What you should know before purchasing land suitable for development - Palmers Solicitors

What you should know before purchasing land suitable for development

What you should know before purchasing land suitable for development

Purchasing land for development represents a significant investment opportunity but comes with its own set of complexities that require careful navigation. 

Whether you are a seasoned property developer or an investor taking your first step into the commercial property world, understanding the legal and practical aspects of a land purchase is essential. 

Our Commercial Property Supervising Director, Carey Jacobs, takes a look at how to prepare for buying development land.  

Research before you purchase 

Location 

The desirability of the land you’re interested in will often come down to its location. 

You should research factors such as property values in the area, local amenities, infrastructure, and future city planning initiatives before purchasing, as these may all affect your future development. 

Due diligence 

A due diligence process often involves a range of checks including land surveys, environmental assessments, and title searches. 

This phase is crucial to ascertain the viability of your development project and should never be skipped. 

Not only will it ensure that you know exactly what you are purchasing (including anything you should be aware of about the land), but it will also ensure that you are paying the correct price for the land too. 

Legal considerations 

Contractual obligations 

Once you decide on a plot of land, you’ll enter into a binding contract with the seller, making the land purchase officially legal. 

It’s crucial to have legal advice to ensure that the contract includes all necessary provisions such as contingencies for planning permission, any indemnities, and timeframes for completion. 

Land Registry 

The Land Registry process will confirm whether the seller has the legal right to sell the property and that there are no undisclosed problems that could affect your development. 

Once you have purchased the land, you will need to register as the new landowner to HM Land Registry, ensuring you provide details including the land boundaries. 

Planning permission 

Acquiring planning permission can be a complex and time-consuming process. 

Sometimes, you can buy land which already has certain planning permissions in place, but most of the time, you will need to apply for planning permission yourself. 

There are three main types of planning permission: 

  • Full Planning Permission: For comprehensive approval of both the principle of development and the details. 
  • Outline Planning Permission: Approval in principle, but requiring further ‘Reserved Matters’ applications to provide details. 
  • Change of Use: Required when you intend to use the property differently than its existing classification. 

The process will require you to go through the local planning authority (LPA) in order to be granted permission and can take between eight to 13 weeks to go through, depending on the scale of the project. 

Something you may wish to consider is a conditional contract, as it can protect you if planning permission is not granted for your project, allowing you to withdraw from the purchase without significant financial loss. 

Stamp Duty Land Tax 

Upon purchasing land in England, you’ll be liable for Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), which is calculated based on the purchase price. 

The rate also varies depending on the value and intended use of the land, something which should be considered before purchasing land. 

The SDLT must be paid within 14 days of the transaction being completed and is usually done by your solicitor (you can do this yourself though if this is not the case). 

Risks and mitigations 

Market fluctuations: The property market is subject to change, affecting land values. Always consult with experts for market forecasts. 

Legal issues: Unforeseen legal challenges can arise during the purchase or development process. Employing experienced solicitors can mitigate these risks substantially. 

Final thoughts 

Investing in land for development in the UK is an enticing opportunity but requires comprehensive planning and legal advice. 

Whether you are looking at a long-term investment or a quick turnaround, understanding the landscape is crucial to making an informed decision. 

If you would like advice about purchasing land for development, please contact one of our expert Commercial Property team members today.