We have to start with an answer to a question what the land it?
This way we will at least have a better idea of what we are looking for. By definition the actual land is any soil, ground and earth plus any building(s) on this land or any fixtures attached to it, mines, minerals and air space above. The land is also a farmland and fields but for development purposes it will mainly be a brown filed land. That is the land which is/was developed or used previously for any other purposes then farming.
These days, the brown filed land is almost exhausted and local authorities begin to release new patches of green belt land with designation for residential or mixed-use development. It doesn’t mean they own it. It means they allow for development on the land previously considered protected.
There is a lot more to it but for now let’s concentrate on how you can find any particular development land.
- Estate agents. This is the most obvious to approach o make. They are occasionally given land for sale. But better option is to talk with commercial estate agents. They have more experience and exposure to this type of land we are interested in. The down side of this is that most agents are very inflexible. They work on commission from sales and are not interested if you mention an option or delay completion. This is because they are paid on completion.
- Specialist agents. This is more difficult to find a specialist agent who is trading land only. Usually such people work on their own and they have contracts with owners. Their deals are never listed anywhere and they work with buyers directly. Because of this those deals are called off-market and if truly provided by such agents, many are pretty good. By truly I mean no chains of other people pretending to be direct when they are not even close. So be aware.
- Online resources. It is always worth it to do your own research and visit sites like Rightmove, Zoopla, Prime Location, Mouseprice, Plotfinder, GumTree or any other property listing sites. Surprisingly you can find interesting plots if you spend significant time doing this properly.
- Auctions. An interesting way to search for a land. Something I didn’t mentioned so far but it is paramount, the Due Diligence. It is especially important when buying at auction. You need to read all the legal paper work, check the area (if you don’t know it already), view the land, talk to estate agents if your strategy is to sell developed units for the maximum achievable prices and possibly have a good idea what kind of development and how many units can be build there to work out GDV. You need to do it very well to avoid serious issues because you pay 10% deposit on the spot when you win the bid and usually the remaining part in 28 days. There is no back-off and it is too late to begin DD. Many found themselves in deep trouble for not doing so right.
- Networking. This is another way you can find potential buyers of your finished units as well as those who have land for sale. Some could be those specialized agents I mentioned and some other may have access to good deals. The problem is to find the right networking groups. You can begin with circles of people you already know, clubs you are member of, your connected social media and so on. But you need to tell those people what you do. There are websites such as MeetUp or Eventbrite designated to hold all kinds of networking groups. This is where you can find many property related groups but bear in mind, the land owners are not necessarily in those circles.
- Leafleting. It may work in some areas but not everywhere. One of the reasons is that many owners do not live in the places they own and tenants will not return a call. The leaflets content and design is make-it or break-it, so make sure to test. Or use those proven to work. Actually, it is a subject on its own and I won’t be going into details here. Also, I don’t think that this is strategy for proper land search. Just have this strategy at the back of your mind when considering a land searches.
- Direct Mailing. This is an interesting one because it is good to know to whom you send a letter. It would be a waste of time and money sending mailing to a random group of people you can buy list of somewhere. This has to be personal and send to the right people. I mean those who own the land of your interest. Because of this you need make some research and find them.
- Land Registry. The above nicely connects with this one as a mean of finding details of land owners or any kind of property. The Land Registry as the name suggests is a register of land which is mainly made of title deeds. An individual documents describing any single one piece of land or almost any, stating the proprietor and his/her rights to this land and also restrictions and charges. This on its own can give you good idea and the owner address. You can buy the title and a site plan for £3 each from their website. If you need more details or full title or additional searches you need a written direct request on the Land Registry form and as a hard copy to be send to the Land Registry office. Alternatively, you can ask a solicitor to do it for you. Of course for a fee.
- Advertisement. This could be anything, from online Google ads campaigns, your own website, through out the numerous social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube up to old fashion on street advertisement banners, posters, car stickers, news paper and magazine adverts or editorial. The last one if you can get your articles published it will cost you nothing and likely they will even pay you. Actually, publishing is so easy these days and you can do it online yourself via blog posts and articles for free on your own websites and others because everyone needs a good content. It can be very effective and non-expensive if done properly. But this also requires resources, such as people, cash, a lot of time and for the best results it needs to be done continually.
- Legwork. What do I mean by that? It is simple; when you walk or drive you do the work of observing what you are passing by. This is a very good exercise leading to direct contact with owners, allow you to familiarize with an area, make notes and take pictures. Always you can stop and knock the door or ask someone on the street or a neighbour for information about something you found interesting. Those details you will process later for example by returning to point 8 the Land Registry to retrieve the deeds; going to the local council website to search for any planning application and in what designation area this plot is located (conservation?, regeneration? etc.).
Bonus. There is a very useful website by Land Technologies the www.landinsight.io
They work very closely with licensed data suppliers: Land Registry and Licensed Mapping as well as local authorities. In practical terms this means that you have a clever tool in your hands which let you get plenty of details in one place for your DD. This includes: land owner’s data, land boundaries, planning applications, building’s heights, flood risk, listed buildings, OS Master Maps, property address and measurements.
You can also find sites with rejected planning applications. I guess you suspect where I’m going to. This information can be very useful because you can approach the owner and offer the price for it. If you know how an application can be improved it is your spot to make some cash.
But there is a price to it. This website is not cheap. Affordable for basic information but expensive if you want comprehensive details. Still, in my opinion the best source of critical detail and easy to use in one place.