Top 10 plot finding tips from self build professional

Finding a plot - self build expert tips

National Custom and Self Build Association report statistics

Finding a plot to build a home on is the number one obstacle for people wanting to build their own home, according to a recent report from the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA).

The report says England has the lowest percentage of self-commissioned homes in the world, yet one in three people in the country would like to build their own home one day. Self build professional Michael Holmes, spokesperson for the London/Southern Homebuilding & Renovating Show, provides tips on finding a plot of land.

Top 10 plot finding tips from self build professional

1) Patchwork Plot: Create a plot by assembling a site from smaller parcels of land. Michael Holmes’ first self build was built on a modest plot, but he bought an adjacent paddock that made it up to a half-acre plot that could carry a much larger house. Others have created ‘infill’ plots from the ends of two or three adjoining gardens.

2) Future Vision: Don’t discount a site you like just because the current planning permission is for something that you don’t want to build. You can vary the existing permission or make a fresh application. Always take advice on the likelihood of success before buying.

3) Team Building: Small sites for 2-5 houses are often easier to find than single plots and there can be real economies of scale in building several houses together, so why not consider forming a self-build group with friends of family to buy and sub-divide a small development site into single plots?

4) Land Databases: Websites such as are a starting point for anyone looking for a plot – it’s a database of self-build, custom build, conversion and renovation opportunities for sale though estate agents and private vendors selling direct.

5) Register of Interest: Going through the planning records of previous applications for single dwellings in your chosen area may lead to a plot. Most sites will be developed by the owners or sold on, but everything is for sale for the right price. You’ll find records on local authority’s website. Right now, some developers may consider selling-off plots from their landbank.

6) Grow Your Own: Many self builders find their plot in their own garden. Planning policy has made it harder in some cases to build in a garden because so called ‘garden grabbing’ has become politically sensitive – but it’s still a good route. Some buy a house with a large garden so they can self-build and have somewhere to live during the project too.

7) Widen The Net: Looking further afield may be the solution. Plots are harder to find than houses, especially in built up areas and so it’s not unreasonable to widen your search to improve your chances of finding the right opportunity.

8) Call My Agent: Work out which local estate agents (often solicitors in Scotland) specialise in land and development and let them know what you are looking for, and then stay in touch with them. You have to be pro-active to be successful – including searching the web and the local property papers. Regular contact will ensure they know you’re serious.

9) Boots on the Ground: Visit the areas you want to live and search on the ground, asking in local shops, pubs, and on building sites whether there are any plots for sale. Use maps and Google Earth to search for hidden potential. A ‘map search’ via HM Land Registry will reveal the owner’s details if the land is registered.

10) Brownfield Land: It takes a lot of imagination to see a petrol-filling station, telephone exchange, disused industrial unit, or a scrap yard as the site for a beautiful home, but they all could be great opportunities. Previously developed sites known as ‘brownfield land’ can have good potential for development, but always take advice before buying.

Self build professional at speaking event

Self build professional, Michael Holmes, will be giving advice at the London Homebuilding & Renovating Show, 30th September – 2nd October, ExCeL London, E16 1XL. Readers can get free tickets for the show at


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