What do you need before you can build your dream home? Why a home for your home of course. Finding a lot that’s right for you and the home you have in mind is not as easy as it sounds, and mistakes could end up very costly.
So what could go wrong? Well, worst case scenario is you end up with a piece of land you’re not allowed to build on. Or a perfect lot except for the slight problem that you can’t actually access it from the nearest road. Or you end up building your perfect home on your perfect lot only for it to flood come the rainy season.
But don’t despair. Here we cover all the important things you need to consider when you’re looking for your perfect lot. So you can get it right first time.
Step 1: Location, location, location
It may be a cliché, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that location is the first – and arguably most important – decision you need to make.
Three factors may influence your choice: what kind of setting you want for your new home, what type of community you want to live in and what constraints you have. For example, do you want to be able to walk to the local shops? What are the schools like? How will you get to work?
It’s likely that you’ll have to prioritize which of these criteria are most important to you in order to find a lot that meets your needs and budget.
If you’re moving to an area you don’t know, this adds another layer of complexity and research. Once you’ve got a shortlist of areas, drive around them at different times of day to get a real feel for the neighborhood.
Step 2: Do your homework
So you’ve decided where you want to live and lo and behold, there’s a lot for sale! But before you wade in and start negotiating, do your homework on the site.
First up, not all lots will have permission for residential development. So make sure you can actually build your home on the site. Getting this wrong is a costly mistake.
Next, avoid disaster (quite literally) by running a couple of basic internet searches:
- Love the river view? Check if your lot is in a known flood zone before it starts raining and the river levels rise.
- The EPA’s radon map gives an overview of radon risk areas across the U.S.
- Depending on where you’re living, you may also need to consider earthquake, tornado or hurricane risk.
If your perfect lot is located in a hazard area, that doesn’t mean you have to rule it out. But it may affect the design of your home and add cost, both to the build and in buying insurance.
Finally, have a look around the local area. Thanks to Google maps you can do this from the comfort of your sofa. Satellite images and street views may reveal a few unpleasant secrets you want to know before you buy; such as the sewage works half a mile upwind.
Step 3: Work out what proportion of your budget you want to spend on your lot
Don’t underestimate the cost of buying and preparing a lot for your build. You have two main options: buy a developed lot, which will be pretty much ready to build on (utilities included), or buy an undeveloped parcel of land which you will then need to clear and prepare. You’ll pay a premium for a developed lot, but it will be less hassle and may work out cheaper in the long term.
Whichever option you choose, here’s a useful checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered.
Step 4: Don’t ignore the legalities
Legal papers may not be the most exciting part of building your dream home, but it’s important to get them right. These are just some of the legalities you may need to consider:
- Title insurance is basically a shield against legal complications involving your property. It’s not necessarily required when you’re buying a lot, but some mortgage providers may recommend it as added protection.
- Many lots may have covenants attached. These are rules covering everything from what you can build to whether you can hang out your laundry. However what applies to you also applies to your neighbor, so they’re not all bad.
- A remote lot may seem a bargain, but if it’s landlocked (i.e. doesn’t extend to the nearest road) you can end up in a tricky position. (Unless you’re looking to commute – and build – via helicopter, in which case, good luck to you.) You’ll need to obtain an easement – a right to access across your neighbor’s land. Look into this and gain an express easement prior to purchase.
- When you view your plot of land on a map (or plat) it isn’t always immediately obvious how the boundaries fit with the lie of the land. A professional survey will mark out the exact boundaries of your plot of land so you can be a hundred percent sure what you’re buying.
Step 5: Think about the bare necessities – utilities
One thing no home can do without is utilities. However basic your lifestyle, you need power, water, and some way to dispose of wastewater. Most people would also agree that telecoms are also an essential component of modern day life.
How you approach utility installation will generally be driven by the location of your site. If you’re in a built-up area, connecting into mains services is usually the easiest option. Just call up the utility companies, fill in some forms and hand over a large cheque.
If you’re in a more remote area, things may not be quite so easy. It’s possible to live completely off-grid, but it takes a lot more thought. Most off-grid homes use a combination of renewable energy generation with battery storage and a backup generator, with a well or rainwater filtration system for water.
Septic systems are common for houses that aren’t able to connect to the main sewerage system. If this is the case for your lot, then make sure you carry out a perc test before you set your heart on a plot of land. This measures the absorption rate of the soil – if your lot doesn’t pass the test, then you may have to limit the size of your new home. Worst case scenario: no home at all.
Step 6: Make sure it’s the right lot for the house you want to build
You may have found the perfect lot, but is it the right lot for the home you want to build? If you want a double height lounge with floor to ceiling windows, but your lot is on a north-facing, windswept hillside, you could end up with a very cold home.
To assess this properly, get out on the ground and have a walk around your lot. Work out the predominant wind direction and how sheltered your property will be. Think upwards too; try and work out what things will look like from second-floor windows and how that may affect the design and position of your home.
Take your builder with you if you can; they’ll be able to assess the impact of all those boring-but-very-important site conditions such as soil type and drainage. So you can make sure that the lot you love is perfect for your dream home.
Once you’ve found your perfect lot, the next thing you need is a general contractor to manage your build. Why not give us a call and see how we can help you build your dream home?