Top tips to consider when buying land for your home

Are you an aspiring self-builder looking to build your dream home, but finding it difficult to secure a plot of land? The Right to Build register may help, but it may not provide the ideal plot for you. In any case, before you invest in buying land, you need to do your homework to make sure your investment is a sound one.

This articles lists the main points you need to consider.

Register for a plot of land

Getting a suitable plot of land might be easier than you think. Local authorities in England have to keep a register of interest from self-builders and are required to make sufficient plots of land available to them. Getting your name on the register is a great place to start.

In Wales, a new system called Self Build Wales is due to come into effect in late 2019. Applicants will be able to search for serviced, self-build plots ready for applications. Each site will have a “plot passport” that will govern what you can build. Unlike in England, eligible applicants will be able to apply for a loan covering 75% of the land cost and a 100% of the build, designed to ease the financial pressure for self-builders in the early stages.

Buying Land - what you need to consider

If this is the first time you are buying land and not quite sure what to look for, here are the main things to consider before you make that life-changing investment.

Planning permission and restrictions

  • Zoning – in urban areas, planning zones can be used for residential or commercial use. Does your plot fall within one of these areas?
  • Does the plot have outline planning or detailed/full permission?
  • If not, what is the view of the planning officer in terms of securing planning approval?
  • Are Permitted Development Rights restricted or removed?
  • Are there any adjacent or nearby planned developments that could affect local homes, including on your plot?
  • Is the site in a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Conservation Area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Park?
  • Is it within the grounds or setting of a Listed Building?
  • Is it in a mining area or area of archaeological interest?

Ground conditions and trees

It is important to consider the presence of trees, ground conditions and soil type of your potential plot. Some soils have a high load-bearing capacity and drain well, ideal for building and drainage. You can examine the soil type by taking a handful of soil from below the top soil, usually no more than 6-10 inches deep. Also consider:

  • Are there any significant, established trees on site or on adjoining land?
  • What are the tree species and sizes?
  • Are there any Tree Preservation Orders in force?
  • If so, on which trees?
  • Are there signs that trees have recently been removed? This can affect the ground conditions
  • What is the profile of the site? Steeper slopes are more challenging to build on
  • What is the natural vegetation? Signs of sedge or rush can indicate wet ground
  • Are there signs of groundwater, streams and watercourses? You may need to build raised foundations or consider the additional cost of flood defences There may also be problems with home insurance, as our blog on building on flood plains
  • Is there any rock?
  • Do nearby buildings use special foundations? This may be a helpful indicator as to the ground conditions on your site (but do not rely on this)
  • Are there any existing foundations?

Access to your site

Make sure the site allows access for vehicles, including turning circles and parking, and remember that some vehicles will be big. Your costs will increase significantly if you need to carry out any works on access highways.

  • Is there a right of access via a public highway? If not, are you relying on a ransom strip and are appropriate arrangements in place?
  • Is it suitable for construction traffic?
  • Visibility splays required?
  • Is access obtainable within the site curtilage?
  • If not, are the necessary easements in place?
  • Will you need Highways consent for such an access?
  • Are visibility splays needed and are the ground levels right for a drop kerb and gates?

Connecting Services

Do not buy land without having some idea of how much it will cost to bring all the main services to your site, such as water, electricity, gas (if available, though remember there are plans to ditch fossil-fuel-based heating in new homes)

  • Are there drains on site already or nearby if not? Is it private or public, and how much will it cost to connect?
  • If there are no drains available, what alternative system may work?
  • Has the Environment Agency been consulted and approvals given?
  • Is there space on site for these works or do you need to negotiate for it?
  • Are there surface water drains nearby?
  • If not, what alternative system may work?
  • Is mains water available and what is the connection charge?
  • If not, is a borehole possible and what is the installation cost?
  • Is mains electricity available, either overhead or underground, and what is the charge?
  • If gas is available, what is the connection charge?
  • If not available, how much will it cost for LPG or oil installations?
  • Is telephone available and what is the connection charge? What broadband speed do neighbouring properties achieve (use an online speed checker)?

Assessing the site

  • Have the neighbours objected to any previous planning applications?
  • What kind of buildings are nearby and are there any newer ones?
  • What is the overriding design and type of building nearby, i.e. bungalows, rendered elevations etc.?
  • Could pollution, smell, noise or light be a concern?
  • Are there any overhead power lines that need moving or could cause problems?
  • What’s the aspect like – where is the sun and shade in relation to the plot?
  • Have you measured the width of the front and the back line of the plot, and made triangulation measurements?
  • Could there be any protected flora or fauna on site?

Legal Matters

Ensure you have all your paperwork in order, including all legal documents relating to the land and any purchase details in writing.

  • Who owns the boundaries and is therefore responsible for them?
  • What rights of way, covenants, easements or other rights and restrictions are there to consider?

What is the history of the site and will it be sold with full title?

For more tips on building your own dream home check out our blog on the 6 steps to building your dream home.

Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication.

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