An essential part of the process of building a new custom home is finding the perfect property. The location of your home determines your property taxes, school districts, neighborhood amenities, HOA regulations, and local permitting requirements. The characteristics of the land will also influence the design of the home based on the size of the lot, setbacks, connections to utilities, and other considerations. Whether you want to live in an urban neighborhood with close neighbors or on a secluded wooded lot, there is a lot to think about when looking for land.
Lynn Tribon, our Director of Market Development, has some advice for people who are searching for the right location to build a new home. With 20 years of experience at Adair Homes, Lynn has seen it all. Here’s what she has to say about finding the perfect lot for your new custom home:
Where to Start
Lynn recommends that you start by defining your ideal location. This doesn’t have to be a specific street or neighborhood, it just has to have some definition. For example, you could be interested in a specific school district, a certain town, or even a radius around a town. Once you have figured out where you want to be, find a real estate broker who specializes in land sales in that area. Working with a realtor who focuses on land sales provides several advantages. For example, they often know about available properties that aren’t listed, and they use techniques to find property owners who may be willing to sell their lots.
To start searching on your own, get on the email list of a real estate website. You can enter your parameters and get daily emails showcasing new properties on the market. Craigslist, Facebook, and Zillow are great places to look for properties that are being sold by owners and not through real estate brokers.
What to Worry About
Not every available lot is suitable for building or for every budget, so it’s important to be aware of the possible challenges before you buy. Lynn has flagged these four potential pitfalls to watch out for:
Utility accessibility: If a lot you are considering does not already have utility connections on the site, get estimates from local providers before you buy so that you understand the costs.
Zoning: Make sure the land you’re interested in is appropriately zoned for residential buildings. Although it’s sometimes possible to get zoning exceptions, it’s important to know what’s possible before you commit to purchasing.
Permitting: Get information about wind ratings, snow loads, easements, protected areas, and whether the land is in a flood plain. Understanding the associated permitting requirements will help you learn about any additional costs and potential delays.
Footprint limitations: Understand where on the lot you are able to build so you know you can get the home you want. For example, small lots might require a narrow floor plan, and even large lots might only be suitable for building within a specific area.
How to Protect Yourself
You can’t always get all of the necessary information before you make an offer on a lot. To protect yourself, include a 30-day time frame for due diligence when you make the offer. Use this time to seek professional advice so you can determine whether the land is right for you and your budget. If you determine that you are able to buy the land and build the home you want on it, move forward with the purchase. If you learn that site development costs will be too much or the permitting process will be too difficult, you don’t have to follow through with the sale.
When to Start Looking
Every situation is different, but Lynn recommends allowing four to six months for the land search process. You might find a suitable lot within the first week, or it could take several months. Don’t get discouraged if it feels like it’s taking a while. Lynn says, “This is one of those areas where perseverance wins the race.”
When to Start Building
After you purchase a lot, the building process won’t start immediately. You might have to secure financing for building the home, and the local permitting process timeline varies significantly across jurisdictions. Talk to the local authorities about what you want to do on the land, which permits are required, and how long the process usually takes. While you’re doing this, you can work with your builder to determine the construction timeline after all the site development work has been completed.
A Bonus Tip from Lynn
Many people look for an empty lot to build a new home on, but this isn’t the only option. Lynn recommends seeking out properties that have older manufactured homes on them. If you find one in the right location you can demolish, scrap, or sell the existing home to create space for a new construction. A lot like this comes with the benefits of existing connections to utilities, access to the site, and often an easier permitting process because it is a replacement home.
Take the Time to Find the Perfect Location
Lynn’s final piece of advice is to avoid getting locked into artificial time restrictions and to take all the time you need to find the property that is right for you. Building a new custom home is a lifetime investment, and it’s worth spending the time to do it right. Adair Homes will be here whenever you’re ready to take the next steps, so contact us anytime with questions.