What are some of the key considerations when buying land to build my dream home?
You’re ready to build a home from the foundation up, completely customized and built to suit your needs – but that’s just the half of it! The land on which the home is built is one of the most important factors in the home – it determines the overall cost of the project and is the foundation (literally) upon which the entire project is built.
A few main considerations when searching for and buying land for your dream home:
- Verify the seller
We’re not saying not to trust anyone, but we are saying to do your due diligence – after all, this is likely one of (if not) the biggest investments you’ll make.
Make sure the seller is truly the owner/representative of the property. Request a copy of the deed or the option agreement that verifies that the seller is controlling the property.
- Check the taxes
Contact the county treasurer to verify that the taxes on the land are paid to current – if you buy the land and there are tax assessments on it, you’ve essentially bought that tax responsibility. If there are minimal assessments that you don’t mind paying, just remember to factor them into the overall project cost.
- Survey the land
Again – due diligence. Don’t trust the seller’s survey – do your own as well (and never listen to them when they say “it was surveyed by the county x years ago…”). You want to verify the lot line to ensure it matches the listing, and you want to verify the utility lines. In doing so, you will also determine the utilities, another cost for consideration.
- Determine Utilities
Power: are the power lines set in front of the lot, back of the lot, or will you have to run power line? Who is the power company servicing the lot?
Gas: are gas lines available to the land, and how much will the cost be to run gas lines to the point of the home? Who is the gas company servicing the lot?
Water: where is the sewage line tapped in? If you’re in a rural or isolated area, it’s likely you will need to opt for septic, but if you’re buying in a suburban locale, sewage is usually a more favorable option. A sewer line requires almost no maintenance (unless it breaks – which is relatively rare), while a septic tank requires a little more maintenance (they need to be pumped every 3 years and replaced every 20-25, but earlier if they’re not maintained well) and there are more rigid rules to follow as far as what can be disposed of through your water lines.
Note: soil is also a factor if you need to build a septic tank, which leads us to…
- Sample the soil
You’re about to build something very, very heavy on the soil – you want to ensure the land can handle the foundation you’re putting on it. Shifting soils and soils rich in clay or peat can lead to compromised structure in the home and will cause landscaping design to suffer. If soil isn’t optimal, you’ll need to factor in the cost of removal and replacement of the soil and/or additional cost of changes in construction to build a foundation, which leads us to…
- Consider foundation type and cost
The standard (and generally most cost effective) are strip and trenchfill foundations, but deep foundations may be built if soil quality is an issue. However, if the “deep” foundation would require going 2.5 meters are deeper, soil excavation is a better option.
- Check with City/County planning and zoning
Just because you’re buying land to build your dream home, and it seems like an area where other homes are built, doesn’t mean the property is zoned for residential use. Zoning also comes into play when it comes to additional items in the home – such as septic tank and square footage. Perhaps you buy 1-acre of land and think you can build your dream 6,000 SF home – but the City/County Ordinances state you can only have 5,000 SF of built residential home per acre.
- If cost is a consideration, make your comparisons
When you add up the cost of land, land and soil surveys, running of utility lines if applicable, cost of permits and plans, construction and contractor costs, and interior of home (one of the most underestimated costs when building the home), your price per square foot may be a lot higher than if you were to buy a pre-built home customized to your liking.
Seem like a lot to consider? Give us a call and we’ll run through all of these for you – we’ll make your dream home build easier.