There are a lot of factors involved when it comes to choosing the right lot for your new home. It can be so confusing to manage this process on your own, but we hope this guide to choosing a lot will help narrow down your options.
Depending on your needs, you’ll have different requirements than other people. It also depends on where you are in the home design process. Are you finding a lot first, or have you already decided on your home plan and need a suitable lot?
Local Flair & Amenities
Of course, the primary consideration for your new lot is location.
Do you need to be near schools? Having good schools nearby is both convenient, and will push up the price of lots.
Your workplace: Long commutes are not only inconvenient, they’re a time suck when you could be spending more time with your family or on your activities. Ask about traffic statistics at different times during the day.
Public transportation? For the environmentally conscious or those who are unable to drive, this is very important.
Hospitals: You won’t need one until you need one desperately.
Shopping: Make sure there is a buffer zone like apartments or a park and green space between you and a busy district.
Leisure activities: If it is convenient to get to the cinema, tennis courts, or dance studios, you’ll have more time to do the things that you love.
What is the neighborhood like: You will be living here in the long term, so you’ll want to examine every possibility.
What is the land use around the lot: Be on the lookout for any negative consequences like odors, noise, or unsightliness. Be proactive and check with zoning boards and other bodies to see what may be in store for the area.
What are your neighbors like: Are there lots of young children or older people? How well do they maintain their own homes?
Check what restrictive covenants are enforced, if you choose a lot in a subdivision. For example, they might set a minimum for square footage, or impose house design guidelines. To examine these, you should consult the county registrar of deeds.
Local Market & Resale Value
Excessive Neighborhood Listings: Are many people trying to sell their homes in that neighborhood? Find out why.
Value: What are the values of other homes? You want your home to be about the middle of the pack.
Tax Rate: Be sure to research the tax rates for the area. If you’re outside city limits, look into possible annexation. Taxes are usually levied at a percentage of actual market value.
Neighborhood Details: Other neighborhood characteristics to be on the lookout for are paved streets, curb and gutter, underground utilities, hydrants, and emergency responsiveness.
Be sure to know what amenities are available in that neighborhood.
Water Source: Municipal water? If there’s none, you’ll have to consider whether or not you want a well drilled and if this is even a possibility.
Sewage: If there’s no system, then you’ll have to see about installing a septic tank and drainfield. This involves a perc test. Usually if it’s subdivision, you’ll find out what the norm is and you’ll have to conform to that.
Other amenities you should check on are gas, cable, and high speed internet.
It’s important to look into the future of your neighborhood as well. Check for rezoning petitions, particularly if you’re near a major artery or you live on the border of a subdivision. If your lot is rezoned, and you’re willing to sell, you could make a sizable return on your investment. But that’s a lot of “ifs.” And even if you don’t plan to move again, you’ll want to think about resale value, just in case.
Quality of the Land
Once you get a handle on where the lot is, you’ll have to examine the lot itself.
Price: Buy the best lot you can afford. A residential lot comprises about 25% of the completed package value (house + lot). This is different if you want acreage or resort property.
Terms and financing: This is also up to your financial abilities.
Lot size and shape: Knowing what you’re looking for depends on whether or not you have your home design already. If you don’t have a plan, know that your house will look similar to other houses in the vicinity. If you have your design, take into acount front yard (setback), backyard, and side yard space.
Frontage: This is how much your lot “fronts” on a road, the ocean, golf course, or other physical feature. You may want more or less, depending on your privacy needs.
Slope and surface drainage: If your lot is not well drained, you’ll have multiple building problems and maintenance issues in the future. Slope can provide opportunities for basements and other features.
View: Are you looking straight into someone’s backyard? Is the highway just outside your living room window? Or is the lot situated on lush treelines or backs up to a lake?
Access: If you can’t get to your lot easily, what’s the point?
Easements: Who else has access to your lot and what for? Be sure you know ahead of time!
Natural features: Be on the lookout for these four factors.
“Active” soils swell when they absorb moisture, and they can cause serious damage to your future house’s overall structure. A soils engineer can perform a test for you, if you can’t find sufficient soil surveys for your lot.
This is a rather moot point, since most municipalities do not allow development in floodplain areas.
If there is a body of water nearby, do you have water rights and access to it?
If there are trees on the lot, you’ll need to examine them closely. Are they a low maintenance species? Will you have to cut any nice ones down to make room? Are they positioned so that they will work with the seasons and climate? If you have to clear a lot of trees to build, you’ll have to budget for this because it’s a very expensive process. You could, of course, receive some harvest value for certain hardwoods. And you might want to keep any fruit trees!
And before you make any final decisions, it’s absolutely necessary to research building codes for your municipality. Standard building codes like BOCA, UBC, or the National Electrical Code are the norm for most counties and large towns. However, some places modify these codes to suit their local environment.
This is a long list, but to be completely honest, it’s by no means exhaustive. However, there are no shortcuts when it comes to finding the perfect lot for you and your new home. For the first-time home builder, the amount of information to consider can be overwhelming. We can help.