Buying a smaller property with a view to extending it - The Legal Issues

Purchasing a smaller property with the potential for an extension

Often when a family wishes to upgrade to a larger family home they will consider taking the option of purchasing a smaller home with a view to building an extension following the completion of the purchase. Often many properties will have the potential for an extension to be added or existing features such as an attic or a basement being able to be converted into more living space – usually a bedroom.

This is not only an option for families wishing to increase the size of their home but is also an option for individuals to get a foothold on the property ladder with a more affordable property in the current economic climate. They will then be able to add an extension onto the property in the hope that it will increase the value of the property when they come to sell it.

What are the other advantages in purchasing property in this manner?

The long term advantages of purchasing property in this manner is that it will not only enable the purchaser to save a considerable amount of money but will also enable them to be in control of the design and the quality of the building work.

Is there any risk involved with purchasing property in this manner?

When an individual wishes to build an extension planning permission from the local council must be granted.

There is therefore a huge risk involved in purchasing property in this manner as it is not guaranteed that the required planning permission to extend the property will be granted. This may result in the purchase of a property that is unable to fulfill the desired function and simply may be too small for a family.

What should an individual wishing to purchase property in this manner do prior to the property being purchased?

The planning department of the local council for the area in which the property is situated will be able to provide pre-application advice before an application for planning permission is submitted.

Can this advice be relied upon during the process of applying for the planning permission?

This pre-application advice is given by the planning department without prejudice. Accordingly this means that it cannot be relied upon in the scenario whereby a formal planning application is made and subsequently rejected.

Will any guidance on the planning procedure be provided?

A duty planning officer will be consulted when the formal planning application is being made.

What is the role of the duty planning officer?

The role of the duty planning officer is in giving guidance on all procedural aspects of the preparation and filing of the planning application.

Will the opinions of the duty planning officer be taken into consideration when deciding on whether to grant the planning permission?

The final decision on whether or not to grant planning permission will be the duty of the planning committee. The opinions of the duty planning officer are just that, opinions. The duty planning officer is able to make recommendations to the planning committee but ultimately it is up to the planning committee as to whether these recommendations are taken into account in the final decision.

Are there any ways to make the purchase of the house dependent upon planning permission being granted?

There are two alternatives available to an individual wishing to purchase a house with a view to extending the property. They are as follows:

  •       Immediate application for planning permission
  •       Offer subject to planning permission being granted

Immediate application for planning permission

An individual wishing to purchase a property with a view to extending it may be able to make an application for planning permission as soon as the offer for the property has been accepted. If the seller does not wish to sell immediately it may be possible to delay the exchange and completion process. However, this may be quite difficult if the sale of the property is part of the chain.

It may also be quite difficult to get the required information and opinions to make the planning application as soon as the sale goes through as much of this will need to be done prior to exchange and completion.

Offer subject to planning permission being granted

It may be possible to make an offer for the purchase of the property dependant on the planning permission being granted. This offers a no risk solution as the purchase of the property will only go ahead once the planning permission has been granted. Accordingly it is a common solution used when land is being sold to developers.

Is it legal for this to be done?

It is perfectly legal for this to be done as the offer will have to be agreed upon by both parties in the sale of the property. Accordingly an appropriate term will have to be drafted into the contract for the sale of the property.

What happens if planning permission is not granted?

If planning permission is not granted then the sale of the property will not go through and any deposit which was paid on the completion of the contract will be refunded.

Is this a common way of doing things?

This will only be able to done when both parties to the sale of the property are able to adhere to the time delay between the offer being accepted and the planning permission being granted. Accordingly it may be difficult for the purchase of domestic property when the property is involved in chain where a quick sale may be required. Consequently this may be a more attractive option for commercial property deals whereby land is sold for development.