by Rachel Lyon, The House Designers’ Assistant Editorial Director
When people get excited about building their own homes, there are those who choose the lot before buying a plan, and there are those who have the plan in hand before they have acquired their property. Whether the land itself or the house is more important is a personal choice, but at the end of the day, they need to work together to safely and effectively create the home of your dreams. As such, you must consider and match topography and the structure of your plan. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect lot for your build.
A subdivision has its own distinct advantages for new home builders. Most significantly, the utility hookups are already in place. That means you don’t have to worry about burying pipes on your time, and in all likelihood, there will be information for the neighborhood readily available. You should know which school district you’ll fall under, as well as the property tax rate. There could also be a homeowners association with fees, so be aware of what you’re signing up for.
If the suburban life isn’t for you, you’ll have to take into account everything that goes into rural residential property development. Figuring out wells and septic tanks, and finding which utility companies can provide service to a more out-of-the-way building site are concerns that will need to be addressed long before building begins. There are some beautiful lots out there that are worth the work, but the costs can really add up if you aren’t prepared.
No matter where you intend to build, there are some questions you should ask. First of all, make sure that the lot is actually buildable—there are any number of reasons why a piece of land might not be, from drainage to zoning. You’ll want to know if any of the land is a protected wetland or even a floodplain, if clearing trees is allowed, and if there are any other special restrictions. There could be rules about lot coverage—that is, what percentage of the lot the house can cover—and how many bedrooms can be built on the land. Dealing with the seller, and also with the building, planning/zoning, and health departments, it is in your best interest to traverse legal matters with an experienced guide who can help you along the way.
Match the House to the Lot
There are some basic types of lot you might come across in your search. Depending on where you are, over-development or the total lack of it can pose challenges as you look for the perfect place to call home. You’ll have to balance your wants and budget with what’s actually out there, so be prepared to compromise on some things. It’s entirely possible to find a workable solution that you’ll love, even if it wasn’t exactly what you wanted in the beginning of your search.
Chances are you’ll come across a number of lots that, at first glance, don’t look like much. Whether the land is on an incline or it’s an odd shape due to the division of the acreage around it, there are house plans meant to answer the variety of needs. It could be extraordinarily costly to flatten a portion of a sloped lot, and if you do so, you could miss out on some great views that such land could afford. Instead, try to find a house that complements the parcel. Narrow lots occur in all sorts of settings—from urban to rural—so you know that designers have created plans in every architectural style to fit the wishes of consumers. It’s just a matter of searching for the right plan—and if you happen to like the unique layouts that these more specialized homes offer, you’re in luck! It’s easier to find a lot that poses challenges than a perfectly pristine one, and that can work to your advantage in the end.
Ask a Builder
If you’re serious about a piece of land, ask for an opinion from a trusted builder. The costs associated with home construction vary widely by region, in addition to individual location and the topography that there is to work with. It’s wise to make a builder part of the decision-making process from the beginning, to help you zero in on the best lots from the start—an experienced eye will detect costly difficulties and help steer you toward a suitable piece of land early on. There are some things only a professional will notice, and it’s good to know about them before you’re invested in a lot that requires difficult excavation or special foundation considerations, or is affected by zoning laws that will necessitate that your plans be altered.
As you search for the perfect lot, be aware that there are house plans designed to work almost anywhere. And just as you may have found a great selection of house plans online, you can also use the internet to find your land. Search the classifieds and see what real estate agents have to offer. If you’re serious about starting construction, find a trusted builder and see if you can find a lot that is all that you want and more!