THE BUILD SERIES: How we found our little plot of land in London / by Tash South

There are many testing times to get through if you want to take on building your own home, but the search for a plot of land is definitely one of these!

We became OBSESSED, but you kind of have to be though, to keep the momentum up. We’d wander around the area on the weekends, our daughter in her buggy, roaming all the streets, checking out every disused garage and tiny little pocket of space we spotted.
‘Could we fit a little family house on that?’ we’d ask ourselves over and over again.

We were on a mission to find our own little piece of London!

As soon as we’d see anything that may be viable, for example, a detached garage that could be converted into a dwelling, or the end of someone’s garden that stretched to the next parallel street, we’d get straight onto the Land Registry website to get the details of the owner.

An example of what we were on the hunt for - Tom and Sarah Tidbury's London house was built in the gap between two semis - it is just a smidgen over 90in wide! Read more here.

If you’re looking to do the same, the Land Registry website is your absolute best place to start – for a small fee, you can enter or search the address of the plot or property, and access the filed details of the owner, the title deeds, and the site plan. Be aware that the details can sometimes be out of date, as we found, and this is definitely a game of numbers – the more viable plots you find, and the more people you write to, the higher your chances of getting a response.

Once we'd retrieved the details of the owner, we'd write to them, our letter was simple and honest – we wrote that we were looking for a plot to build a family house and that we’d lived in the area for a while and would like to stay and be part of the community, and for our daughter to go to one of the local schools.
(You can of course just post a letter through the letterbox, but we found that quite often, the owner of the property doesn’t actually reside there.)

We must have written to at least thirty people, and out of those we had very few responses – probably only about four in total – the responses ranged from flat-out ‘no’s to requests for insane amounts of money! After a little while, we received two positive responses, but unfortunately, after a huge amount of back and forth-ing, they both decided not to sell in the end. The process became incredibly frustrating. After being knocked back, we didn’t give up, we continued our madness; searching on the weekends, sending out letters, one by one, as we found anything that we thought may be viable.

Set within south-west London, Kew House is an award-winning family home built on land where there were previously seven garages. Read more here.

One evening, my husband was out for a run, when he got back, he told me he’d seen another viable plot – the end of someone’s garden that stretched all the way to the next parallel road.
By this point we were not getting too excited by our finds anymore – but we went through the motions of our routine anyway: Find viable plot. Search Land Registry. Buy details. Send letter. (Repeat!)

Only to get a response within a week by email!

It said that the owners of the garden would be interested in selling - dependent on what we were proposing to build there - which was reasonable enough we thought, as we would essentially be building a house in their back garden! We emailed back immediately with our definite interest and agreed a date to meet.

After this exciting news, we excitedly awaited our meeting... in the next build blog I'll go into the details of the negotiation and the beginnings of the legal process of buying a plot of land.

I'll see you then!

 

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