STEP #3 – LAND WITH A PLAN
Because there are so many things to consider when choosing your land, and many of the decisions are based on personal preferences and situations, we highly recommend that you start a list of your own wants and needs. In addition, having a builder working with you during the process can help you find the correct site for all your needs.
In order to provide you with useful knowledge, while not being overly simplistic, we will supply you with five things you must definitely consider when searching for your plot of land.
1 – Zoning and Restrictions
What are the restrictions to your property? Some communities have covenants, codes and restrictions that might not fit you or your family and you need to know the details. Below are a few examples:
- Are there restrictions on landscaping? If you like to do your own creative landscaping you might have an Architectural Control Committee that dictates what you can and can’t do. Look into it.
- Does your home fit the minimum home size? Some communities require that your home meet a minimum square footage. Can you afford their minimum?
- Some areas are zoned for commercial or residential use. When the tree-line out your back window looks beautiful right now, it could be turned into a shopping center or gas station in a few years.
- Is it zoned for a single structure? You might want to add a small guest house for your mother-in-law or workshop on your property. If it is zoned for a single structure – you would be out of luck.
- Maybe you will work from home. Would your neighborhood allow it? Is there a limit on foot traffic or signage?
- So you want a privacy fence. Are there restrictions on fencing in the covenant?
- Find out all the covenants, codes and restrictions and read through them thoroughly.
2 – Bird’s Eye View
Just because the land you are standing on seems to be perfect, you must take a step back and look at all the connections to your potential building location.
- If you have children, how are the nearby school districts?
- If you are working outside the home, how far is your commute and will weather impact your travel?
- How far away are the nearest medical services, recreational facilities, shopping centers etc.?
- Is there a railroad, industry, highway or well traveled road nearby that will create noise? Sometimes noise is not noticed during the day when awake.
- Write down your personal considerations or sensitivities.
3 – Utilities
Not knowing what companies are available to supply your utilities could be a critical oversight. Do not assume that you can gain access to everything you need and that the cost are the same everywhere. If you are far away from other homes you could be charged a large fee (sometimes really large fees) to have utility lines run to your property. If the land seems inexpensive, utilities might be the reason. Check to see how you can gain access to the following before purchasing your land:
Power – What will be required to have power supplied to your future home?
Water – Can you gain access to water from a utility company or will you need a well, or can you have a well?
Waste – Will you be able to connect to septic or sewer without outrageous costs?
Gas – Is there a nearby propane company or can a utility company provide you with natural gas or propane?
Phone – Although a landline is not important like it use to be, how many bars can you get with your cell service?
Internet – If you need to access the internet for your work while at home or if you children need access for school, you will need a solution.
4 – Property Setbacks
There are guidelines that dictate how closely you can build to your property borders, which could affect where you place your home or the size of your home. Contact your local building department or the homeowners association connected to the plot of land. Most the time you can work around the restrictions, but on smaller lots this is something you must investigate.
5 – Your Future Neighborhood
Last, but not least, try to picture what your neighborhood will look like in 5, 10 or 15 years down the road. This ties back to #1 & #2, but with a more skeptical view of how the future looks around your future home. When you picture the future consider how you would feel about the potential changes or how it would impact the resale of your home. Just because you believe this will be the last home you own, things change. Think of the worst possible scenarios and find out if there is something you can do to help avoid them from happening. If there is not, then you are buying at your own risk. Those risks could include a motocross track, shooting range, gas station, or liquor store next door or down the street. It might not be that dramatic, but it could be something significant enough to give you second thoughts. Don’t get caught up in the moment so much that you do not diligently investigate your future neighborhood.
In conclusion, your builder should walk the property with you and determine how much preconstruction work is required, such as the placement of utilities, a septic system and a driveway. Don’t be afraid to ask! Already own your land? Meet with your builder at your land to discuss potential issues and your plans. Plans for your home design and land must match. The last thing you want is to begin building and later determine that your plan will not work because one or more of the things listed above. Don’t own land? Most builders can help you find a site or point you toward a reputable real estate agent who can help. If you use a real estate agent, be sure to include your builder to help you work through some potential issues.
Here are additional things to investigate regarding your land:
Natural Resources Rights (Mineral Rights, Water Rights etc.)
Maintenance Responsibilities (Who is responsible for plowing snow on access roads or mowing next to access roads etc.)