Buying land is one of the first steps in the dream home building process. This list will help you make wise decisions as you search for the perfect piece of property. You may already own the land, but there are still things to consider when it’s time to start building.
Reviewing this list can help prevent you from ending up with land that doesn’t meet your needs or desires. Before we started our dream home building adventure I had never considered several of these!
Is it mostly flat or have a lot of large trees?
Will they need to bring dirt in? Haul dirt out? This can raise the cost of your build. Are there a lot of trees, or if you live in the desert like us, saguaro cacti? Do you want to keep any of them? Check if there is a wash running through the property – if so this will have to be rerouted so heavy rains don’t cause problems for you. All of these things can add cost when it comes time to clear the land and prepare for building.
What direction will your house face?
Many people prefer to have north/south lots so their house doesn’t get direct sun light in the windows for the majority of the day. Depending on your locale, this may be less important than it is here in the desert. This is also something to think about when you are planning your layout and where large windows or doors will go.
How much land do you need?
We wanted a full acre. This would give us enough space to have all the “wants” in our dream home. Our wants included a pool, a shop, a garden area, a mini farm, and a yard for the kids to play. Quite honestly a half-acre would accomplish that. However, due to the nature of my husband’s business we also needed room for work trucks and trailers to park and we prefer these aren’t cluttering up our driveway.
You may be searching for multiple acres to create a homestead or you may be more content with ¼ or ½ acre lot. Just keep in mind that many cities and counties have regulations on how close to the road and to neighboring houses you can build. Those restrictions could end up limiting the size of your house if you buy too small for your dreams. Do some research before deciding on lot size.
What’s your ideal location?
I grew up in Little Rock, AR. You could drive from 1 side of town to the other in 20 minutes or less. If you drove 30 minutes any directions you would be in 1 or 2 different cities. The entire metropolitan area where I grew up is smaller than 1 of the suburbs of phoenix AZ.
Where we currently live it takes me over an hour to drive to work. When we move to our dream home location it will only take 40 minutes. That will save me a minimum of 2 ½ hours a week in drive time! There is also only 1 main road in and out of our current suburb. Which means traffic gets backed up often. Although the city itself is wonderful, and if we worked locally it would be an ideal place to raise a family, it just doesn’t fit our needs well.
There are other important factors besides commute time. Things like: Is there an expected growth in the area they may increase the value of your home? Would that growth take away from your ideal spot? What type of school district will you be in? What types of resources and businesses are near?
Could city regulations affect your plans?
We searched and searched for an already constructed home on county land. We want to have a garden, raise chickens, and even have goats. Many cities have regulations on having livestock in your backyard. Some cities have noise regulations, building height codes, and other ordinances to familiarize yourself with. If you already have a builder picked out they can help you find this information. Otherwise, check with your city development department.
Does your land fall under a HOA?
Home owners associations bring their own unique considerations to the table. Due to the nature of my husband’s business we needed an HOA free place to call home. Most HOAs don’t allow things like having work-trailers parked in your driveway or have specific rules on work vehicles. Others don’t allow livestock (we want chickens and goats!). HOAs can determine how often you cut your grass, what type of decorations you can add, or even dictate the color you paint your front door! So you may want to review the HOA before signing the dotted line for a new plot of land.
Are utilities already setup and which ones are available?
If you have your heart set on a gas stove in your dream kitchen you’ll need access to the natural gas lines. Not all property or homes have this as an option. Can you easily hook up to city water or will the land require digging a well? Have you factored in these costs to your budget? We found it can cost several thousand dollars to connect to city water services if your land isn’t already set up for it.
A previous lot we had considered did not have access to an internet connection. I found this baffling that it’s 2017 and there are still very populated areas that I wouldn’t be able to get internet in my house! Cell data doesn’t suffice for running a business out of the home.
A good tip here is asking your real estate agent to let you know the average utility cost in the area of similar sized homes to your dream home. When we were still searching for houses we found one where the water bill averaged $400 a month! That’s more than 4 times the amount we currently pay. The high cost of property taxes and utilities in that area is one of the reason we chose not to offer on that house and why we purchased land instead.
How long will it take to get your permits?
Ask your builder or contractor how long you’ll have to wait before you can break ground. Many cities or counties are quick but some can take months to approve your permits. Don’t be caught off guard! We had to add 3 months to our timeline just for permit approvals.
Hopefully asking yourself these questions prevents future headaches. What other things should you consider when buying land? If you’re looking for ideas for your dream home you can check out our first set of revisions to see what ideas you might not have thought about yet.