I spent a long time reading articles on how to find a plot and initially I was very confident. So I set out on a multi-pronged plot finding assault on southern Hampshire. Unfortunately it proved more difficult than I had hoped.
Finding a plot anywhere in the country can be hard but the south-east is one of the more challenging areas. There is little easily obtainable ‘free land’ for the self builder and it takes significant persistence to find anything at all. Much of the land falls into the hands of developers and small plots suitable for self build are rare, expensive and sell very quickly.
Every day I’d check the various online resources advertising land for sale ready to pounce should an opportunity present itself. I’d already sold my house in the midlands and was (and still am) living with family in Hampshire. I had looked into finance and did not envisage any issues – that was a huge mistake but I will explain that one to you a little later.
Given advertised plots were very limited I contacted all the local estate agents and some were very helpful. I did view a couple of potential knock down and rebuild sites as well as a couple of plots but unfortunately didn’t get lucky. Interestingly I came across several really fantastic plots but due to property prices in the area they were well beyond my means. It seemed there was a real lack of lower to midrange price plots on the market.
I drove round at weekends looking for potential plots leaving letters and knocking on doors. I asked friends, family and work colleagues to let me know if they spotted any potential opportunities. I contacted the council to see if they could help. I spoke with builders, landowners and looked at local planning applications. I even spent hours looking on Google Earth to spot potential plots.
While my hit rate was like playing darts in the dark at a hundred yards something very positive started to happen. I was becoming good at finding plots and understanding them better. The turning point was a session on Google Earth. I had identified a possible plot – a large side garden in a residential area. Two days later I drove to the area to investigate. I was two years too late. Three new houses sat comfortably on the plot. Yes I had missed the boat but it gave me confidence and I refused to give up despite my many months of fruitless searching.
Soon after one of my letters had a positive strike – my assumption of a possible building plot next to a bungalow had been correct. The owners had obtained planning and the original buyer had pulled out. It was a pleasant plot in a good area and well under budget. I was very tempted but it did not give the future potential I hoped for and I knew I wanted more so the search continued.
A few months later I was checking for any plot updates online during my lunch break . Two new plots with outline planning had become available in an area I favoured and fortuitously I was working nearby that afternoon. I was able to view both plots that day straight after work. I liked them both and they offered more of what I was looking for than anything previous. The information I was given seemed to make sense, there were one or two slightly complicated areas, but I was given assurances these were all to be resolved shortly.
The next morning I put in a conditional asking price offer on my preferred plot as suggested by the estate agent. This was because some potential development costs were not yet known and the plot price might have to be adjusted down to accommodate these in order for it to remain a viable development proposition. Perhaps with hindsight this should have set the alarm bells ringing but I liked the plot and felt very positive and happy.
I had finally reached my goal the top of the mountain was in sight but how far away was it? Was it further than I thought?….