The 'ins' and 'outs' of buying a building plot!
Posted 30 April 2013 - 07:56 PM
I had some questions which I hope you can help with.
The history of the site is that its been owned by a farmer who after battling for 7 years managed to get detailed planning permission for 4 houses. He has carved the land into 4 plots and is selling them individually as self build projects.
One house has been built & occupied, the second half complete, a third about to start and the 4th plot still available. The asking price is reasonable.
I have a meeting tomorrow with the farmer to discuss the buying process but I would like clarity on some items -
The planning permission requires planting and fencing of a particular type. Would this be the responsibility of the farmer of the plot owners?
The fronts of all plots have a large concrete slab on them (used to be a farm building) which the farmer has promised to remove once building has finished. Is this reasonable or should it be worded into the contract?
The farmer has already put in drains and connected them to the mains drain in the road. Would there be costs in the future?
The plot will be connected to mains water and drains. Would this be the farmers responsibility to provide?
Finally - the plot adjacent to the one we were looking at has been built and the owners have had a basement put in. In the process of building this basement, the hole dug for the basement was not correctly done and as a result, the foundations for the house we are planning to build would require additional concrete pour to stabilise it. The problem is that no one really knows what exactly is needed and what this is going to cost. Once I have purchased the plot this becomes my problem, and if possible I would like the farmer to accept some responsibility for this so that he is responsible for the costs or recovering the costs from the house owner and reimbursing me. Is this expectation reasonable?
Anything else I should look at before I make an offer and seal a deal?
Posted 30 April 2013 - 08:27 PM
Sounds like you've got a good start. Before exchanging contracts for the plot purchase you should check all the planning conditions, and if you're concerned about any of them, try and talk to the planning officer to see if you might get them amended. The responsibility for complying with any conditions will be yours from the moment you've purchased the plot.
When it comes to promises, then get them written in to the contract. Don't rely on a verbal promise to remove the concrete, in case the farmer decides not to hold up his side of the bargain later. If it's not written into the contract you may well struggle to get the farmer to undertake the work later if he decides not to do it.
You will bear the cost and responsibility of all services connections to your plot. Make sure you have rights for all service runs that pass over other people's land. Get estimates of these costs from all the service suppliers before you exchange contracts, so you don't get any nasty surprises. Service connection costs can vary a lot, and can (as I found) run to several tens of thousands.
The basement problem depends entirely on how the contract with you is worded. Talk to your solicitor and negotiate with the farmer for a reduction in the plot price to reflect the adverse impact of the neighbour's basement. This might be tricky, but the additional build costs (which may well be substantial) need to be accounted for in the plot price. Once you own the plot, the farmer has no real responsibility for anything, you will bear the cost of anything that arises that you haven't researched before purchase.
Just as with buying a house, it is very much a case of buyer be aware when buying a plot.
Edited by jsharris, 01 May 2013 - 06:23 AM.
Posted 01 May 2013 - 06:48 AM
Had a quick look around and it appears the the cost of hooking up water, waste and electricity is going to be in the region of £10-12k but utility company websites are pretty unclear about this. Luckily the plot is just off a road that already had water and waste supplied running under them so I don't expect these costs to be horrendous.
I take on board your point about clearing the site post purchase as well as the situation with the potentially required concrete pour.
I'll report back after the meeting.
Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:41 AM
There can also be cases where services exist in the road but where the capacity isn't adequate for another house. A plot I looked at two years ago was like this. The mains electricity supply pole was at the corner of the plot, but because there wasn't enough spare capacity the electricity company wanted an extra £4000 on top of the normal connection cost to upgrade part of the local network.
My personal view is that you need to do as much research into possible plot related issues before you make an offer to buy as you possibly can. In part this is coloured by the experience of the chap I purchased our plot from. He didn't do any checks, assumed that the vendor was selling a plot (with outline planning permission) that would be straightforward to build on and paid a high price for it. Soon after he purchased it he discovered that just getting the services in and the site fit to build on was going to soak up another £60,000 or more. This made his planned build cost more than the finished house was worth, so he just sat on the plot for years. We purchased it from him at around 2/3rds of what he paid for it, because of the high cost of getting it ready to build on.
Finally, bear in mind that you don't have an automatic right to bring in services under (or over) someone else's land. If someone other than you owns the land between the road with the services and your plot, then they can charge you for bringing services across.
Edited by jsharris, 01 May 2013 - 07:45 AM.
Posted 01 May 2013 - 09:52 AM
I had assumed that since 1 of the 4 plots had been occupied and been connected to services (without having to traverse third party land) without any problems, the ease and costs for doing this would be in line with what I would deem as reasonable costs. Perhaps I need to rethink this.
Posted 01 May 2013 - 10:14 AM
All responsibilities rest with you from the moment you buy the plot, and having planning permission doesn't mean that a house can actually be realistically built on the plot. It's one of the potential gotchas in our planning system, that you're able to gain detailed planning permission for a house that either physically cannot be built or that would be prohibitively costly to build on the site.
