Development land for sale: 10 Expert ways to find sites

Having a solid strategy for finding your next property or development land for sale is key to being a good property developer. You need to establish a variety of sources to funnel the opportunities and development land for sale to you and a good network of people to enable a steady stream of opportunities to reach you.

The success of a project often starts with buying your next development land or site well. It is easily said, but often very difficult to implement. A property developer should have patience and be focused on buying development land for sale well.

With this in mind, this article will set out 10 excellent of channels in which you can find good properties and development land for sale.

  1. High Street Estate Agents
  2. Development Agents
  3. Property Websites
  4. Property Auctions
  5. Property Press
  6. Site Finding Agents
  7. Government & Council Sources
  8. Design Team Consultants
  9. Social Media
  10. True Off-Market

Using the methods above you will have opened a huge source to finding your development land for sale, but lets go through them all in a bit more detail where I can provide some actionable advice.

Lets get stuck in…

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1. High Street Estate Agents:

Love them or hate them, you local high street estate agent play a huge role in the property market and is an excellent source of properties or development land for sale, especially in specific areas.

A very traditional route, and one that works really well.

So what should you do..?

Well… you will have your acquisition and development strategy in place, ideally written in your business plan. You should take this information or ‘brief’ and start approaching all the estate agents in the geographical area which you want to operate in.

Ideally arrange meetings with the branch manager or if they have a development or new homes department then they are the guys to target.

Take them through your requirements in detail.

If you have a site in construction, then offer to take them round your site.

The problem with trying to find properties or development land for sale through estate agents is that they are such an obvious source. They will have preferred developers they will contact to sell sites to and to get into that inner circle can be difficult.

Look:

You need to offer an estate agent value.

Yes they might listen to your brief and take down your requirements, but I guarantee that if they get a great development opportunity (especially if it needs a quick sale) they will go to their inner circle of developers first.

Offer them to see your development sites, give them a chance to pitch on anything you have coming to the market or give them a guarantee to be retained as selling agent for any development land for sale they bring you.

So…

In summary… make a list of all the local estate agents, meet them in person and offer them value. Over time they will get to know you and can be a great source of development land for sale.

2. Development Land Agent:

A development agent is someone who focuses purely on development land for sale. These guys make their fees from selling and buying development sites, and some of them include large multi-national companies who also have high street estate agent offices.

I’ve personally found the development agents the best source for development land for sale, but only because I’ve put in some hard networking, done deals with people and have credibility in the agency world.

So much so, that I often get sent off-market sites and sites which need a quick purchase, because the agents will know me and how I operate. They will have confidence in me completing deals when I say I will. That is the value I bring…

This is the position you want to get to…

Similar to the high street estate agents, you need to meet these guys and get on their radar, so when they have a site coming to the market they send it across to you.

However, unlike a traditional agent, the development agent will often operate across a larger geographical areas and can act for buyers and sellers, not just the seller. This means that they have an incentive to sell sites on behalf of their vendors, but also find buyers for development land for sale which they are not instructed to sell.

As mentioned above, something which is very important with development agents is track record and credibility.

No development agent wants to deal with people who do not complete or chip prices on day of exchange. They want an easy ride (of course, as they get paid when sites are sold).

Personally this is the best source of development sites for sale, so put in the time networking and building relationships.

It will be worth it in the long run…

3. Property Websites:

Ok… so this is linked to the agents mentioned above, but its worth spending some time online finding the best websites which can provide properties or development land for sale.

The key is to setup alerts and notifications so that you have the sites coming to you when they hit the market.

I’ll kick this off with some recommended websites below:

There are tons more places to find development land for sale online. Spend a day or two purely focused on just this. Sign up to as many alerts as you can.

If these websites are agents such as Savills or Knight Frank above, get in touch with their development team, setup a meeting and let them know who you are.

4. Property Auctions:

Buying development land for sale or properties to renovate at auctions is an excellent way to pick up your next site.

This is a tried and tested method and can often provide opportunities well under market value, exactly the space we want to be operating in.

There are of course pitfalls with property auctions.

Make sure you view the property and inspect it carefully. Make sure you don’t get carried away with the hype of an auction and pay too much. Set your budget and do not exceed it. Do you research fully before even thinking of going to the auction.

But wait…

I’ll let you into my biggest secret with auctions, and the method I’ve used on a few occasions to pick up development sites.

It’s simply this:

Put in offers to the auction house for a site well before the auction day.

Sounds incredibility simple, but its so effective. Once the auction catalogue is released quickly get yourself a short list of the interesting properties.

