Buy Land and Build Your Your Dream Home

After days or weeks combing through re-sale homes on the internet and systematically eliminating each one for this reason or that,  you’ve decided it’s time to build your own.  You’ll buy your own land, design your own home and include all of the features you want!  You’ll live the American dream! Congratulations!

But there is a little more to it than that.  For starters, when you look at land, there are lots of questions to consider before you purchase. One important question is:   Will you be able to build the home you want on the land or plot?   It’s a good idea to work with a real estate agent. They can help you avoid land that won’t work for you.  If your agent can’t answer all the questions about permits, zoning, etc., you might visit local officials and ask your questions. Educate yourself about the rules, laws and pitfalls, and learn from the experience of others who have gone down this path before you.

When you get vague answers to your questions, pay attention. Vague answers are opinions and not coming from an authority with knowledge. In real estate, only written commitments have legal standing. Know that most people (the seller or real estate agent) are well meaning and will give you information to the best of their knowledge. But it pays to get the most authoritative answers.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is the lot buildable? In other words, can you build your dream house on this plot of land?
  • Check to see if there are liens, rights-of-way, easements, covenants, or other restrictions that you need to know about before you buy. You don’t want to be surprised after purchase the property.
  • Can the seller give you clear title to the property?
  • Is the property zoned for commercial or residential construction?
  • If it is zoned for residential, what are the limitations for building a home on the property?
  • What is the setback requirement for a home, decks, porches, pool or other amenities that you want to build?
  • Is there a restriction on house size, lot coverage or any other constraint that would impact the construction of your dream home?
  • What construction is planned around the property? Will there be a mall across the street?
  • Check to see if there are building restrictions because of wetlands, frontage, steep slopes or other local, state or federal rulings that you need to know about.
  • What is the history of the property? Was it used for farming, and were chemicals used? Or are there possible toxic waste products that would require you to clean up before you build?
  • Is the property in a flood plain?
  • Will construction vehicles have access for equipment, or will you have to ask neighbors for access?
  • Will there be areas to level and fill?
  • Will the land require stabilization?
  • What are the additional costs that you need to consider, i.e. legal fees, title search, survey, water and sewer connection fees, utility connections, septic system and perc tests and closing costs? You may also incur variance costs and right of way issues.
  • In addition, permits, driveway variances, landscaping, land clearing, excavation and grading are costs to consider.
  • What can you expect for property taxes?
  • Is there fire protection within a reasonable distance?
  • What will affect your insurance rates? Flood plain? No hydrant nearby for fire protection?

As you assess the land, you will need to determine if you can afford all the land and development costs in addition to the actual building of your dream home?  Whether you purchase land, a home or other real estate, the process can be full of challenges.  Know what your budget is and work with your team to stick to that budget.

When you decide to buy land and build a custom home, take the time to find people who are trustworthy to help you in the process.  A good real estate agent will get the process started. It’s also imperative that you find a reputable, experienced builder who will take the time to discuss your plans and goals with you,  accurately estimate your costs and and timeline and then ultimately build a quality home that meets your expectations.