The best advice is to choose an area on which to focus your search. It takes time to do research and you don’t want to be overstretched. However, be flexible too as sometimes opportunities can present themselves – so don’t be too rigidly restricted to the location.
Research on websites from the comfort or your office or on your sofa at home can be a good starting point as you can find land for sale. But it pays to get out into the area and explore and as often opportunities are not yet being marketed.
Getting to know the area well means spending time driving around in search of the right plot size. It is worth walking around some back streets on foot. The best sites are often hidden away!
One property developer did just that. He walked around his chosen area, spotted a narrow side road, walked up and round the bend and found an empty commercial property. His foot work paid off, as he has successfully developed the brownfield land converting it into a block of apartments just off a main road in London.
Apart from the usual infill sites and empty garage blocks, also think skywards – it is much more common these days in the UK to look for opportunities for air space developments.
It is never too early to start building connections. Invest time to build a good network of contacts.
Bear in mind that Estate Agent’s expertise is in selling properties, so it also pays to look for Land Agents who have experience of selling land. Get to know them personally. They will probably have a lot of developer contacts. However, if you talk about your experience and show that you are seriously looking for land, they are more likely to let you know about opportunities before they come to market.
Make networking work for your business plans. Chatting at a social event and talking about your plans can present opportunities. Surveyors or architects may be aware of a project and can introduce you to a client, or a business owner might be thinking of selling their commercial premises.
If you have already done a property development in the area, you are likely to know someone in the planning department at the Local Council. If not, get in touch and develop a rapport. Keep an eye out for anyone submitting for outline planning as they are likely to be selling the land soon. You may have to pay more for the land with outline planning permission but it still can be a viable development.
Absolutely no harm in talking with your competitors. Joint ventures can be a success for all parties and you are able to pool your expertise and maybe take on a bigger property development that you would be able to complete on your own.
If you want to buy land to build a house, there are other sources of where you can get plot information and find land for sale.
Brownfield Sites – Councils are required under legislation to keep a Brownfield Land Register, so you can identify where you might be able to build a house on previously developed land. There can be a few downsides in that you are likely to need to apply for a change of use and you may have to remain within the original footprint. But chances are the services are already in situ.
Greenfield Sites – These sites can be in the countryside, within rural areas or between houses but they have not been built on previously. Green belt opportunities are scarce.
Public Land – Government and Councils need to show clarity and transparency when they are selling off public land. Check for when these opportunities are publicised.
Backland development opportunities – Building in a back garden (along with neighbouring gardens) is popular in large towns, especially where there is a demand for housing. The challenge is to find a suitable space for building a house (or several) on land without overcrowding the space. It is essential that there is viable access and you need to give careful consideration to privacy to get planning consent.
Property Auctions – Good plots of land can sometimes be sold by auction houses if the landowner feels that there is a lot of interest and wants to get the highest bid. A word of advice – do your research well before committing to buying at auction and don’t get carried away in a bidding frenzy.
Something to bear in mind in your search for a plot of land is how much you are going to pay for it. There is no set price as to the value of a plot of land is not a precise discipline. Ask a dozen different people to value a building plot and you are likely to get twelve different answers. How much is land worth?
Wherever you are buying land to build on, it is about keeping focused during your search and spotting the potential. You can choose to buy a building plot with planning permission but you will pay less for a plot without planning permission. There is no perfect plot of land – but sound knowledge of estimating the value you could achieve on the completed buildings is the key to unlocking the potential of any plot of land.