Knowledge Hub
for Growth

Selling land for development

Selling land for development can be a lucrative opportunity for landowners looking to capitalise on the increasing demand for housing and commercial properties. Navigating the complexities of the development process and ensuring a successful sale requires careful planning and consideration.

In this article, our experienced commercial property solicitors walk you through the main steps involved in selling land for development, including some important considerations to protect yourself legally during the process.

Can I sell my land to developers?

Landowners have the option to sell their land to developers (or any interested parties) for various types of development projects, such as residential, commercial, or mixed-use developments. You might even consider entering a joint venture with a developer. In this situation, you provide the land, while the developer provides the project expertise and resources. It is worth consulting with a commercial real-estate agent or commercial property lawyer to understand development potential and ensure you get the best deal.

How much is my land worth?

Several factors can determine the value of your land such as location, size, local planning policies, market demand and current climate, proximity to utilities and infrastructure, and overall development potential. Environmental factors can also affect the value of land and impact the price buyers are prepared to pay for it, for example  potential flooding risk or site contamination. You can look up recent sales of similar properties in the area or consult with local real estate professionals to get a better idea.

Is it better to sell land with planning permission?

With planning permission: Selling land for development with planning permission in place typically commands higher prices compared to selling land without it. This is because it reduces risk and increases certainty for potential buyers about what can be built on the land and to what extent. It also saves time and money for the buyer in making the planning application, and markets well to developers looking for ready-to-go projects.

Without planning permission: Selling land without planning permission as the landowner means the costs and efforts of the planning application may fall on you or you may have to consider structuring the deal accordingly. It can also limit the pool of potential buyers, including individuals or smaller developers who may not be willing to take on the risk of obtaining planning permission themselves. It’s wise to consult with professionals to help make an informed decision based on your goals and the current market environment.

How to sell land for development

Selling land for development is a step-by-step process and starts with making initial enquiries with commercial real estate agents, applying for and obtaining planning permission (if that’s your chosen route to sell) and setting an achievable selling price. In may be the case that a developer has approached you unilaterally, it is still wise to engage professionals to help you understand whether the price and terms on offer are commercially sound.

Once a potential buyer has been identified, the parties typically negotiate and agree on the key terms of the deal, which is then written up into a document known as ‘Heads of Terms’.

Once the terms are agreed, your chosen legal team can take over the sale and purchase formalities to transfer your land to the developer, or formalise the option, promotion or joint venture agreement, depending on how you have chosen to structure the deal.  

How do I negotiate the best deal when selling development land?

Every deal is different and largely dependent on the respective parties' circumstances and prevailing market conditions. It is best to consult with legal and property experts to agree your negotiation strategy; with clear objectives and outcomes. By identifying your flexibility, limits and bottom line on matters such as price, payment structures, timelines and contingencies, you can then approach negotiations from a position of strength and certainty – knowing where to compromise or walk away if necessary, while ensuring your overall interests in the transaction are met.

What is the typical timeline for selling land for development?

It can take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year and beyond to sell land for development, depending on multiple factors, including:

  • Planning applications and appeals
  • Due diligence processes and search results  
  • Scale and complexity of the transaction
  • Negotiation dynamics between parties
  • Whether the buyer is dependent upon obtaining and drawing down on funds or a cash purchase
  • The responsiveness of the other parties’ solicitor in general

Do you have to use a solicitor to sell land?

While using a solicitor is not mandatory for selling land, it is highly recommended that you instruct a legal professional who can provide you with valuable guidance, ensure compliance with regulations, and protect your interests throughout the sale transaction. They will help guide you through the process, ensuring your commercial and legal interests are protected through contract drafting, responding to the buyer’s enquiries, negotiating terms, and resolving any legal issues that may arise.

How can I protect myself legally during the land sale process?

To protect your legal and commercial interests during the sale process, it is important to gather and supply full, accurate and up to date documentation that you hold relating to your land, and any relevant details / information about the same.

