You are ready to build a new home. What do you do first? Do you select the style and a plan – or do you select the building lot? Both approaches have merit. Having an idea of the architectural style you prefer will determine the size and characteristics of your ideal building site. You’ll run into problems if you select a specific floor plan too soon though. You can always design a home to suit the landscape, but you may not be able to alter a landscape to accommodate a predetermined house plan. Great custom home design always starts with the site. A truly special home is never designed first, and then placed on the property. Every person has a different idea of what is the ideal location for their dream home. It’s important to do your homework and learn all that you can about the property before jumping in. Take the time to truly evaluate the amenities you’d like in the area. The following are some of the key issues to consider.
Location The most important is location. What to evaluate when selecting the location?
- Your preference for a town, subdivision, lakeside or rural setting
- How far do you want to travel for work
- Proximity to shopping, entertainment, schools, emergency services and health care
- Property tax rate
- Zoning or permitted uses of land near any locations being considered
- Building codes. Regulations will specify how close you can build to property line, streams and lakes.
Improvements and Features The next step is to determine what the lot offers in terms of improvements or features. Most rural locations, outside of towns are well and septic. The cost of improvements to keep in mind is:
- Sewer and/or municipal water hook-up or septic system and well: What is the approximate cost of each?
- The two types of private sanitation systems are the traditional septic tank and leach field, or the “mound” system. They vary cost and the choice is determinate on the soil type, slope of the lot and available area for the system.
- Natural gas, electricity, telephone and cable TV availability and associated hook-up costs.
- Water drainage. Are there any hills or low spots that make your home subject to water runoff and require fill?
- Tear-down costs of the existing home on the property
Features and challenges to evaluate:
- Is the site flat? Are there slopes or streams? Wooded? Are there any other geological conditions that may affect the design or placement of your home?
- Where are the most pleasing views? Which views would you lie to see from the living areas? From the kitchen? From the bedrooms?
- Opportunity for an exposed lower level basement with a sloped lot
- Direction the house will face. A properly orientated home can save you in fuel bills, and give you a lot more enjoyment, if you orientate the primary family living spaces south.
- Suitable soil or subsoil. This can vary from one building site to another. Soils drain and retain water differently, and have vastly different capabilities to bear structural loads.
- Can other structures and homes be clearly seen from the building lot? What is the prevailing architectural style?
- Will the size of the proposed home be proportionate to the size of the lot?
Subdivision Controls If you are considering a subdivision location, you will need to have a sense of the type of house you’d like to build. Then check each development’s protective covenants to make sure your house fits within those guidelines. Some subdivisions may have:
- Protective covenants, deed restrictions and architectural controls such as square footage, setbacks, roof pitch and required building materials
- Home Owners’ Association structure and fees
- Setback/building envelope rules
Take your time evaluating each proposed home site. You may also be tempted to skimp on the cost of the land so you can spend more money on building your dream home. Don’t. The cost of altering an unsuitable lot is likely to be more expensive that purchasing land that meets your needs and your dreams. How much should you spend? There are exceptions, but in most areas your land will represent 15% to 25% of your total building costs.
For such as important decision, we’d be happy to offer our input on the home site you are interested before buying. Because while many details about your new home can be modified in later years as your lifestyle evolves, changing the location is not one of them!