One of the key elements in any custom homebuilding process is choosing the location. In addition to the school district, neighborhood dynamics, and proximity to your favorite places, there are also some technical details to evaluate when considering various lots.
The spectrum is large, and it runs from easy to difficult when buying and then developing property. On one end is an existing flat city lot with all the utilities at the street and no grading required. At the other end is a rural piece of sloped-acreage property with no existing access road or utilities. Of course, most properties will fall somewhere in between these extremes, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of the land before you buy.
Some of the factors to consider when evaluating properties for custom homebuilding include:
Every city, town, county, and state has different permitting requirements and regulations. If you’re considering a particular lot, visit the local jurisdiction to learn about the factors that could affect the permitting process, such as:
- Snow loads
- Wind exposure
- Seismic zones
- Forest tax deferral
- Slide zones
- Fire protection (sprinklers)
- Endangered species
- Native artifacts
- Stormwater management
The jurisdiction will ultimately issue the building permits, so they should be able to help you understand the requirements surrounding a specific property. For example, you might learn that a city lot requires your driveway to be a certain distance from the neighbor’s driveway. While it’s certainly possible to build the site design around this rule, if you don’t know it in advance, it could cost you extra time and money to change the plans. On the other hand, you might find out that the setbacks are prohibitive to the size of home you want to build, making the property unsuitable for your needs.
From Adair Homes' Construction Superintendent Jeff Stroups:
"Buyers should visit their local jurisdiction. This is a very important step before purchasing the land that is often overlooked and is an absolute must. The jurisdiction ultimately will issue the building permits, so they should be able to provide information in regards to flood plains, wetlands, setbacks, snow loads, wind exposure, seismic zones, easements, forest tax deferral, slide zones, fire protection (sprinklers), endangered species, Indian artifacts, storm water management...Basically anything 'weird' on the property. "
If you’re considering a property that does not get water from the local utility and there is not an existing well on the site, this can present a level of financial risk. A well digger will supply you with a cost estimate, but the water source might be deeper than predicted, which will increase the price. This step is also generally done outside of the construction loan for the property, so if you don’t have the funds available to dig a well, the lot might not be a good fit for your budget.
"If there is not an existing well on the property, this can be an another level of risk involved. I.E. The cost to punch a well is an estimate only, and you may not hit water at the estimated depth. This is also generally done outside of the construction loan for the property" - Jeff Stroups
If the site you are considering requires installation of a septic tank, it’s a good idea to have a percolation test performed to determine the water absorption rate of the soil. This will help you determine the best location for septic tank installation and the associated costs.
Find out where the electricity supply will come from. Some lots have hookups on the property, while others will need the local utility to set this up. This might require the installation of one or more transformers or utility poles and/or the extension of power lines, all of which will add to your site development costs.
A flat lot that requires little or no grading will have the lowest site development costs. On the other hand, custom homebuilding on land with steep slopes can be more challenging and is typically more expensive. Installing access roads, blasting, and excavation all contribute to higher costs, so make sure you know what will be required before you buy a property.
There is a lot to consider throughout the custom homebuilding process, and Adair Homes is here to help. If you already own land, we will come with you on a site visit to help you determine what steps you will need to take during site development. We also provide a free plot plan to help you envision your new custom home on the property. Contact us today to learn more about evaluating your location and the other steps in building a new custom home.