If you ask lots of questions and get reassuring answers that you are confident are correct, then that's great, just go ahead. Problems seem to arise when people don't do this critical research before buying and then discover something that causes a lot of additional cost or trouble downstream.
I don't want to worry you unnecessarily, but the first plot we seriously looked at seemed idyllic. 1/3rd acre, part woodland, with a small level area for a house. When I went to the site with a surveyor (having already agreed to buy the plot, but before we'd exchanged contracts) we spotted someone digging in a vegetable plot that was part of the site. We checked, and found that a large part of the land was being used by a neighbour as a vegetable garden, plus a public footpath had been moved (illegally) along with the boundary shift. Because the neighbour had been using the land like this for years, without anyone noticing, he had probably got adverse possession rights over it. From our point of view the land was now not only worth far less, but was too small to build a house on (the planning permission granted assumed the plot size was as shown on the Title Plan). This was a classic case of the approved plans showing a house that couldn't legally be built, as it was now over the established route of a public footpath and wouldn't fit on the land available.
The majority of plot purchases are fairly straightforward, but they do require more effort on the part of the buyer to find out about things like this. Solicitors and normal searches often won't find any of these anomalies.
Posted 01 May 2013 - 10:27 AM
Find out from them where the services have to come from and who's land it has to cross.
Assuming it will have to cross the farmer's own land to get to you, then make sure when he sells the plot, the deeds includes a deed of servitude (may be called something slightly different outwith Scotland) which gives you a right to run the services under the required piece of land.
Posted 01 May 2013 - 11:15 AM
I have just spoken to the adjacent plot owner who built over the last 18 months and has just moved in.
Since the drains have been laid and connected to the mains, there is no cost of drainage connection. Drains pass under adjacent plots and the contract stipulates access.
He paid £1500 for the water and £500 for electric connections so that does give me a huge element of relief.
Edited by joiner, 01 May 2013 - 01:45 PM.
Posted 02 May 2013 - 07:09 AM
It depends on the contract. What it means is that planning permission for your house is dependant on something that might be outside your control. Indeed there might be planning conditions that are outside the farmers control as well if he's already sold some of the plots. For example it's possible that the planning permission for your plot is dependant on planting on a plot that he's already sold - so in theory it's outside your control and that of the farmer. Best check all the planning conditions and the wording of any contracts just to be sure. It's unlikely to be a problem and even if it is there might be solutions but best be sure. Some may already have been discharged. Discuss with your solicitor.
I'd want it in the contract.
The drains should be the responsibility of the utility co.
With all services (water, electric, gas, phone, drains) find out exactly where they are, who owns them and the route they would need to take to get to your plot. Check that route is either within your control or that of the farmer. If they are on land he's already sold then make sure the farmer retained the right to connect to them. Point out where they are to your solicitor in writing and he should know what needs to be in the deeds/contract.
Edited by temp, 02 May 2013 - 07:11 AM.
Posted 03 May 2013 - 06:26 AM
Posted 03 May 2013 - 06:53 AM
Shop around, there are a wide range of build systems available and it's rare for there to be just a single solution to any particular build requirement.
Posted 03 May 2013 - 07:13 AM
An attempt at practical advice is what it is.
A forum is a forum and it is not my place to laud Timber Frame and give out website addresses.
No offence and kindest regards
Edited by joiner, 03 May 2013 - 07:18 AM.
Posted 03 May 2013 - 12:58 PM
I can see how stressful this journey can be.
Its about time these self serving democratically elected MP's forming self serving governments stop pandering to the housebuilder lobby and does something concrete to ensure a good steady supply of land for self builders keen on fulfilling their dreams and adding to the terrible and overpriced housing stock dumped on us.
Posted 09 May 2013 - 12:00 PM
The sale is back on albeit with a higher offer for the plot. Its a price I am happy to pay.
The plot has DPP on it and we only want to make minor changes to the design but we need to start making decisions now with the architect about the fabric of the building etc.
Can anyone please provide me with headline points on pro's and con's of block & brick vs timber vs SIPS buildings. I am told 70% of houses in Britain are block & brick. I am keen to make this building as eco-friendly as possible but definitely not at the cost of making some ridiculous compromises to the style and utility of the house.
Posted 09 May 2013 - 12:20 PM
Quick go at pro's and con's, bearing in mind the eco-friendly requirement:
Block and brick - cheap, every builder is comfortable building like this, looks conventional if left with brick outer skin, can be made to perform well if proper attention is paid to getting the shell airtight, getting the insulation detailing right and if all the trades on site understand they have to work to fairly demanding quality standards.
Conventional stick built timber frame - Can be cost competitive with block and brick, often quicker build times, better eco-credentials as less concrete, mortar, high energy products used. Same comments as for block and brick when it comes to getting good airtightness and insulation - it's still highly dependent on trade skills and attention to detail.
