Is the building plot right for you?

So you've found a building plot that may fit the bill. Here are ten soul searching questions you must ask yourself to make sure that it is the right plot for you.

Building Plots FAQ1. Can you afford the plot?

Finance is paramount. Before you even begin you must make sure you have money in place. You may be fortunate enough to have a small fortune sitting in your bank account. If not get to the bank and arrange in advance for money to be made available should you find your plot. Alternatively get your house on the market, release the equity and rent until you find land. Work out how much money you wish to spend in total.

The build cost will depend on many factors, such as location, build size, design, quality, restrictions on building materials etc. Speak to local builders to get a ball park figure of build costs, add 10% and deduct this sum from what you are willing to spend in total. The money left over is how much you can afford to spend on buying the plot.

2. Does the plot have planning permission?

Many plots are sold as having planning permission. Planning permission is valid for three years so it is worthwhile noting the date it was granted.

Outline permission means that the planning office has agreed in principle to a building but that the design has not been finalised. Detailed planning means you will know exactly what has been agreed and be able to view scale plans.

With plots without planning permission you should ask whether permission has been sought and refused in the past. This will give you an idea of the likelihood of a successful planning application.

If this is still the plot of your dreams, you can enter an "Option Agreement" drawn up by a solicitor and signed by both parties. This will allow you the time to apply for planning permission and will oblige him to sell to you at a pre-agreed price.

Do you like the agreed plans?

For most people one of the main attractions of self building is designing their own home, so if the agreed design is not perfect a reapplication for permission may be required and in many cases a compromise will be reached. Speak to an architect or a designer or employ a professional planning consultant to liaise between you and the planning office.

If the plot is in a conservation area, has had stringent conditions attached to the existing permission, was granted on appeal or had the neighbours campaigning against it then your chances of getting your dream house may be limited. Again an "Option Agreement" will allow you to test the waters with the planning office.

4. Are there any conditions on the build?

This is an important consideration and one that can so easily be overlooked. Covenants (restrictions on the development or use of land, enforceable by one landowner against another), wayleaves (where services such as gas, phone etc cross your land), conditions (ie should the purchaser obtain a new consent which has the effect of improving the value, the vendors may want improved financial return) or restrictions imposed by the planning office (such as specific materials, usually expensive!) can be disastrous financially.

Look out for these, negotiate where you can and at least be aware that they exist.

Is the end product going to be financially viable?

For most self builders the end value of the house is 10 - 30% higher than the outlay costs. For many this is a profit solely on paper as having built the house of their dreams they have no wish to sell up. If however it is going to cost you more to build than it would to buy a similar house that is already built then you are either going gadget crazy or are paying too much for the land.

It is a good idea to speak to local agents (preferably not the one selling the land) and ask them for a valuation of the end product based on the plans.

Your mortgage broker may also not like the idea of the house being worth less than the outlay!

6. Does the plot have services in place?

The cost of connecting to all of the utilities can be expensive. Find out if there are services nearby and contact the relevant utility companies re suitability of connection and cost.

7. Is the plot location good for you?

If you have been searching a long time and finally find a perfect plot it can be easy to forget that you will need to commute to work or that the children will need social lives. You may end up living there for years so make sure that the location is correct for your needs. Also take into consideration the local area. A beautiful plot in a deprived area or halfway up a mountain may not make you happy long term.

If the plot is at the end of a private road you will be responsible, as will other residents on the road, for it's upkeep. Check the condition of the tarmac and weigh up the length of road and how many other people use it. Resurfacing a road is not cheap!

Will your design work?

It isn't a bad thing to have an idea of what you would like to build but a degree of flexibility will allow you to get the best out of the plot available. The best home designs are those that suit the plot as each plot is different in size and shape, whether it is flat or sloping etc. A good design is one made to fit the plot and will affect the appearance of the house, how you use the house, the end value of the house and, importantly, the cost of building the house. Speak to an architect or home designer and try to reach a compromise.

9. What are the neighbours like?

Take time to visit your new neighbours. You may be stuck with them for some time. While a silage pit or pig farm next door may be an obvious deterrent, they may actually be preferable to an antisocial, horrible neighbour from hell.

10. Can you cope with self-building?

Make no mistake about it, self building can be incredibly stressful - whether you are hands on or not. You may be living in less than ideal conditions for a long period of time, you will spend a scary amount of money and you won't escape from the project even in your sleep.

But take heart. The old adage is true - it'll all be worth it in the end!

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