Thinking ahead to get the best price for your site

Thinking ahead to get the best price for your site

Landowners who dedicate time and effort to the design process before submitting a planning application are more likely to get a higher price for their development sites, says Brian Culank.

Last month I wrote about the huge number of benefits that selling a site to housing associations can bring – especially with some private developments stalling after the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

As part of this, I attempted to tackle one of the big mistakes that many landowners make when considering selling their sites: they believe that selling to a housing association would mean their land being valued at a low price.

This is not the only mistake I have found among landowners when working with them to develop a site to sell to either housing associations or private house builders.

Unfortunately, more often than not, landowners make the mistake of failing to spend enough time on the design of their sites before submitting a planning application.

This usually results in a planning application that fails to consider the wider property market and is often guided by the most simplistic principles, such as cramming in as many units as possible.

Unfortunately, these landowners may often have been given bad advice by those working with them in the early stages of site development. Sometimes those professionals working with landowners at the design stage do not always give consideration to the latest build costs and current appetite of the market for certain schemes.

In most cases, the initial submission will fail to clear the first hurdle of gaining planning permission – which means the landowner paying for more of the architect’s time as they attempt to rework the site to make it more palatable to the planners.

Even if a plot crammed with properties does make it through planning, the false economy of this approach will once again rear its ugly head in terms of an adverse effect on the land price and protracted sales negotiations.

Design and forward thinking is vital at the earliest stages of any development to make sure that the end user – such as a private housebuilder or housing association – is always kept in mind. If they are not, this will most likely lead to the end user having to change the planning to suit – meaning more costs and therefore reducing the price they are willing to pay for the land, as well as increasing the time it takes to complete the purchase of the site.

As well as potentially attracting lower sale values, sites crammed with more units also inevitably have higher build costs.

Rest assured, the housebuilder buying a site which is poorly designed will factor both the increased build cost and sales risk of such a development into the final price they are willing to pay the landowner.

I have lost count of the number of times where Bramble Estates has been brought in to a project after initial designs have been completed – and sometimes even after the initial planning application has been made– where the site is poorly designed and needs to be redesigned to gain a workable planning consent which in turn gives vendors the best price for their sites.

The solution is simple: landowners should work with developers as well as designers as soon as they are thinking about selling a site for development. This will ensure they have hard-won market-based experience guiding their decisions, rather than just gut feeling.

Doing so will mean keeping design costs down and attracting the best possible sale price for their site.