Panel systems - (these include SIPs in all their flavours, Mantle panel and other factory manufactured panel systems, like Huf, Viking House etc) - These can all offer intrinsically good airtightness and insulation, but performance varies markedly from supplier to supplier, so careful research is needed. Some are more eco-friendly than others. For example, Mantle uses cement based boards and plastic foam, most flavours of SIPs panels use oriented strand board (OSB) skins (made from wood chips) but still use plastic foam cores, some of the other panel systems use OSB skins and recycled or natural insulation material, like cellulose.
Green oak frame - Can be good thermally if the inherent airtightness issues can be addressed. Some manufacturers (Border Oak, for example) combine a green oak frame with SIPs panels to give pretty good performance, but one has to question quite what the oak frame is doing, other than just being an ornament.
Appearance wise any of these can be made to look as you like really. Closed structural panel systems have the advantage of easily allowing room in roof designs, and can be clad with timber, rendered, have outer skins of brick or even be covered with brick or stone slips to look like solid walls. The same is true for timber frame. Conventional block and brick can be finished pretty much how you like, but perhaps isn't best suited to being timber clad. The odd one out is green oak frame, as the frame will be on display, either externally or internally. From an eco-friendly perspective those green oak designs where the frame is visible both inside and out are a bit of a thermal disaster, one that will only get worse with time as the frame moves around.My personal preference would be to go for a closed panel system, like conventional SIPs, Mantle panel or Viking House. The most cost effective of these panel systems is Viking House at the moment, but that may change as the technology matures and new players come into the game. Because the majority of big developers tend to stick with block and brick, there hasn't been enough volume growth in the panel market to drive costs down, but I'm sure it'll come.
Posted 09 May 2013 - 12:25 PM
Timber frame has been the normal way of building for many many years, virtually nobody builds all brick or block houses up here.
Main advantage of timber frame is the basic frame goes up very quick, roof on, windows and doors in, and you very quickly have a wind and watertight building. the outer blockwork skin can wait, no urgency in that.
So it enables you to very quickly get a building up, that you can continue to work in even if the weather turns foul.
the same would apply to other forms of timber construction such as sips I would imagine.
Also running your services is a lot easier, and they are usually fry lined so no drying out time for wet plaster direct onto brickwork.
Timber frame does seem to be unpopular in England, and I think that stems from one mass house builder making some truly appalling timber framed houses in the early fays before people really understood how to do it.
Posted 09 May 2013 - 12:34 PM
Timber frame in the rest of the UK is still viewed with some suspicion. Recently I've had several lenders say they wouldn't mortgage a timber framed house, even now, so it's clear that the prejudice is still there.
I'd also support the quick build comments, I should have mentioned that earlier. The quickest builds by far are the panel system, either SIPs, Mantle, Viking House or one of the expensive ones like Huf. They all go up in just a few days and can be made weather tight very quickly, a definite advantage in a wet climate. I'd guess that a panel system build might be around 20 to 50% quicker than conventional timber frame to get to the weather tight shell stage, although the rest of the build fit out would be the same.
Posted 22 May 2013 - 07:34 PM
I needed some advise to progress things.
We have had an offer accepted and its with solicitors with a view to exchanging contracts ASAP.
The site was designed with 4 plots and 4 identical houses for this DPP exists. The architects firm engaged by the seller spent nearly 5 years getting planning permission for these houses. This is a well known award winning firm and therefore expensive.
We want to make minor amendments to the design and felt that approaching the same firm for amendments and building reg drawings etc was probably the logical decision.
During our first meeting with the lead architect there, our proposed amendments were discussed and the architect feels they are non-material amendments and should be agreed with the planners by way of a letter. We asked him to put in a fee quote for
1. Getting non-material amendments approved
2. Getting building regs drawings prepared, appointing structural engineer, energy advisor, liaison with building regs etc
3. Tendering, builder selection etc.
Accordingly, we have had these back and wanted your opinion on the fees bearing in mind that this is in the home counties and the house is 280 sq m
1. Non-material amendments and approval £500. If not accepted by planner as non-material amendments, £1000 to prepare new planning application etc
2. £5500 not including other consultant fees
I think 2 & 3 are excessive.
What are your opinions on the proposed fees and what is a realistic figure for this?
What are realistic fees for a structural engineer for a house of this size?
If we dont use the architect for tendering, how does one go about preparing a tender pack?
Posted 22 May 2013 - 08:05 PM
Posted 22 May 2013 - 08:18 PM
Generally speaking, architects fees, including tendering etc, tend to be around 10% of the build cost. You might want to weigh up what you've been quoted against this.
SE fees are entirely dependent on the complexity of the build. Our house structure has no SE fees, but we did incur some in getting a retaining wall designed.
If the design is straightforward then you can either go to an architectural technician, as already suggested, or go direct to one of the self-build suppliers and ask if they can do the design drawings for BR approval as part of the build. Many offer this as a part of the package.