Many people dream of building their own house. For some people it is a way of getting an ideal home, for others it is an economical means of providing accommodation or even a way of making money.

Every year about 20,000 new homes are built by self-builders in the UK, that’s about 13% of all new homes built in a year. Each of these homes will have been individually designed or adapted from a existing house and the financing arrangements, design, type of construction and amount of work done by the self-builder will vary in each case. The main thing that all these projects have in common is the need to find a plot of land to build the house on.

This article concentrates on the process of how to find that elusive plot of land.

Some people build a home for themselves in the garden of their existing house, these are the fortunate ones as they only have to worry about obtaining permission from their local
planning department
, connections to the services (gas, electric, phone, water, sewage etc), ground conditions and planning restrictions unlike everyone else who also has to contend
with finding a plot of land to build on and then purchasing the plot.

There are 2 main steps in the process of finding the plot of land, these are :-

1. Defining your requirements

Your first step towards finding a building plot should be to work out your requirements – the size and design of the house, the amount of land wanted, the location and how much you can afford to spend. You should have specific answers to these questions before you even start to look for a building plot.

One of the best ways to settle on a design to to find ideas from photographs and plans of finished houses. There is a lot of information available including magazines in newsagents, selfbuild shows and exhibitions or even show houses on local building developments.

Once you have some basic ideas start to turn them into more detailed requirements. Think about the number of bedrooms, the space needed for cooking, eating, entertaining etc. Will your family grow or shrink? Will you have many guests? Is there a need for specific features for a disabled member of the family? What will you use the garage for (number of cars, storage of items such as lawnmowers, freezers etc or even to work on a classic car – remember that some cars are larger than others)?

Also to be considered is the house type. Do you want a bugalow for example?

Should the house be in a village or in a town? Is there a particular area of your city that you want to live in?

Once you have settled on the basic requirements it is time to move on to the next step.

2. Finding the plot

Building plots for sale can be few and far between, Plots can vary enormously in size, character and price and their suitability for the size and type of home you intend to build.

To give you some degree of choice, or in some area to find a building plot at all, you need to investigate as many sources of information as possible. Good plots sell quickly as builders and developers are always on the look-out for prime sites. Only problem plots stay on the market for months (or even years). You will probably not find that perfect plot as soon as you start to look so you may have to use some of the methods below.

Most plots in England and Wales are sold via estate agents, although not all agents beal with building plots. Find some agents in the area that you are looking in and register your interest in building plots. Be prepared to give specific details about the type of land you are interested in including size, location and cost.

Sometimes plots are sold at auctions held by local estate agents. If you register with local agents they should be able to tell you about any plots that they are selling at auction, otherwise look for auctions advertised in specialist property magazines such as Estates Gazette and local newspapers.

Selfbuild companies often have lists of building plots and names of agents. If you are going to buy your house from a selfbuild company they will obviously be keen to help you with your search and may even hold seminars on the subject.

Builders and developers sometimes have plots that they are willing to sell rather than build on it themselves. They may, for example have a plot on a corner of an estate that they do not yet have any plans for. Be prepared to have them vet the design of the house to make sure that it fits into their estate.

It is also somtimes possible to find a plot by looking at a large scale (1:2500 or 1:1250) Ordanance Survey map to identify potential plots of land. You should check the results by a visit to the possible sites however as in some area the most up-to-date map may be over 10 years old.

The next article in this series will discuss how to assess the plot and value it before making an offer to buy it.