10 Top Tips to Buying Land
If you’re a first time land buyer, the process of buying the right plot can be quite a daunting task.
Buying land can be far more romantic than buying bricks and mortar. You feel as if you are acquiring your very own share, however small, of Planet Earth. And although there are a few pitfalls, purchasing land is generally simpler than purchasing property. It can also, potentially, be just as lucrative.
Here are our top tips on what to consider:
1. Spend time researching the market
“There is a large variation in land values being achieved at present, ranging from £5,000 to £15,000 per acre, depending on location and quality,” says Michael Fiddes, Head of Estates and Farm Agency at Strutt & Parker. You need to develop a feel for the market and for what it is reasonable to pay for your piece of land.
2. Familiarise yourself with the different types of land on the market
Greenfield land, which has never been developed, is different in character from brownfield land, which has been built over previously. They are distinct markets and, in some respects, subject to different planning requirements.
3. Be clear about why you are buying the land
Perhaps you see land as a better investment than stocks and shares or other assets. Perhaps you want a site to build your own home, or perhaps you want to become a smallholder. You certainly need to have some long-term plan for the plot because it will determine what and where to buy.
4. Shop around
There is usually plenty of land on offer at any one time, although not all of it is publicly advertised. To start your search, visit the OnTheMarket.com website. There are specialist land agents dotted around the country, too. Land auctions are another option, if you are prepared to move quickly. But you should also be alert to other potential sources of land, e.g. homeowners happy to sell a patch of land at the edge of their property.
5. Establish whether you will need planning permission for any building on the land
Some plots of land are sold with planning permission already granted, although this is often only ‘outline’ planning permission – you will need to clear the final details with the planning authorities. Be wary of restrictive covenants or other legal restrictions on your freedom of manoeuvre. In short, planning issues are so intimately linked to your decision to purchase the land that it is vital to appoint a solicitor with expertise in this particular area.
6. Be sure to get the land properly surveyed
An empty field may not look as if it needs to be given the once-over by a chartered surveyor. But there are potential hidden snags with land purchases, from boundaries and rights of way to flood risks and overhead power lines. It is always best to be on the safe side and to seek professional advice.
7. Double-check where your plot of land begins and ends
Access to land can sometimes be more problematic than it appears. You need to be wary of land which is separated from a public highway by a so-called ransom strip (a small parcel of land retained by the previous owner with the intention of restricting development unless the ‘ransom’ is paid).
8. Identify the right agents who can help with the search process
A good agent will want to have an understanding of your circumstances and needs. Every property or plot of land you see at OnTheMarket.com is being marketed by a full-service estate or letting agent, so you will always be able to deal face-to-face with them and ask any questions you may have throughout the search and buying process.
9. Focus on areas with growth potential
The “location, location, location” mantra applies to land as much as to properties. Keep an eye out for areas due to benefit from improved infrastructure such as transport links. “Remember that price is greatly affected by location,” says Christopher Miles, Director of Savills Land Agency. “If you are not personally acquainted with the area of your search, spend time getting to know it to see if it really does meet your criteria.”
10. Always treat the purchase of land as a long-term investment
You are not likely to make a quick profit on a field in the present climate, so it is sensible to play the long game and try to judge the optimum time to develop on the land or to sell it.
Buying land will probably feel a bit unfamiliar at first and may take you out of your comfort zone. But do your homework and do not lose heart.