Buying woodland - All you need to know
- The two main type of woodland available for sale are commercial and amenity
- On average, woodland tends to cost around £10,000 per acre
- If the woodland you are buying costs over £150,000 then you’ll need to pay stamp duty
Between commercial ventures, conservation projects and private buyers, the interest in buying UK woodland has swelled in recent years. What’s more, as the value of woodland has increased by about 8% per year for the past twenty years, it’s also become an excellent long term investment.
Woodland is a unique type of property that comes with its own particular set of quirks and considerations. But that doesn’t mean it has to be mystifying, and in this guide we’ll break down everything you need to know about buying your ideal woodland plot.
The two types of woodland
Woodland for sale in the UK generally falls into one of two categories based on its intended use: commercial and amenity.
Commercial woodland is pretty self-explanatory - it’s woodland bought for commercial purposes. Most of the time this is for timber production, but it can also include recreational uses like paintballing, outdoor courses and forestry schools.
Amenity woodland, on the other hand, covers any non-commercial usage, such as conservation or hobbyist forestry. You can also use amenity woodland for your own leisure if you want a private beauty spot to relax and reconnect with nature away from the city.
A small plot of amenity woodland can be an especially good investment for families. Planning permission restrictions mean you unfortunately won’t be able to build a home amongst the trees. But you are able to stay overnight in a tent or a caravan for up to 28 days in a year, which can make for some unforgettable family camping holidays.
Environmental benefits of woodland
Typically, the older and more established the forest, the more good it does for local wildlife. But it’s not only ancient woodland that does the earth good.
- Woodland soaks up carbon emissions (one hectare stores about 5.4 tonnes of CO2)
- It allows for more biodiversity in the local area, particularly if woodland management is properly upheld
- It can provide an important habitat for birdlife
- It can help reduce flooding and erosion
How to buy woodland
Finding the right site to buy can sometimes be a bit of a patience game, as only around 13% of the UK is woodland.
Once you’ve found your ideal plot, conveyancing will typically take about four weeks in England and Wales, or four to six weeks in Scotland. The conveyancing process for buying woodland is similar to buying other land or property. After you’ve confirmed your intention to purchase the plot, your solicitor will handle local searches, pre-contract enquiries, and send a transfer deed to the seller’s solicitor.
At the end of the process, contracts are exchanged and you’ll pay a deposit, before paying the full amount to complete the sale. Most woodland purchases are commonly done in cash, although it is possible to get a mortgage too. However, mortgages for woodland are a niche area, and as such are offered by fewer lenders.
If you’re buying woodland in Scotland, the process is slightly different. Under Scottish law the contract is concluded and legally binding once your initial offer has been accepted, rather than once contracts have been exchanged as in England and Wales. Yours and the seller’s solicitor will then correspond to finalise the details before the purchase is completed.
How much does it cost to buy woodland?
As is the case with any land purchase, the price of woodland will vary widely based on its location, as well as accessibility and the state of the plot.
About £10,000 per acre is a good average to start with. However, if you’re buying in the south east of England for example, where demand is very high, you can expect to pay a lot more than for woodland further north or in Scotland.
Access plays a key role in determining a plot’s value. For commercial woodland, a relatively cheap price might indicate difficulty getting works traffic on and off the site. For amenity woodlands, the most desirable plots are those that are secluded yet still within driving distance of civilisation, and that will be reflected in the price.
On top of the cost of the land itself, you’ll also need to factor in other fees associated with the purchase. Solicitors’ fees will normally cost 0.5% of the property value, and any searches that aren’t included in that will likely cost between £50 and £150. Recording land registry title deeds will cost up to £40 for woodlands under £80,000. If your woodland costs over £150,000 then you’ll also have to pay stamp duty.
A common annual charge that comes with owning woodland is forestry management services, although they aren’t strictly necessary if you’re able to maintain the land yourself. It’s also recommended to get public liability insurance — around £100 per year — to cover yourself in case someone injures themselves in your woods, even if they aren’t supposed to be there.
Whether it’s for commercial use or to relax among nature, buying woodland can be an incredibly rewarding venture as well as a great investment.
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