Self-build properties are becoming more and more popular as a way to get into the housing market. However, finding the right land for sale to put your new self-build home onto is more complicated than it may first seem. Here are some things you should check when buying land for a new self-build project:
You are going to want a good relationship with the people in your new community, and in many urban areas, land that is for sale backs on to other people’s homes. When looking for the site for your self-build, be sure to talk to the people you will be living next to. Even if you are moving to a more rural area and will not be buying land that directly touches other people’s properties, it is still a good idea to get an idea of the community you will be surrounded by if you choose to build a home in a given place.
There are lots of ways you can get to know your potential future neighbours, including neighbourhood Facebook groups, visiting local businesses like shops and pubs and talking to people, or looking for more organised groups like local Neighbourhood Watch organisations.
Planning permission only lasts for three years, and getting it renewed is not a given. This can put some serious time constraints on your project if you intended to make additions to your self-build home after the initial installation. It is best to apply for planning permission for the whole project as you currently envisage it and get the work done within that official time frame, rather than assuming you will be able to get further permissions or extensions. Your solicitor will be able to provide advice on this, as we will discuss later in this article.
The land you buy must be free of any limitations from conservation orders. Conservation orders protect things like trees and architecture that have been deemed to be worth preserving for cultural or environmental reasons. This is good for the environment, but it can cause a lot of expense or problems if the land you want to build your new home on is protected in this way. When choosing the right land to buy you should always check any conservation orders affecting the plot.
Climate change has made flooding a bigger problem than ever, so checking flood records from recent years is important. You also need access to water and waste water disposal for your new home. Make sure you investigate the water situation for your plot of land before committing to building your new home there.
The things that matter to your household specifically will depend on your own circumstances – for instance, some people may be concerned with school catchment areas whereas people who don’t have school aged children or don’t plan to have them won’t need to worry about this.
However, you should establish which amenities are important to your lifestyle and how the land you are considering buying is connected to them. Is there a supermarket nearby, or does a local supermarket offer home delivery, for example? You may also want to check things like local Wi-Fi speeds, which you can do online. If you need to use public transport then you should also check how easy it is to access from your potential new address, as well as how close you would be to things like a GP and hospital. Calculating the cost and time of your commute if you need to travel to work can also be an important step in working out if a plot of land is viable for your new home.
Flora and Fauna
Similar to conservation orders, you should also be aware of the plants and animals living on your land. Some species are protected and will get in the way of you obtaining the planning permission you need to build on the land. In other cases, there may be pests that are expensive to get rid of, which is something you will need to factor into the cost of your self-build project. You may need to clear trees or other plants to build, and even when this is permitted, there can be a considerable amount of work or expense involved in doing it. Japanese Knotweed, for example, can cost thousands of pounds to remove. Having a survey of the land you are looking to buy and what is currently living there is an essential step in evaluating whether it is a good plot to build your new self-build home on.
You will definitely need a solicitor who specialises in building law and property. There can be many legal bottlenecks and issues in building a new home or even just purchasing land, so having an expert in this field of law on your side will make sure things go smoothly. You should seek out a solicitor as early in the process as possible, so they can advise you while you are looking at land to buy.
Another thing to ensure when you are looking at plots of land for a self-build home is that you will be able to access the property from the street. Even in urban areas, there is not always road access to empty plots of land, and in rural areas this can be an even bigger issue. You may have to factor in the cost of having a driveway to your new home built as part of the project, but if there is no accessibility from existing streets that may be a bigger problem.
Quite a lot of research needs to go into buying a plot of land for a self-build home. It can end up being a great investment and very much worth the effort, but it is a big commitment and one that you should definitely put a lot of thought into. Good luck in finding the perfect spot for your brand-new home!