We have all dreamed, at some stage of our lives, of finding a plot of land to build our own individually styled house. It might be at the bottom of a garden, across the other side of Europe or in the field next overlooking the green of your favourite village. Whilst in our experience as Estate Agents, individual plots of bare land are quite scarce, there is sometimes an alternative opportunity to acquire a hybrid opportunity, be it a redundant barn/ building or even a Church, it might just be what is required to suit the job in hand.
Roll the clock forward and having found the plot of land, you now want to buy it and build your own unique family home. But how can you be sure your project will be a success? Here are the main questions to ask before you part with your cash:
Why Am I Doing This?
When you see a beautiful plot surrounded by rolling countryside, it’s easy to get carried away. But what are you actually wanting to achieve from this build? Is the plan to simply make a profit? If so, re-sale value, location and accessibility and build costs will be of paramount importance.
If you are looking for an opportunity to create a better life for you and your family then access to services, schools, transport connections, shops etc will also need to be considered. It’s important to get your thoughts clear before you start and to not let the heart rule the head!
If the project is a money-making exercise, again the location and build costs and potential for sale are also key practicalities which mustn’t be overlooked in the excitement of imagining a self-build.
Getting Planning Permission
Buying a plot with consent already in place is ideal and a considerably more expensive option, so before making an offer, you need to know the likelihood of securing planning permission.
The upside to buying without planning consent is that it will be reflected in the cheaper price. This is a riskier approach as you may have paid over the odds for land that may not achieve planning. It may be that the seller will accept an offer, subject to gaining planning or at least allowing you time to submit pre-application advice. Given the risks involved it will almost certainly be prudent to employ a planning consultant to provide such insight, before making an offer.
Access to the site
In a simple world, the site may be positioned on a Council-adopted road with access rights already in place. However, the practicalities can often be more complicated than this if roads are privately owned or if access needs to be taken through someone else’s land. There may be restrictive covenants preventing certain types of use over an access and or land.
The vendor’s agent should be able to provide further detail but the default position would always be to involve your solicitor in ironing out the potential access issues to or across the land.
Historic use of the site
The cost to develop previously undeveloped land against a site which has previously been developed will differ. Surveys to identify ground conditions and potential contamination and the ecology of the site will influence some of the decisions made by you and your architect in terms of the construction process and potential costs involved. Caution is required, some contamination issues will cost tens of thousands of pounds to remove/ eradicate and the timescales involved may be prohibitive to the success of the scheme.
Services and Utilities
Provision of mains services, water, gas and electric supplies are integral to being able to develop your own home. You should have an understanding of where the current connections are and if they are not always present, what alternatives will you have to fall back on Many rural villages do not have a gas main: some more isolated sites are either without a mains water supply and you may be reliant on a private supply or even a borehole supply. You will need to understand how this would work for your plot, and what the cost implications would be. Utility providers will provide quotations to connect into services that are present. The quotations will vary depending upon the proximity to the site. Timing of the work to connect to the site is also important to plan into the build schedule.
What will the cost of the build be?
There are some individuals who make fantastic financial and project managers who have the necessary time, skills and sheer determination to go it alone. It is advised that for the majority of self-builds, employing a good architect or building surveyor will remove a large part of the stress. Their function is to ensure delivery of the project on time and within budget. Additionally, they can also manage the tendering process before any ground work starts. This exercise will be integral to understanding what you can afford and in turn will influence the scale, design, materials and specification chosen by your architect.
Who will finance my build?
Following the market crash in 2008, self-build projects are still seen by many lending institutions as something of a niche product. Some form of collateral will be required and this usually takes the form of your existing home! It also means that staged payments to your builder need to be managed to ensure that these can work within the parameters of their cash-flow model. Advice from specialist financial advisors familiar with the self-build sector is essential in order to cover all of the different market scenarios.
Find the right Architect /Project Manager
Architects are professionals with experience in many different specialities and those who design commercial buildings don’t always have the same skills and experience to design new build houses. It is vital that an Architect can translate your ideas, requirements and vision into reality but can temper this with commercial awareness and budget constraints.
In summary, what you are embarking on is probably one of the most financially dependent decisions you are likely to make, not to mention the emotional strain and pressure that comes with it. GSC Grays have the resource and expertise to assist with the purchasing and design elements of the build. We have in-hand experience of the processes involved and can contribute effectively to the fluidity of the process. Equally, where specialist surveys are required these can be built into the process as can the recommendation to seek advice from specialist lenders, if needed. Our Agency teams are involved in the sale and buying process of the relevant plot, our Planning and Development team can assist with the other relevant stages.
If you wish to discuss any of the above in further detail please don’t hesitate to contact Chris Arundel on the contact details below: