Four Tips to Finding the Perfect Plot for Your New Build

Monday, April 18, 2016

Before you build a new home, you need land to build it on. For many people, this is far as their dream gets. Finding the ideal plot is difficult and the mistakes are costly, so don’t even start looking until you’ve read these four tips.

Don’t Look for Land, Look for a Property

Whether you’re out in the green belt or the heart of London, you’re far more likely to build a new home by demolishing an existing property than by buying unused land. This has been the case for 99% of the projects I’ve worked on.

Even if you do have the opportunity to buy land in the green belt, it will be almost impossible to have the council approve of building a new home on it. Unfortunately, people bundle together agricultural land and odd bits of back gardens and sell it to those who don’t realise that it’s near enough useless.

Bungalows are an excellent candidate for demolition as they provide a large area to build on, have no architectural merit and waste space that could be more efficiently used with a taller structure. It’s rare you’ll find a planning department try to protect a bungalow, though if the surrounding properties are the same height there may be a limit on how tall you can build so as not to overshadow your neighbours – figuratively and literally.

In London, you may come across ex-industrial, brownfield sites. These can provide large plots with less restrictions than residential conversions, but prices tend to be higher as brownfields are a favourite with commercial developers who have money to throw around. You also need to make sure the soil hasn’t been contaminated by industrial chemicals, as it can be very expensive to remove contaminants and may not ever be garden-safe.

Make Sure Your Plans Can be Achieved

Even if you’ve found a site you can build on, your project will come to a quick and disappointing end if it comes with a list of restrictions that compromise your plans or drive up costs to a point that it’s no longer worth pursuing.

That’s where our feasibility study comes in. We can look at the site, its restrictions, the local planning policies and your budget to draft mock up plans that will show you what’s achievable on the site before you commit to buying it. Or, if you’ve already bought a site and it isn’t all you hoped for, we can figure out how to make the most of it. Click here to read more about our feasibility study.

We work with the best planning consultants in the country, such as Rob Hughes, for our development appraisals. You can read more about his role in the process by clicking here.

Never Buy at Auction

Competition is fierce for viable development plots, especially in London. By the time a plot that seems to have potential has reached the open market, you have to ask what’s wrong with it. Sometimes you can find a needle in a haystack, but it’s likely that if you think something’s a bargain, then someone else thought the same but found a problem.

Auctions are a notorious method for people to sell off plots before you can do due diligence. The rule of auctions is ‘caveat emptor’, or ‘buyer beware’: once the hammer falls, you’re committed to buy the plot, regardless of the problems you later discover. We’ve had potential clients telling us their excited plans to demolish auction bought garages and build a house, only to find the estate agent got their particulars wrong and estimated double the actual floor size.

Give Yourself an Advantage by Using a Property Finder

You’re likely too busy to make finding the perfect plot a full time job, even if you did have the contacts and resources to compete with commercial property developers. That’s why you should let someone like Leonora Wollner – who has both the time and the skill – do the work on your behalf, and I can say from experience that she’s tireless in finding the perfect property for her clients.

Almost exactly a year ago, Leonora wrote for us about her work as a property finder, a service that works just as well at finding development plots and properties with demolition potential. Click here to read more about what a property finder can do for you.

There’s a lot more to finding a plot for a new build than I can fit in this blog, so please get in touch with us by calling 020 8108 3612 or emailing [email protected] if you have any questions.

John Dyer-Grimes