Do you homework… research, run your numbers and get to a point where you have your ceiling price. Take the first viewing opportunity of the property to make sure everything is as it seems. Adjust your numbers with any findings from the site visit and the give the auction house an offer for the site.

Whats the worst that can happen… they say no..! That’s it…

But on the flip side, I’ve had many times when the auctioneer has suggested that the vendor is open to sale before the auction and then a deal is done.

Ever wondered why there are always ‘Withdrawn Prior’ next to some of the lots in the catalogue..!

If you buy the site… fantastic… if not… you are prepped and ready to offer at the auction itself.

Pretty damn good right…!!

5. Property Press:

The property press in the UK is still an excellent way to find development land for sale.

Its the traditional method and many development agencies still make a point of advertising all their sites. Additionally, you will find other developers and landowners advertising sites that would not reach you otherwise.

There are two main weekly press sources you should focus on:

Both magazines have various ways of subscribing, both print and digital. They also have regular newsletters which are sent out, so make sure you sign up to these.

I personally subscribe to the print version of the Estates Gazette and daily news alerts from Property Week.

An excellent source of not only sites, but general property news.

6. Site Finding Agents:

The high street estate agent and the development agents are the more traditional professionals working the development land for sale space, however, there has been an increase in specialist site finding agents.

A site finding agent will work exclusively for the buyer and take a fee for finding a development site for their buyer. Typically they will charge anything from 0.5% to 3% of the agreed purchase price.

They can provide an excellent service in sourcing land, and will have a far reaching network of contacts to source sites for you.

I would suggest approaching a few of these agents with your requirements and see what they can find you. There is zero risk involved as you only pay once you have purchased a site. If they ask for money upfront, then you know they are not to be used or trusted..!

7. Government & Council Sources:

The great things about public development land which is put up for sale, is that they must advertise the land and cannot sell a site off-market. There must be transparency.

This also includes other organisations such at TfL and Network Rail.

Make sure you are aware of where to find these sites. They will usually be advertised on local Council websites and they will use development agents to sell the sites for them.

8. Design Team Consultants:

If you have worked with a design team for a while, you will always encounter a situation where they will promote a site to you.

Architects, engineers or any other designers are close to the industry and will work with many other developers. There is often the case where an architect will have knowledge that a site they are working on will be, for example, sold once planning permission has been secured.

Although this is not a source to actively pursue when looking for the next development land or site, however, it is always useful for your design team to know and have in the back of their mind that you are actively looking for sites.

It may be a long shot, but don’t be surprised if a site or two pops up from this unexpected source.

9. Social Media:

Almost at the final source… and its not a traditional one at all..!

Social media is getting bigger and bigger by the day. More of us are using it and more of us are using it for business purposes.

Two such examples are Linkedin and Facebook.

Both of these platforms have groups and pages specifically for property development land for sale and property development related items.

There is, of course, a bit more of a trust issue with it being a new source of sites, however, looking at both Linkedin and Facebook… there are plenty of opportunities around.

Social media is only going to get bigger too. Its one area I would start getting involved with as it is the future…

10. True Off Market Sites

True off market sites involve going straight to a landowner and trying to secure the site.

This will mean there is no agent involved (although they can do the legwork for you), and the site is not being marketed for sale. So what we are doing here is turning the intention of a landowner from not selling, to that of selling.

We can do this in many different ways, including sending letters and meeting the landowners.

Development Land for Sale: Final Thoughts…

So there you have it… 10 fantastic ways to source your next development site (or first one).

There is no set answer for the best method, and a good property developer will be using all the options available to them to funnel sites.

This article also shows the importance of networking and building a strong network of contacts. Property development is a long term game, and as such it really pays off to build some long term relationships.

Get out there… network… meet the guys who are working in your area and do some deals.

Once you start getting momentum, you’ll be inundated with sites and you’ll be in position to pick and choose.

You also want to get yourself into a position where you are the agents best friend, i.e. the go to guy for all the sites they get. Its a strong position to be in, but take time and patience.

Also remember that the development site finding world is not all take, take, take… think about what value you can give to an agent or the source of a site.

Hopefully that has given you inspiration to find some new sites…

Comment below if you have any other methods for finding sites, and if any particular method is working well for you…

All the best,

Mike – Your Property Pro

2 thoughts on “Development land for sale: 10 Expert ways to find sites

    • Landinsights is certainly one tool of many that can help find off market sites, sites with planning or general development sites in the area you are looking.

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