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29th April, 2016

How to buy land to build your dream home

How to buy land to build your dream home

Land may seem like something that only large-scale property developers have the luxury of buying in 2016. But there are still ways for individual buyers to find a small plot to build their dream home upon. Our agents from across the world share their tips to help aspirational home builders find their perfect piece of land.

Fine & Country Marbella

Karl Jennings


“In Marbella at the moment there is a scarcity of standalone plots in prime locations unless you are looking to build a villa for over €3,000,000. This is why Fine and Country Marbella are working with clients who are buying old dated villas on good plots and demolishing them to build something modern to their own taste. The value of these older villas is rising due to this demand.”

“There are also a small number of experienced developers we are working closely with that have new boutique projects which are launching or currently under construction. The benefits of this are staged payments, less personal risk due to developer guarantees, locking in a good price as the value appreciates and if you purchase off the plan, you are able to amend the build to your own personal tastes.”

Fine & Country South Africa

Linda Erasmus


“The advantage of buying land is that you can buy now and build later. Land is not an investment like a property that you can rent out, so you need to look at capital growth when considering where to buy.”

“The best piece of land to buy is the last available plot in a built up area. A plot close to the sea will always have value, but weigh up the cost of keeping it before you build.”

“If you are likely to need your investment back soon, remember that a plot is not always easy to re-sell when you need your money quickly. If you are looking to invest the last of your savings, I think it’s wiser to invest in an apartment than land. A plot is for the adventurous people that like to build their own home.

“In South Africa, plots in and around cities and other developed areas still sell well. Plots and new developments further away from cultural centres are not as popular. Also, it’s worth considering that finance is not as readily available on plots as it is on houses.”

Fine & Country Radlett

Margaret Towey


“The advantages of buying land are that you can then decide exactly what type of property design you want, from a bespoke designed Huf House to a traditional design of your choice. Land is very difficult to find but usually the local agents in the area you want to live in are a good place to begin.”

“You have to research thoroughly and take planning advice before purchasing land without planning permission to ensure that you will be able to build the house that you want. In a worst case scenario, if funds run out and you have to sell on before major works are completed, then your target market of purchasers can be very limited indeed. This is due to the fact that land alone cannot usually be mortgaged, neither can a property without a kitchen and bathroom. The result is that only cash buyers would be able to buy the project.”

“When building your own home, be well financed, well researched, gain some experience on a smaller job and work very hard. This is certainly not an easy project but could be the best thing you have ever done in your life.”

Fine & Country Windsor

Brian Warren


“Land to build your own dream design property has always been difficult to find due to the shortage of small parcels of land available and the desired areas that people want to live.”

“There is also the issue of planning permission. To secure any development project it is much safer to acquire land with planning consent. This maybe an outline or detailed consent but be careful to check any conditions imposed by that local authority. If the land has only outline planning consent, you have the opportunity to vary the proposed build and certainly amend any internal walls and structures but must be within the actual footprint approved. In some cases you can re-apply to the local authority to increase the size of the new build project, but seek advice first from a local professional architect that is known to the planning office in that borough.”

“The land price is normally based on the re-sale value of the proposed dwelling when completed.

As a guide, a budget should consist of 1/3 for the land, 1/3 to build and 1/3 to cover profit and any contingency plan. If a value of the property when completed is £1m, then the land could be as much as £500,000, then consider purchase costs and fees, planning consultancy fees, and the build costs.”

“The pitfalls to avoid are groundworks. Any development site we would recommend a soil test, to check if the build will need piling or normal foundations, the levels of the ground, the condition of the soil and if some of the land needs to be taken away there is an additional costs, especially contaminated land which is difficult to dispose of.”

Fine & Country Land & New Homes West Midlands

Leon Evans


“The advantages of buying land is that you have the ability to design your own house and make it bespoke to your needs. Also, if done right, you are gaining instant equity in your property as you are the developer. Regularly, developers and housebuilders would take a 20% minimum profit when building a house and selling to the public.”

“The best way to start looking for land is to work with a local land agent who may have land available or the knowledge to find you a site that could currently be used for something else that could be demolished and replaced with a dwelling.”

“The current trend is to convert existing agricultural buildings and conversion of empty offices as government relaxed laws on this and released permitted development guidelines.”

Fine & Country Hoddesdon

Diane Sanders


“The advantage is being able to plan and control the design from the outset, while the main disadvantage is the distinct lack of availability of land.”

“Be creative and don’t limit how or where you can acquire land to build. Look at properties for sale with garden to the side, or derelict out-buildings. If you aren’t able to think outside the box then it is useful to engage an agent as they deal centrally with many local vendors and contractors, so often can tap into resources.”

Fine & Country St Neots


Richard Carpenter

“Speak to estate agents as a lot of land is sold without being marketed in this area. Demand is very high. Often land which could be profitable is sold directly to builders, so be prepared with finances in place and solicitors ready. Many will be cash buyers so you may need to offer more to secure the land.”

Melissa Gilliland

“The advantages of buying land is that you can have your ideal home built. The types of buyers who buy land are often high energy, creative and technically aware people. Often they are wanting to build something out of the ordinary, such as those wanting to build a carbon neutral home or one using new and different technology.”

“The pitfalls include the costs being higher than expected. It can be a very time consuming process with many hassles including dealing with builders, council and bureaucracy.”

Fine & Country Portugal

Charles Roberts


“Buying land allows you to build your own dream project. It’s best to buy in prime locations with infrastructure already in place. It’s always a good idea to check if land has planning permission and to check those plans carefully. What size and style of property does it allow you to build?”

“People who usually buy land are those who are not afraid of the licensing and planning process as well as the experience of building in a foreign land. In Portugal there is not currently a great demand as most international buyers would prefer to purchase a new finished building or to buy a property that exists but requires refurbishment.”

Fine & Country Pembrokeshire

James Skudder


“Buying land can add serious value to your property and give extra room to extend a property. Plus, the value of land can increase.

“In Pembrokeshire, the closer to the coast you can purchase land, the higher the premium but also the demand is through the roof. As you come further inland, the value of land will depend on its condition. Good equestrian or livestock land can be very hard to come by. It’s wise to avoid wet or poor condition of land as the value will quickly drop.

“Some land will come with restrictive covenants. For example, land in national parks will restrict development and planning. Due to planning restrictions, development has slowed down and plots are harder to sell. Prices have fallen unless they are near to coast with a water view. Farmers always looking for good grazing land in Pembrokeshire, and this can achieve figures of up to £10,000 per acre in good condition.”

Fine & Country Lincoln

Stephen Binder


Land is very popular because, as the old adage goes, they do not make it anymore. People will purchase land for many different reasons but most commonly where domestic dwellings are concerned property owners will look to extend gardens, maintain privacy, keep livestock or to protect themselves from the general threat of future development.”

“If looking for building land, the important thing is to pick the location carefully. The building costs may be broadly similar wherever the land is situated but the final value will depend very much on location and proximity to amenities.”

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