Building a new home is an exciting process, but there’s a lot to consider. First and foremost, you need to find a lot to build your house on.
Ask yourself how close you are to schools, work, and shopping. Are there major highways near you that may cause unwanted noise and traffic? Take into consideration the short and long-term future condition of the location; think about the views now as well as 10 years from now. The trees around you might be young now, but when they grow and block your city view you won’t be amused. Most likely, the vacant lots around you will fill in and give the property an entirely different level of privacy or lack thereof.
Who Can Build on the Lot?
Depending on who the developer is, a particular lot may be exclusive to only one builder; meaning you don’t have a choice as to who builds your home on this lot. Your agent will be able to find out for you if a lot is exclusive or open to all builders.
Zoning information is available to the general public but can sometimes be hard to interpret. Ask your Realtor to research public planning and zoning restrictions for the piece of land you have interest in. This step should come very early on in the process because if there’s a new airport or commercial building site in your backyard in 3 years it’s going to affect your use and enjoyment of the property as well as your re-sale value.
Walk The Lot With Your Builder
Chances are you’ve met with your Builder about floor plans and elevation so walking the lot with them will give you a definitive answer to whether your dream home’s size, dimensions and layout will fit onto the lot you have your eyes on. The size, shape, and slope all come into play when figuring out if your dream home and this lot will be a good match. There’s no one better to give you an educated and accurate opinion than the professional builder themselves.
Ordinances, Covenants, and Architectural Committees
Ordinances and covenants will dictate how you use and enjoy your property. The documents themselves are usually extensive, detailed, and highly regulated. Examples of ways ordinances and covenants can affect you would include things like the ability to put up fencing, where you can park your vehicles, and what types of pets you can have on the property, just to name a few. Architectural committees have the job of approving things like exterior elevations, color choices, and square footage minimums. This seems a bit intrusive at first but they truly are put in place to help protect the integrity of the neighborhood as well as your investment. When your new neighbors want to put up a 20-foot hot pink fence and the architectural committee rejects it, you’ll be grateful for such a thing.
Another important aspect of researching your perfect piece of land is the ability to access it. Usually in urban areas this isn’t a sticking point; however, quite a few rural areas have pieces of land that require easements. It’s best to consult a real estate attorney for these matters as it’s extremely complicated and could gravely affect your use, enjoyment, and actual access to the piece of land you want.
A piece of land, just like an existing home, has title attached to it that you’ll need to have insurance for. Land surveying and utility costs are another aspect of cost-of-ownership most buyers don’t think about when purchasing land that’s not yet built on. Some lenders will require certain utilities like water and electricity to be installed and running even before you’ve built the home. If the property isn’t hooked up to city water and sewer and you need to install a well and septic system, it’s going to cost you. Don’t leave this to surprise; instead, outline the potential monthly costs associated with this particular lot and factor that in with your timeline to build.
You’ve already done a lot of research and you’re getting closer to committing to this lot but you have to jump through one more very important hoop: you need to hire and purchase your own survey. There may be evidence of a survey but you should spend the time and money to make sure yours is recent and accurate. A survey will tell you exactly where you land starts and ends. This comes into play when your builder decides if the land is suitable for the plan you’ve chosen as well as when permits are to be pulled before construction can begin.
Permits are a necessary evil during the construction process. It can be overwhelming to realize just how many permits need to be pulled, the costs associated with such permits, and the time it takes to schedule, complete, and pass each one of them. It may seem over the top and excessive at times but they are a necessary part of the building process to help protect you, your investment, and the safety of the general public.
Lastly, just because you see a ‘for sale’ sign on a piece of land does not mean you can assume you are allowed to enter the property. Call the number on the sign first and do not under any circumstance trespass onto the property, day or night.
There you have it! Lots of research needs to go into a vacant land purchase and things can get very complicated, but if you hire experienced professionals along the way you’ll put yourself in the best position to make an educated and informed decision. How’s that for a good foundation?