Can You Apply for Planning Permission Before Buying a House?

Obtaining planning permission is a process that most people associate exclusively with property they already own. It’s an important step towards making extensions and other modifications to existing properties, as well as building new sections. However, you don’t necessarily need to own the property you want to obtain planning permission for.

Can you apply for planning permission before you buy new property?

You can apply for planning permission before you buy new property. You’re not required to have already closed the deal before starting to plan for any changes you want to implement. In fact, it’s often recommended to start the process as early as possible – including before you’ve closed the deal – because obtaining planning permission can take several weeks.

In most cases, you can expect to wait at least 8 weeks for the approval of your planning permission. Sometimes the planning permission process can take even longer, up to several months, depending on the complexity of the project you’re planning. That’s why it’s a good idea to start your application for planning permission as soon as you’ve confirmed that you’re going to buy the property.

What should you do before applying for planning permission for a house you’re about to buy?


Make sure to verify what planning permissions are already available for the property before you start applying for your own. It’s possible that the current owners have already applied for planning permission that covers all modifications you intend to make. Your local planning authority can assist you with this.

Even if they don’t cover your list completely but only partially, you can still reduce your workload for the application process by verifying existing planning permissions for the property. You can easily do that through your local council. You can also request the planning permission documents directly from the seller, but it’s a good idea to go through official channels to ensure that everything is properly certified.

What types of modifications do I need planning permission for?

Even some seemingly minor modifications may require planning permission. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult a professional to ensure that you’re not missing any details.

Generally, anything that affects the overall structure of the house must be explicitly approved by your local council. This also includes tall fences and gates if they alter the layout of the structure.

Just because an extension seems small and insignificant doesn’t mean that you will be allowed to construct it without planning permission. Even internal modifications usually require planning permission if they could impact the structural integrity of the house.

Additions to the house are an obvious entry in this list. If you’re planning to build a shack, garage, or any other exterior structure, this must be approved in advance.

On the other hand, installing new lights or converting one of the rooms of the house to a different purpose doesn’t require planning permission in most cases. Simple renovation work, like decorative changes and window replacements, also doesn’t need explicit permission. You may sometimes even be allowed to modify additional floors of the house without special permission.

Does it always make sense to apply for planning permission before buying a house?

Interior house

If you are sure that you’re going to buy this house, and you’re also sure about the changes you want to make to it after the purchase, applying for planning permission before you close the deal is always a good idea.

Submitting your planning application in advance will give you some more breathing room when planning your modifications and additional construction, and it will also give you an early warning from your local authority about any barriers you might encounter along the way.

Don’t waste any time and start preparing your application for planning permission as soon as you’ve sorted out all relevant details. Sometimes, obtaining the permission itself can take longer than closing the whole deal on buying a house. Timing is of crucial importance when making a purchase like that, and you should do everything in your power to minimize the time you need to get started on your new project.


Hampstead Office

Hamstead Architect