The Site finding story
Site finding is a combination of a number of activities. We’ve done it for years and recognised as being good at it. It is not easy – that’s for sure.
Site finding is about identifying land / buildings with development potential usually off market and following through with the inquiries. ‘Off-market land’ is land not being fully marketed by an agent or advertised with a sale board.
For strategic land , it’s interpreting maps and looking at likely expansion patterns for cities towns and settlements. It’s talking to farmers and land owners agents also. It’s perhaps now trending towards a higher percentage of finding greenfield sites.
Criteria for effective sites is that they don’t flood and are not seriously undermined or have a ready access issue.
With housing land supply issues at last pushing up the political agenda, politicians really have no concept of how challenging it is to secure developable effective land at the right price.
Land owners are squeezed at one end by planners imposing Planning Gain (educational contributions, social housing requirements and other off-site contributions which are financial burdens to land) which reduce land price – builders have to reflect the higher costs in the land price. They will not accept reduced margins.
Site finding is about using your contacts. We have built up an extensive database of contacts over the years.
It’s about finding windfall sites. Windfall sites are sites which perhaps can be developed short term through a change of use. These may be ‘gap’ sites. For smaller sites, it’s about looking over hedges discretely. Many garages are developed and the industrial supply is reduced.
It’s about securing sites off market or just about to come onto the market on a limited tender basis.
It’s about building a data base of opportunities and keeping in touch with land owners. It can be building rapport with owners for a no. of years.
Now and again you may come across something which nobody is looking at. This is worth a lot to your client who doesn’t have time to make inquiries and chase up land owners who may be ‘absentee’ and make follow up inquiries.
Deal falls out or sites have been on the market for some time and then the time is right and you are there at that time. This is site finding. This is also worth a lot to the client.
Many sites have challenges e.g a ransom strip / title or planning problems which may require specialist input or referral to Lands Tribunal.
Successful site finding is buying a site and someone else says ‘’ Oh I drove past that but didn’t do anything about it as I didn’t have time’’.
Sometimes a purchase can happen quickly. We have recently turned an affordable housing site around in 6 months from an approach to the vendor as the whole team from funders to lawyers were mobilised quickly and planning permission was obtained in 6 weeks from submission. A record!
Normally with short term land , it can take 1 year to 2 years to agree terms with a land owner, get the lawyers moving , proceed through Planning with perhaps a pre-application submission , obtain all the site investigations and perhaps a wildlife survey which can delay matters even further depending on the season.