially worthwhile.

The final stage is to then do your maths and calculate if the build is viable, one thing a self-builder has a degree of control over is the financial margin. It is never a good idea going into a project with negative equity. If the plan is to retain the property for some years then this margin could be reduced due to inflationary rate of house price rise.

Finding a suitable plot and embarking on a new build allows a plot owner the advantage of tailoring and planning a design to meet their specific needs.   There is also the added benefit of choosing any building materials and heating systems for the build.

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