Replies to Enquiries: In most cases, you will be asked to complete responses to standard commercial property enquiries (known as CPSEs). These are a set of standard pre-contract enquiries raised by potential buyers about the land in question covering a wide range of topics such as planning information, environmental matters, compliance with regulations, and other important aspects related to the property. From the buyer’s perspective, it helps them to understand the key details and potential risks associated with the transaction. As the seller and legal owner of the land, you have an obligation to provide accurate and complete responses to enquiries raised by the buyer to the best of your knowledge, including any known issues or defects. Your chosen solicitor can help you go through these questions, and how best to deal with any grey areas. Ultimately, you want to protect yourself from any disputes further down the line such as legal action by the purchaser for misrepresentation. In order for such a claim to have merit, the buyer would need to prove that you had knowingly and deliberately withheld key information about the property or provided misleading / inaccurate responses. You should also ensure that any changes or new information that becomes available during the sales process is communicated.

Deposits and Exchange: Other ways to secure your interests in the transaction include retaining a deposit from the purchaser to show a commitment to the transaction and moving at a good pace towards exchange of contracts, which is when the deal becomes legally binding.

Expert Legal Advice: Instructing trusted legal advisors with experience handling land development sales can help you navigate any complexities and mitigate potential legal challenges / exposure during the transaction.

Are there tax implications when selling land for development?

It is crucial that you seek tailored advice from a tax professional or accountant about your specific situation and land details. Some key points to consider when it comes to selling land for development include:

Capital Gains Tax (CGT): You may be liable for CGT on any profit made from the sale. The amount of CGT payable depends on various factors, such as your annual CGT exemption limit, the purchase / selling price of the land, and any allowable deductions.

Income Tax: If you are considered to be trading in land or property, the profits made from selling the land for development may be subject to Income Tax instead of CGT.

Value Added Tax (VAT): If you are VAT registered and opt to charge VAT on the sale of the land, this may need to be accounted for on the sale proceeds. It also means that you might be able to reclaim VAT on any related expenses.

Inheritance Tax: Although not an immediate concern, if you have gifted the proceeds from selling the land for development and pass away within 7 years of doing so - it may still be deemed to form part of your estate and subject to Inheritance Tax.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT): The buyer of the land will be responsible for paying any SDLT on the purchase price. They may factor the costs of this into their budget when it comes to the price, they are willing to purchase at.


Selling land for development presents lucrative opportunities for landowners, but it requires careful planning, market analysis, and legal considerations. By understanding the process of selling development land and engaging with the right professionals, you can protect your interests, maximise the value of your land and ultimately achieve a successful sale. Here at Harper James our commercial property solicitors possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in helping landowners smoothly and successfully sell their asset for development.

About our expert

Parmjit Gill

Parmjit Gill

Partner and the Head of Commercial Property
Parmjit Gill is a Partner and the Head of Commercial Property at Harper James. Pam qualified in 2004 and has over 20 years’ experience within private practice and industry. Pam is an expert in landlord and tenant law and has considerable experience in a wide range of commercial property work from portfolio management through to investment and development work. 

What next?

Please leave us your details and we’ll contact you to discuss your situation and legal requirements. There’s no charge for your initial consultation, and no-obligation to instruct us. We aim to respond to all messages received within 24 hours.

Your data will only be used by Harper James Solicitors. We will never sell your data and promise to keep it secure. You can find further information in our Privacy Policy.

Our offices

A national law firm

A national law firm

Our commercial lawyers are based in or close to major cities across the UK, providing expert legal advice to clients both locally and nationally.

We mainly work remotely, so we can work with you wherever you are. But we can arrange face-to-face meeting at our offices or a location of your choosing.

Head Office

Floor 5, Cavendish House, 39-41 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, B2 5PP
Regional Spaces

Stirling House, Cambridge Innovation Park, Denny End Road, Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB25 9QE
13th Floor, Piccadilly Plaza, Manchester, M1 4BT
10 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HP
Harwell Innovation Centre, 173 Curie Avenue, Harwell, Oxfordshire, OX11 0QG
1st Floor, Dearing House, 1 Young St, Sheffield, S1 4UP
White Building Studios, 1-4 Cumberland Place, Southampton, SO15 2NP
A national law firm

Like what you’re reading?

Get new articles delivered to your inbox

Join 8,153 entrepreneurs reading our latest news, guides and insights.


To access legal support from just £145 per hour arrange your no-obligation initial consultation to discuss your business requirements.

Make an enquiry