Thorough assessment of a plot takes a lot of time and effort, but will determine the failure or success of your project
Plots can have a powerfully positive or negative affect on would be buyers, so it’s important to thoroughly investigate what’s on offer before making a decision that you could later regret. No two plots are the same, so it’s a good idea to compare each one’s good and bad points by scoring them against your ideal criteria when you visit.
Take note of the surrounding areas – if the approach is through a low standard neighbourhood or an industrial estate it could reduce the desirability of the new house to future buyers.
Go back to the site several times at different times of day to get an accurate view of the place – what seems like an idyllic country lane could turn into traffic hell during rush hour.
Check out the upkeep of the area – are the gardens well kept? Is there litter lining the streets? Is there graffiti on road signs?
Research property values in the area – no matter how nice your completed house is, there will be a ceiling price that it’s unlikely to break.
Study the characteristics of local houses to get an understanding of the kind of design that could be successful when you come to apply for planning permission.
Speak to estate agents to see what’s happening in the local property market – they will know whether an area is on-the-up and therefore a good investment.
Find out the standard of local schools – a good school can increase the value of a house if it’s within its catchment area.
Easy access to local shops will be attractive to future buyers.
Check up on public transport – good links to the nearest town or city will add to its appeal.
The Highways Department’s conditions for access are stringent, so check that you would be able to adhere to them.
Check that there is enough room for construction traffic to get in and out of the site.
If the site is located on a road that hasn’t been adopted by the local council, the owners of the houses along it are responsible for its upkeep, so find out how much you will have to pay and your responsibilities.
Border and boundary issues
Make sure the boundaries are clear and fixed by checking with the owners, your solicitor and on site – if a neighbour has been using a strip of land that belongs to the plot unopposed for over 12 years they have the legal right to lay claim to it.
Check the measurements of plots very carefully where boundaries are only marked out by wooden stakes and string – it’s easy for someone to move them without you noticing.
Rights and covenants
Restrictive covenants can be placed on land or properties that stipulate what you build and how you use the land, so it’s worth looking into before money changes hands.
If there are any rights of way across the plot then you could be restricted to where you can build – established footpaths are very difficult to re-route.
Wayleaves give rights of access to people so that they can maintain an adjacent property or access services that run across you land.
If the plot is connected to the mains services, find out which ones.
Check whether the services are shared with or cross other properties – you may have to pay maintenance and repair charges.
If it isn’t connected to services, work out how much it will cost to connect to see if it’s a viable option.
Plots with planning permission
Study the paperwork relating to the site;
Is it outline or full planning permission?
Are there any conditions?
If there are conditions that involve a third party, get the vendor to arrange and pay for any legal documents that need to be drawn up before you buy.
Image: Energy Saving Trust