Buying a plot: The things they don’t tell you…

ground conditions - clay sand rock So you’re thinking about buying a plot for building on? Getting your numbers right at the start is critical because hidden beneath the ground are a number of costs that can be overlooked.

Land buying involves a lot of unknowns, and requires careful analysis, along with extensive research and number crunching. It’s crucial that you investigate or take advice on soil content, site levelling, trees, services, fees and much more – details that often get overlooked.

And the landowner isn’t necessarily going to rush to give you the information you want to know…

Six tips for when you’re buying a building plot:


Soil content

What is in the ground? What will you be building on? Are you building on clay, sand or rock? If you have shrinkable clay you’re going to have problems – either with shrinking or ground heaving. You’ll know that ground heaving is the upward movement of the ground caused by clay swelling in the wet. You need to counter potential cracks with piling, deeper foundations, compressible boards…

Sloping sites

  • Site survey
  • Specialist foundations
  • Site levelling
  • Soil removal

Projects on sloping sites always cost more due to the need for specialist foundations and/or site levelling – basements often figure in this scenario. Removing soil from site can be very expensive. You could be into retaining walls and waterproofing, deep drains or the installation of a pump if the drainage falls are against you. So involve an Engineer to investigate the conditions early on (or unless the view is amazing look for a level site!)


  • Proximity to property
  • Root damage
  • Height of tree
  • Water absorption

Trees (however few) may mean that the foundations have to be modified to take account of their roots. If the house is very close to the trees, mechanical movement can cause damage to their roots. A more common problem is the damage caused by the drying out of the ground during the summer months. The ground can move causing major structural damage to the foundations. To combat this you will find that you will have to construct very deep foundations, particularly with some high water absorption trees and/or where the ground is known to be shrinkable. NHBC provide detailed advice on this problem.

Connection to services

  • Water, gas, electricity, telecom, drainage
  • Proximity to highway
  • Location of the mains
  • Cost of moving services

The cost of connecting to local services depends much on your proximity to the highway and location of the mains. Are you allowed to build above the services. Be wary of moving services on site as this can be a huge expense. Make enquiries before purchase – always get a quote!

Site Acquisition

  • Solicitor fees
  • Land Registry
  • Local searches
  • Stamp Duty

Legal fees can easily cost you several thousands of pounds so ask for a quote from your solicitor before you start. Don’t forget to budget for land registry fees, local searches and of course Stamp Duty.

Finance fees

  • Mortgage or loan
  • Land valuation
  • Re-inspection
  • Early redemption penalties
  • Interest

One way or another the job will take longer – maybe 3 to 6 months…. So be realistic too about the time your project will take so that you have the necessary cash available. Mortgage or loan interest can quickly build up so the speed at which the project is constructed is an important aspect.

Once your project is underway, further fees are typically payable for re-inspection of the building work if you go for a stage payment option.

The LABC offer plenty of advice as well on the subject of building plots, take a look here.

So that’s the plot you’re planning on buying for building on – what about the cost of the build itself?

Our Design & Estimate modules will help you with the design and will give you the cost of the construction as you draw. For a fully supported instant 30-day trial of this integrated design and estimating process visit our download page.

Or to find out more call us on 0117 916 7880 or email us at and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.