Negotiation on land

THE BUILD SERIES: How to put together a proposal to convince someone to sell you part of their land. by Tash South

After the very exciting email from the vendors that they may be willing to sell some of their land to us, we eagerly awaited our meeting.

We could tell from the email we received from the vendors that the their decision to sell the land would rely heavily on what we proposed to put there. Instead of just turning up unprepared at our meeting, I wanted to show that we had carefully thought out and considered what we would propose to build in their back garden. So I got straight to work on a detailed proposal that we would present to them when we met. Having purchased the site plan on the Land Registry website I was able to roughly see how big the house could possibly be, and where the division of the garden between our land the vendors' would be.

Study your site plan carefully and work out the best proposal to put forward.

When putting together the proposal, I thought carefully about what I would allow someone to build in my back garden if I was in the vendors' position. I noted all these down, for example;

1. I wouldn't want a house that was higher than any of the other surrounding houses
2. I would want any overlooking to be at a minimum, or reduced wherever possible
3. I would want the new house to not be built right up to the shared boundary and be imposing

Taking the these three main points into consideration I decided to propose a modest family house. The height was kept low - even lower than the neighbouring house. I also showed clearly that we wanted a rear garden - this meant that our gardens would back on to one another, giving both properties some breathing space, reducing the feeling of any imposition.

To address the overlooking issue, I spent time researching online and looking at various architecture magazines.  I saw, that on a some timber-clad houses, alternate strips of the timber were continued over the windows to create a louvre effect, I loved this idea and decided to include it in my proposal on the rear windows as a solution to reduce the feeling of overlooking.

Think about the small details that will make a difference to neighbours – timber strips over the windows create a louvre effect to reduce the feeling of overlooking.

Once I had put myself in the vendors' shoes, I started to work on what we wanted for ourselves, my list was as follows;

At least three bedrooms, one en-suite
An open-plan kitchen-diner
A separated living room space
A small utility room - for all that laundry and clutter!
A garden, it didn't have to be huge, but a must.

Once I had all the above points clear in my mind, I started to work on the rough plans and layout, the house would be quite modest in size, but because the land sloped down quite dramatically from the street level it fronted, there was an opportunity to create a semi-basement level which would form the living space and open at the rear onto the garden, giving us three levels in total. The remaining two upper levels would then provide the space for the bedrooms and bathrooms. We did of course go on to hire an architect, but for this initial proposal stage, I decided to draw up the rough layouts and plans myself.

An open-plan kitchen-diner like this one is a must for me! Image Credit.

I included all the necessary drawings and details in the proposal, as well as a rough timeline showing the estimated time it would take to construct the house, once all the legal elements were completed - we naively estimated that the legal processes should be completed within about four to five months, and the house would be built in twelve. Which I'm sure you're not surprised to hear took way, way longer than that! Bear in mind that this happened in May 2014 and we are now in September 2016 and we are still tied up in legalities. Well, no-one said it would be easy! So be warned, the legal and planning process can take a long time, this is of course dependent on individual circumstances as well, but it really wouldn't hurt to factor in extra time for legalities to avoid disappointment.

We met with the vendors on a Saturday in May 2014, to find a lovely couple, who seemed just as excited about the prospect of creating a new home as we were. We sat down with them in their gorgeous home and discussed our proposal in detail, which I had printed out and taken along. They were very enthusiastic about it, and we only hoped that they would agree to sell us the land. We had a long conversation about what we might expect from the process, but neither of us had done this before! We left them to think about our proposal and their decision, we agreed that they would get back to us on whether they would accept our proposal and agree to sell us the land, and also their price... we had given them an indication on what we were prepared to pay by this point.

The next few days were tense, we waited and waited, checking our email inboxes way to frequently! Then finally a response - they had agreed to sell to us! Amazing news! We were beyond excited, even though the price they had asked for the land was more than we expected by about £15,000, we decided that we would stretch to the asking price for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So, with everythIng agreed in principle, we wondered, 'where do we even start?'

Next time on the Build Blog, I'll delve more into the process and legalities of buying a plot of land. Boring, I know! But if you want to do this too, there is no escape from it!

See you next time.


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