For Your Information >
If you don’t
already own the land on which you’re building, you’ll be
purchasing it from a developer, builder or individual.
You can expect that the first two have probably done a
lot of the homework on issues like zoning and
suitability, but don’t automatically assume it. If
you’re buying from an individual, you will probably need
to initiate the research to protect yourself.
|Do I Buy Land First?
you buy land? That depends on what is most
important to you— such as the location or the
house itself. Desirable locations don’t stay on
the market long. And desirability is in the eye
of the beholder. A fantastic, scenic hilltop
view may be more important to you than proximity
to food shopping or an in-ground swimming pool.
Many people balance a variety of factors
depending on why they’ve chosen to build.
A general rule of thumb to start with is:
1) Decide what kind of house you want;
2) Select a builder who is capable and willing
to build that design;
3) Have your builder review the site before you
Good builders should be able to tell you before
you buy whether any unusual topography is going
to result in higher costs to build. Both
architects and builders may see opportunities to
increase the individuality and future market
value of your design by making other changes
offered by a unique parcel of land. For example,
hillsides may yield the possibility of a
daylight basement. But they will also require
effective drainage design.
Custom homes sometimes reach a higher value when
placed on land that appears to be unwanted. Much
of the new construction today is tailored for
the mass market. There’s nothing wrong with
that. Flat, unforested land is easy to build on
and there are usually plenty of homebuyers who
want an uncomplicated property. But that trend
can yield opportunities to find unique parcels
at a bargain price because there are fewer
buyers. Coupled with value-increasing revisions
to your house plan, you could create both a
wonderful home and even better investment.
|One of the
benefits of building a new house is that you
don’t inherit the problems that may be
associated with an older home and the previous
owner’s solutions. That also includes their
hidden zoning violations. If the owner of an
existing home has made improvements that violate
zoning laws, the new owner becomes liable if it
is detected. That could include correcting the
mistake or paying a fine.
Many homebuyers think zoning is as simple as
“residential”, “commercial”, “industrial”,
“agricultural”, and “rural”. As long as you’re
buying land zoned residential, you’re fine,
No. The reality is far more complicated. Even in
small towns and rural municipalities, there can
be well over a hundred zoning regulations. They
start with those regarding land use,
(residential vs. commercial for example) and
extend literally down to very specific rules
about the type and design of improvements the
land owner can make to their property, such as
how high your home can be. What may be in your
view a common sense, needed change to your
property, may violate zoning codes. Before you
purchase land, understand the zoning.
buying “scatter lot”, i.e., land that is not
part of a subdivision, obtain an environmental
report. You’ll want to avoid environmental
hazards like underground chemical storage. If
you’re buying in subdivision, the developer
should already have a report and odds are the
municipality required it at some point.
planning to buy the land and build in one
transaction? If so, then make sure the land
you’re buying is compatible with your plan.
Unusual lots that require extensive site
preparation and excavation to break ground may
extend your time to complete. The usual delays
caused by cold weather and rain could even be
longer. Make sure the terms of your construction
loan allow for this, particularly if you have
locked the rate on your permanent financing.
Do have the legal right to access the property?
It’s not unusual for parcels to be “land-locked”
with no legal access. Don’t presume that roads
leading from a main roadway through someone
else’s property to your property are legal. And
don’t presume that you have a right of way.
Whether or not you’ll receive a building permit
depends on legal and physical access.
It’s also easy to become
exclusively focused on your property. Make sure
you understand what is permitted on surrounding
properties, including the right to subdivide.
You don’t want to be surprised by neighbors or
future buyers with tastes and plans at odds with