Buying Land or Property for Residential Development

Are you looking to purchase property or land for a residential development? Securing a site for property development brings its own unique set of legal and practical challenges

Are you looking to purchase property or land for a residential development? Securing a site for property development brings its own unique set of legal and practical challenges

Whilst purchasing property can be relatively straightforward purchasing a property or site with the intention of developing it for residential use is quite another matter. There are a number of additional considerations that you will need to give thought to at an early stage. Even though you are purchasing property for residential development, if you do so in the course of a business, you are, in fact, purchasing the property or site for a commercial use. Therefore, your obligations before, during and after development will span both commercial and residential considerations. Here is an outline of some of the most important factors that you will need to consider in relation to acquiring the property or site.

What is your plan?

Clearly the first thing that you should consider is what kind of property or site are you looking for and what are your plans with the property or site? Are you looking for a brown-field site with the intention of building 15 new high-end houses? Or are you looking for a run-down house for conversion into 3 flats?

Once you have a plan you will also need to put together a budget and estimate to check that your plan will work for you financially.

For more information on property development...

Please do not hesitate to contact an Everyman Legal Solicitor on 01993 893620 for a free discussion or email

Planning permission and consents

Planning permissions and consents can take a long time to obtain. If you cannot find a site or property being sold with the benefit of planning permission consider purchasing a property conditionally or under an Option Agreement in order to see if a planning permission is forthcoming before agreeing irrevocably to the purchase. This is a very common way of proceeding without actually committing yourself to purchase land or property for development as, if the relevant planning permissions cannot be obtained, the property or site is useless for the developer.


Obtaining Finance

The rules regarding mortgages on residential transactions are straight-forward but none of this applies to Debt and Secured Lending on commercial transactions so if you will need to obtain finance begin the process early!  In particular, you should note that in a commercial transaction one lawyer cannot act for both the buyer and their lender so there will almost inevitably be three firms of solicitors involved in the transaction, two of which the buyer will have to pay for.

Commercial Searches and Enquiries

Once you have founds a property or site that you want to purchase you will, no doubt, need to undertake a wide range of commercial searches and enquiries. You will need to know whether or not the site is affected by flooding, the presence and location of any existing utilities, whether any trees are protected (as, if they are, you cannot simply cut them down) together with a whole host of other information that might affect your development plans. See our commercial searches and enquiries page for further information.


Access to the site and rights of way

If the property you are purchasing is an un-developed piece of land then how will you get to and from the site? Does the site directly abut a public road or path? Or will you need to rely on a right of way? Does the right of way extend to all future uses of the site? It is a fundamental rule of property law that a right of way cannot be “enlarged” i.e. it can only be used for its intended purpose, so if the right of way is for the benefit of the land owner only and can only be used on foot you may need to consider alternative access routes or negotiation to extend the right of way if you need to allow it to be used by vehicles.

Roads and sewers and drains

Where your residential development requires the installation of new service media, such as sewers and drains, and the building of new roads, you will need to make sure that you have entered into agreements with the relevant public authorities so that these are “adopted” by the local authorities after completion of the development. In addition, it is important to consider where such service media and roads will be located in order that the relevant rights and obligations can be included in the leases or transfers to the future owners and occupiers of the site.


How will you sell the developed site?

Are you going to sell the freehold of each property, or a long leasehold? Are there areas of the development that will need to be managed so do you need a management company arrangement? The answer to these questions will depend upon the layout and type of development project. See Selling Residential Development Properties, Residential Leases and Property Management and Leasehold Enfranchisement for more information.

Considering the numerous legal complexities that development can bring to the process of purchasing a property or site you should involve a solicitor early in the process. If you are not sure what sorts of issues you should be thinking about take legal advice before committing yourself to any sort of costs or legal obligations as, otherwise, you might find yourself with a site that you cannot use for its intended purpose or with unexpected issues.

For more information...

Please do not hesitate to contact an Everyman Legal Solicitor on 01993 893620 for a free discussion or email

We had a very tight deadline which needed to be met and this was done in a professional manner. I was very pleased with the service from start to finish.