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Are you considering Building a House on Family Land?

It can be difficult to obtain funding to purchase a new or existing house nowadays. An alternative approach is to build a house on family land - for example on part of a large back garden attached to the family home…

Some of the principal issues in deciding suitability of a site are zoning, appropriate design, access, sewage and overlooking. This list is not exhaustive: there will be other issues of course too which will vary from one site location to another.

  • Zoning: All the land within a particular county council’s area has been given a zoning designation under their current Development Plan. The zoning of an area will tell you a lot about the council’s position on new housing. In an established urban residential area, a new house will frequently be permitted in principal under the zoning - however this must still be checked in each case, of course. On the other hand, obtaining planning permission to build a house in a rural area will tend to be more difficult and the applicant will often have to demonstrate that they have a genuine requirement for housing in the area. They may for example be required to demonstrate that their principal employment is in agriculture, hill farming or a local enterprise directly related to the areas amenity potential

  • Appropriate Design : The house will need to be properly designed too. In the countryside, this will probably mean that the house through its shape, extent, materials, siting etc.

  • Access : Proper access to the proposed site will be required. It will either exist already or it will have to be shown that it can be created. Proper visibility splays must be provided at the entrance onto the public road in either direction and the design of these will be influenced by a number of factors including the existing speed limit on the public road

  • Sewage: Normally a new house in an urban situation can be connected to the existing drains of course but on some rural sites an on-site treatment plant will be required. The site must satisfy certain criteria as regards size, water soakage rates, distance from streams etc. A formal site assessment will be required to determine this

  • Overlooking: It is important that the windows of a new house do not unreasonably overlook the back garden or bedroom windows of any existing house on the site or neighbouring houses. The Planning Authority tend to look at this issue on a case-by-case basis. However, typically, upstairs windows on the proposed house should not be within 22m if directly facing existing windows across back gardens. On a small site, careful design may be needed to design within these restrictions

Building on family land is a good solution for many people. The principal advantages are:

  • Cost: It may be the most cost efficient way of obtaining a house for many people as they won’t (presumably) have to buy the site. This can be very significant because, on the open market, the cost of the site will frequently be greater than the construction cost of the house itself. Construction costs for the house itself, in the current market, can be as low as €1,750.00 per square metre at 2017 prices. There will be other costs on top of this, of course, such as the Council’s statutory contributions, the professional fees, site work costs etc.

  • Social reasons: In many cases, it greatly facilitates mutual family support e.g. the support of aging parents /the babysitting of young children. You may simply wish to remain in the area in which you grew up of course.

  • Bespoke Design: It allows you to create a house suitable for your requirements. For example, you may want a low-energy house and not be able to find a suitable one on the open market.

S J CARROLL & CO ARCHITECTS can provide full architectural services in connection with your project. We can be contacted at or 086 8293293

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