Whether you're sourcing land to build your own home or identifying potential development opportunities for investment, finding and obtaining a suitable plot will be a challenge.

Around 13,000 self-build homes are completed every year. However, with fewer houses being built there is demand for at least 30,000 self-builds. With the government's new Help-to-build scheme launched on the 27th of June 2022, finding suitable land is becoming even more critical.

Stephen Clark from Finbri bridging loans that arrange self-build finance - says, "Although self-building can require significantly more time and effort than simply purchasing a new home, it does have some advantages. You have much more control over the property's appearance, and it can also be less expensive to purchase the land and build it than to buy an existing property. With the new government help-to-build scheme looking to last until 2026, it's now much easier for individuals with smaller deposits to start their journey on the property ladder. It also means there will be more demand for suitable land, so learning how to find the right plot will certainly be advantageous in the coming years.”

In this article, we've compiled a list of how to find suitable land plots for development.

Plan your land specifications

It's important to know what you're looking for when it comes to finding the right plot for your project. How much land do you really need? Which location? What type of development are you looking to build? You may not always find exactly what you need, but if you have a clear list of requirements, you and anyone you ask for help, like an estate agent, can narrow your search and find what you are looking for.

Get to know the area

If you already know the location you want to find land, become acquainted with the area and obtain as much information about it as possible. Explore the neighbourhood and become familiar with the surroundings, which can help identify potential development or self-build opportunities.

If you aren't sure which area to begin looking in, take the time to study Google Maps in the county you wish to develop in. You might discover gaps and disguised plots that would be perfect for developing a dwelling.

However, to be successful at finding suitable plots, you must concentrate your efforts on a few towns, villages, or suburbs. If you choose an area that is too vast at the beginning, you'll spend too much time researching various areas and your resources will be scattered too thinly. You may also miss out on an opportunity by dragging your heels. You need to be well-researched but also fast to act should the right opportunity arise.

Look closer to home

Most property developments require sourcing and purchasing land before any work takes place. However, if you, a friend, or a family member already own unused land, this could be the easiest way to start a development or self-build project. Without needing to front the costs for the land in the beginning, you'll be left with more capital for the planning and building.

Locate the appropriate websites

Several websites will list the sale of suitable land. Investigate selling platforms such as Rightmove and Primelocation, which feature hundreds of buildable plots, or take a look at the Land Registry website to explore other possibilities.

There is another great resource called the Brownfield Land Registry. Brownfield sites have or have had, buildings that are deemed suitable for future development by the council. People usually associate the term "brownfield" with old factory or warehouse sites, but in the UK, it also includes housing, offices, and shops.

Plotfinder websites are another useful resource that can help showcase and source thousands of plots across the UK. PlotBrowser.com is one of the most useful sites, .as it has access to the UK's largest and most accurate self-build land and property database, which can be invaluable when sourcing suitable land.

Whichever websites you choose, sign up for newsletters and alerts so you're always aware when new land opportunities arise.

Research the planning history of a site

When conducting your research, look into a plot's planning history. Before purchasing land, you should ensure that you can obtain planning permission, otherwise, you risk wasting valuable time and money.

It’s relatively simple to research a site’s planning history. Your local planning office (or their website) will have copies of the Planning Register, which you can request or access websites such as Planning Finder.co.uk that will allow you to see where planning has been submitted. This will include all relevant information about recent planning applications at the site in question.

You can even learn whether a current property is in the process of applying for planning permission. Properties destined for sale will not be listed for sale until the planning application has been approved, giving you a head start.

Remember that researching the land's planning history is critical. You don't want to be left with unusable land.

Attend an Auction

Auctions are a great way to find new plots of land for development but are cautious about committing to a bid or purchase before visiting the site, otherwise, you risk running into unforeseen issues that could increase the cost of your self-build.

There are a few things to think about when it comes to auctions:
  • Research and planning: Make sure you research as much as possible to prevent issues from arising further down the line.
  • Make an early bid: After doing your research, you should know how much you're willing to pay. You can contact the auction house ahead of time and make an offer.
  • Prepare yourself for a quick turnaround: Auctions are very different from their estate-agent counterparts and are known for moving through the buying process quickly. You can expect to spend much less money at an auction than you would with an agent, which makes it a much more attractive prospect when finding land. But you must also adhere to the deposit requirement and usually pay the remaining amount in full within 28 days.
The bottom line is that you can save a lot of money at an auction, but you must be prepared to act quickly.

Locate public land

When public land becomes available for purchase, it must be advertised. The government and local council are not allowed to sell a site off-market because regulations require public sales to be completely transparent at all stages.

You can find these sites by visiting the local council's website, which will have all of the relevant information. It’s common for a development agency to sell public land, so this is another opportunity for you to rub shoulders with top-tier development agents.

Finally, because the process is completely transparent, public land may be a good option for developing self-build homes or investment opportunities.

Not seen any land advertised locally - this might be why

If you’ve noticed that there’s never any land for sale in your area, it’s possible that it’s being sold via a closed group. In regions where development is red hot, some estate agencies have created closed land groups where they advertise the land to the group prior to it being advertised publicly. Contacting several local estate agents and asking whether there are any exclusive mailing lists for land that you could subscribe to - even for a fee - tends to shed light on the situation.

Stephen from Finbri goes on to say “I’m aware of these closed networks. One, in particular, requires an introduction from an existing member to join, after which there is an annual charge for inclusion. As soon as a land opportunity arises, an email is circulated containing a high-quality video presentation of the property - but without pricing. It’s up to the recipient to then register interest in the land opportunity, and only those who register will receive the guide price 24 hours later so access to fast finance for land is essential. Each registered party is then emailed the guide price at the same time. They’re invited to then put in final and best-sealed bids to the land owner. Only where a land sale isn’t achieved will the land be marketed publically.

“Clearly with so much demand, it's rare that the land is sold publicly.”