If a site passed your preliminary screening, take a closer look. Find the property pins. If possible, visit the site at several times of the day and several types of weather. How would your home be positioned on the site? What about the sun, the view? Drive to and from work in both rush hours. Taking pictures can help you remember what is where, especially if you get to the point that the final choice is among several sites.
Compare the possibilities for the site to your lifestyle. If your family enjoys morning coffee on the deck, outdoor activities such as gardening, children’s games, or sunbathing, will this site adapt to those activities? Will car headlights shine into bedroom windows? Street lights? What is the speed limit on the street and how much traffic is there? If you are considering a subdivision site, which models, elevations, and colors would surround your home? Subdivisions usually open in phases. You may find you have to wait for the next phase to open to get your ideal lot.
Use the checklist in this brochure to evaluate and compare sites. A few comments about some items listed will make it more useful to you.
- Cost Double check all numbers, including property taxes, assessments, and homeowners association fees, to confirm the lot cost will work with your budget. Exceptions are easy to find, but a traditional guideline is that cost of the finished lot (with utilities available at the site) should run about 20-25 percent of the total package, house and land.
- Utilities When comparing custom sites, check the status and cost of utility hookups or tap fees. Raw land may not have utilities nearby. If utility services must still be extended to the site, obtain information on the cost. Besides their costs, what is the lead time for approval and installation of services? You cannot build a house without arranging for these services.
- Impact Fees An impact fee is a charge for the impact your new home and family will have on infrastructure (roads and community services). These fees are significant in some parts of the country. Your house plan built on one site can carry impact fees of $0 and on another, $35,000 or more.
- Premiums Be realistic about view lots and the premiums charged for them. What is the likelihood that the view will be preserved?
- Legal Status “Covenant Protected” refers to the restrictions placed on the residents and homes in a community by a homeowners association. A typical example of one such restriction means neighbors cannot paint their home purple with chartreuse shutters and a red polka dot door. Of course, neither can you. Review the documents of any homeowners association carefully for requirements and restrictions. Associations do enforce covenants and they usually win in court.
- Survey Working with your builder, check the site survey. Will the house you want to build fit on the lot? Is the lot appropriate for the style you have in mind? If you have not completed your house plans, information about the lot may affect design decisions. Slope of the lot can significantly affect the cost of the foundation, driveway, and landscaping. Will you be able to add on to the home in the future? Your builder or architect can help you analyze the site and make all these determinations.
- Construction Factors Physical conditions should support the design of the home. The most appealing results come when the home design blends into the site. Extensive grading may be physically possible but is expensive. Within a subdivision, the effect on neighboring lots can limit grade changes. Your builder or architect can help identify concerns. Consider other natural conditions such as wetlands, wildlife, rocks, ground water, and trees.
- Hazards Some criticism is possible for every site. A negative factor should not automatically eliminate it from consideration, but do be aware of possible extra costs and avoid surprises. Many desirable areas come with natural hazards such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, or challenging winter driving conditions.
Additional details to remember include the following:
- Even if you do not have children, remember that schools can affect resale value.
- Depending on traditions or local regulations, adjacent sites may drain across your property and your property may in turn pass water along to another neighbor. Drainage easements do not always follow property lines.
- Utility companies install junction boxes above ground. Neither you nor your builder can control where the utility companies place these boxes.
- Similarly, the post office dictates the style and location of mailboxes for the area.
- If having sidewalks is important to you, check on this detail before making a commitment.