Posted by Melissa Lynn Galland on Apr 12, 2019 10:08:31 AM
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Building the home of your dreams is an exciting life decision. Of course, there’s much to learn if you have never done it before, but with the help of an experienced builder, the process can go quite smoothly. If you’re thinking of building a new home in Arizona, one of the first steps is securing land. If you already own a lot, there’s still some work to do. You must determine what you can and cannot do on the property and the costs associated with preparing the site for construction. If you’re just getting started on your homebuilding journey, here are a few tips for building on your own land in Arizona.  

Get Pre Approved for Financing

Even if you have a budget in mind, it’s important to know what you truly have available to spend before you make an offer on a lot. Getting preapproved for new construction financing will tell you how much you have to spend on the entire project, which includes the cost of land, site development expenses, and the cost of the house itself. Once you know your overall budget, if you have a floor plan in mind, you can determine how much you have left to invest in the rest of the project. When looking for land, remember to factor in the cost of site development because this number can vary widely depending on the conditions of the lot.

Perform Due Diligence Before You Buy Land

Not every lot is suitable for building, and even the ones that are might have restrictions that prevent you from doing exactly what you want. When you make an offer, make sure you leave enough time to perform due diligence before the sale is finalized. Even if the seller has provided ample information, it’s a good idea to confirm it because regulations might have changed since they did the research. Your offer can include any due diligence period you specify, but 30-90 days is a typical range.   

Understand the Lot Restrictions

When doing your due diligence, look into any potential restrictions surrounding the lot itself. This might include setbacks, septic system requirements, deed restrictions, or other zoning requirements. Check with both the city and county about zoning restrictions so you have a thorough understanding of what you can and cannot build on the site. For example, there could be height limits, or you may be able to build only certain types of structures. Think about your lifestyle as well. If you want to keep chickens or put in a pool, make sure this is possible on the lot you are considering.

It’s also important to make sure that there are no private deed restrictions associated with the lot, and if there are, that they don’t prohibit you from building the type of home you want. There could also be easements or encroachments, so take the time to check every possible factor that might affect your plans.

Understand the Building Restrictions

Depending on the location of the lot, it could come with building challenges in the form of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). For example, if the home of your dreams is a mid-century modern style and the homeowner association (HOA) has requirements about specific roof slopes, you might not be able to build the type of home you want on that lot.

Even though you own the land, you are still subject to the CC&Rs. These can vary significantly, so make sure you understand what you’re signing up for when you choose a neighborhood. CC&Rs can include guidelines about paint colors, garage location, building materials, and window types. In addition to restrictions about the building itself, they can also include lifestyle guidelines about pets, landscaping, and more. On the other hand, perhaps a high level of standards in a neighborhood is desirable, and you want the protection of an HOA. If you are planning to build a forever home, be sure to choose a lot that aligns with your vision.  

Understand the Permitting Process

Building a new home on your own land requires a building permit. In Arizona, there is no statewide code, and each municipality and county has its own permitting process. It’s important to do a little research before you start so you know what is required and how long it typically takes. Start your search online by going to the local building department’s website to learn about its process. The City of Phoenix’s page for residential building and permits is a good example of the type of information you can find online. Every city is different, so take the time to check out your local guidelines.

If you have a site in mind or already own the land, schedule a visit to your local permitting office to ask any questions that are not answered on its website. This is especially a good idea if your site has any unusual conditions. This is also a great time to make sure you understand all of the permits that will be required and the associated costs. A building permit is just one of the steps in the regulatory process. For example, you might need to obtain a permit for getting sewer service to your site or approval from the water services department to install a septic system.

Get Your Land Surveyed

You don’t necessarily need to have your land surveyed (although your lender may require it), but it’s always a good idea. In some cases, you might be able to obtain a survey before you make an offer, but if you can’t do this, schedule it during the due diligence period and make your offer conditional on the survey results. Even if the seller provides a survey, it’s still a good idea to get your own. This is especially important on a smaller lot or a site with setbacks that will limit your building area.

A survey is a small investment that provides a wealth of valuable information that will help you protect a much larger investment. You might learn that a neighbor’s fence extends into the property or that the property lines are in dispute. These details are important to know before you buy. If you’re buying a larger plot of land, a survey will also tell you how you might be able to divide it, which could be useful for siting your new house if you plan to split the parcel in the future.

Get Utilities Connected to the Site

Depending on where the property is, you might be responsible for working with the local utility providers to bring services to the site. There are costs associated with this work, and they vary widely—so it’s a good idea to get an estimate before you close on the land. You don’t want to find yourself in the position of owning land that you can’t afford to develop because you didn’t know how much it would cost to connect the water, sewer, electricity, and other utilities to the site. On the other hand, an urban lot might have connections available at the street, which helps keep costs predictably lower than those of a more secluded lot.

Complete Site Development Tasks

Buying land is just one step in the process. Often, when you buy a lot, it takes some preparation before it is actually buildable. You might have to dig drainage ditches, remove trees, level the site, or do any number of tasks to get it ready for the foundation to be poured. Unless you have experience with the homebuilding process, it’s a good idea to work with a local builder to determine exactly what will be required. Many builders, especially those who work locally, will be able to provide a rough estimate of the site development costs so you can factor them into your decision to buy the lot.

Let Adair Homes Help

If you’re considering building a new home in Arizona, the experts at Adair Homes are here to help. We’ve been building homes for 50 years and have tens of thousands of happy customers who now live in their dream homes.

We’ll work closely with you from the very beginning of your project, even if you don’t have land yet. We can even help you prequalify for a new construction loan and secure financing. If there is a lot you’re considering, we’ll do a site visit to help you estimate the development costs so you will know how much is left in your budget to build a house. To learn more about our unique process that allows you to generate immediate equity, schedule an appointment with a Home Ownership Counselor at one of our offices in Phoenix, Tempe, or Tucson.

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