Ben Adam-Smith outlines 5 strategies for taking your land search into your own hands.
The plot search so far
I've spent the last 2 years looking for land and in this time have put in three offers. While I've missed out each time (to people who have bid over the value of the plot or property!) it does show that there are opportunities out there.
Being flexible is the best way to find land
My top tip – if like me you feel you're stuck in a game of Snakes & Ladders – is to be willing to relocate. The chances are that if you can't find land it's because you're close to a town or city. Therefore moving further away will give you a greater number of plots to consider and will probably get you more for your money.
While it's not for everyone – particularly if you want to be near family or you have a job keeping you in a specific area – it's a decision that can really impact on the ease of finding land.
5 ways to find land for a self build project
All of these strategies require time and probably a lot of dead-ends, but you only need one yes! Also if you manage to buy land privately – even at market value – you are likely to make significant savings.
Spread the word
Recently I recorded a podcast on whether local knowledge can help you find land but there are some other people you should be telling first.
If you've been in an area for some time, perhaps you already know a family member or friend who might sell you some land, so make sure you've told them (multiple times!). Even if they can't help directly they are more likely to keep their eyes open for opportunities for you.
You could also use social media to reach out. For example, I know a lot of local people in my area follow #Hertford. Obviously don't get too desperate but it's worth tapping into this stream.
Finally, developing a relationship with local builders and architects could be worth it. You may need their services later anyway so this could be a good way of sussing them out too.
Organise a leaflet drop
Who said direct mail was dead! This is a game of numbers but it could bear fruit.
Target areas that you know you like. Find a freelance designer on a website like Upwork or People Per Hour. We paid US$20 to get a simple leaflet created. If you've got the time you could distribute yourself. Ideally you want it to be the only thing coming through the door and not with a bunch of other flyers.
Keep it short and sweet, playing up your credentials of being great potential neighbours. Given a choice between a developer buying off them or a quiet retired couple it may be an easy choice.
With a tweak of the copy you've used for your leaflet drop you could put an advert in the local newspaper, where the demographic may be the older generation with the juicy opportunities.
Other avenues to explore include TV screens in the Post Office or garage, and good old fashioned village notice boards.
Contact the big landowners in your region
Every area has some big landowners. You need to discover who they are and approach their estate departments. Perhaps technology or the market is forcing them to downsize or sell off some of their assets anyway.
One example I came across is the big brewery in my area selling off a triangular piece of land at the back of some houses to a self-builder.
Create the opportunity yourself
This is perhaps the most time intensive and potentially lucrative of the lot. It involves detective work and getting used to identifying opportunities. Start to notice changes in your town and village. Did a garage repair shop close down when a mechanic retired and then three houses were built on the old industrial units. Or is there a classic infill on a row of houses.
While Google Earth can be useful to assess an area, getting out on foot is most likely to give you a feel for the opportunities.
When you see something you think could work, knock on the door and speak to the owner. If it's scrub land or you're unsure of the owner you can pay a small fee to the Land Registry to find out.
*With all of these proactive methods, just make sure you have the necessary planning permission. A plot without planning permission is not a plot!