Finding The Right Site for You

written by Tracey Sludds
Finding A Site For You Oleary Sludds Architects

Whether you are building your home in a village, town, or in the countryside, finding the right site for your dream home is an exciting time. While it is always tempting to fall in love with the first site you find, take your time to do it right. After all, this is the site where you plan on building your dream home and living in for a long time.

To help you we have broken it down into three stages; Searching for your Site, Checking your Site, and Purchasing your Site

Searching for your Site

This can be the hardest and most frustrating part of the process. But the time and effort you put in will be very much rewarded when you find the right site. Here are some basic tips to get you started on your way to looking for your site: 

  • Choose the area in which you want to live, making sure to be realistic about such issues as travel to and from work, local school access, local facilities and the potential future cycle of your family; like secondary schools, future work, entertainment, sports etc.
  • Before deciding on the area and wasting a lot of your time looking for the perfect site, make sure to check the local authority policy on local need in the area. You can check this with your architect or in the local authority development plan online.
  • When you have chosen the area you want to live in now all you have to do is find a site you want to live on. Approach the local estate agents for the area and introduce yourself and your family. Let them know exactly what you are looking for and more importantly what you are not looking for. Let them do most of the work, that is what they get paid for!
  • Drive around the area and just find some sites you like, whether they have for sale signs or not. Don’t be afraid to approach existing houses or local people and find out who owns the land and approach the land owner with an offer. Very often landowners will consider selling a site but might not have it advertised.
  • Keep an eye out for Outline Planning Permission applications. Very often this is a sign of the intention to sell the site if outline permission is granted.
  • Search all media options, such as websites, free-sheets, local shop notice boards, national and local newspapers. You might even consider putting a ‘Site Wanted’ advert is one or many of these media options yourselves. And don’t be afraid to start asking around in the local shops, pubs, sports events etc; person –to-person chats are a great way to uncover a hidden gem site, which might not have made it to market yet!  
  • Before deciding on your site make sure your architect takes a look at it. The architect will advise you on initial review whether the site is worth considering in relation to access, drainage, orientation, restrictions and problems which might occur.

Checking your Site

Once you have found the right site in the right area make sure you check out all its characteristics and restrictions before you agree to buy it. Here are some of the main things you should check; your architect should be able to do most of this for you, as this should be standard as part of their initial desktop study of your site:

  • Don’t be afraid to visit with your potential neighbours, not only to introduce yourselves and to ask about the area, but also to see if they have any objections or difficulties with anyone applying for planning permission on your site. This can prove to be a very informative and friendly first encounter and may lead to a life time friendship!
  • Check the site zoning and zoning policies in the local authority development plan. Each zone has a different set of policies, restrictions and local plans to comply with.
  • Check out the planning history for the site and other sites in the immediate area. Apart from this identifying possible problems for planning refusal you might find the previous applications have done a lot of the research work for you already.
  • Check the sight line requirements for the road and see if you will have the required sight line distances in both directions from your site entrance.
  • Check out all the site characteristics such as; overshadowing by trees and buildings, nearby rivers and their quality and zones, has the site flooded, was the site used for dumping of any kind, are there any protected structures or national monuments on or near the site, drainage potential and soil makeup, future road or development in the area, etc.
  • Check the utilities available and the works involved in getting them to service your house, such as ESB, broadband, Telephone, satellite TV, Water and Waste Disposal.

Purchasing your Site

Once you have checked all of the above (and a few more details with your architect during the desktop study) and are still happy that this is the right site for you then apart from designing your dream home and applying for planning permission, all that is left is to purchase the site. Here are just some tips on purchasing your site:

  • Request the owner to allow you to get a site suitability test carried out on the site to check the possibilities of a treatment system. While there are some unconventional costly alternatives to a treatment system, if the site fails the test it may not be worth purchasing.  
  • Ensure to purchase your site ‘subject to planning permission’. This means apart from a fully refundable deposit, you will not have to part with any money if you do not get planning permission. You can simply walk away with your full deposit. It is also a good idea to get this without time restrictions in case your planning process is delayed.
  • Make sure the size of the site you are purchasing is what is required under planning for the size of the house designed. A house design under 200 square meters generally require a minimum of a 0.5 acre site, while a house design over 300 square meters may require a minimum of a 1 acre site. Your architect will advise you on this.

While finding the right site for you dream build can be difficult, a lengthy process and sometimes disheartening, given what the right site can do for your future, the investment you are about to make in it and the build, the hard work and effort will be well worth it in the end!