The first step in building a new home is to find a piece of land on which to put it. There are many ways to find a potential building site and many factors to consider once you've found it.
- What neighborhood do you want to live in? Take some time to drive around several areas in which you might want to live. If you see an empty lot, take notes on exactly where it is located, what you like about it and what you don't like. If the property is listed with a realtor, jot down their name and phone number. Consider the distance that you will have to drive to work, whether or not you will have to battle a lot of traffic and if the house you want to build will fit in with the existing homes. If you have children, you'll also want to find out what school district the lot is in. If you find a neighborhood that you like, but don't see any available lots, check the local newspaper listings and call some area realtors.
- Is the lot developed? The first thing to consider is if the lot is developed or undeveloped. Developed land will be a much less expensive place to put a house. In most cases, there are already existing streets, gas, sewer and electric lines. You'll just need to hook your new home into the main pipes. The disadvantage of this is that most developed lots were developed by a builder, which means that many of the lots may have already been sold and built on. If you have your heart set on a quiet, rural setting, you'll most likely need to purchase an undeveloped lot. An undeveloped piece of land is exactly what it sounds like - no gas, sewer or electric, possibly no streets and the land may or may not have been surveyed. This can add a lot of expense to the cost of building your home.
- Is the topography of the land suitable for your building plans? If you want to build a house with a walk-out basement and the lot you're considering is completely flat, it will require a lot of excavating to make the land suitable for your house type. In addition, by the time you're finished re-contouring the land, it may look out of place with the existing structures. On the other hand, if you're planning to build a single-level ranch, a flat lot will be much easier to build on than a steeply sloping lot.
- Zoning laws and building restrictions. First of all, make sure that the lot on which you want to build is zoned for residential use. Second, check with the local building commission to determine whether or not there are restrictions on the type of home you will be allowed to build.
- Are there additional costs? If you are considering a lot in a new development, find out if you will be required to join a homeowner's association (HOA) and if so, what is the annual fee? A homeowner's association can provide many neighborhood amenities and pay for some maintenance fees, but an HOA may also restrict how tall your grass is allowed to grow, how the exterior of your home is maintained, even what holiday decorations are acceptable. Also, investigate what the property tax rate is, and how it compares to the tax rate of other lots you may be considering.
- What are the future plans for the neighborhood? If you buy a lot from a builder, find out what plans he has in store for the rest of his land. You'll also want to find out as much as you can about the future plans of the surrounding area. What is now a sleepy, residential suburb could become a noisy, bustling hub of activity if someone decides to build a mega-mall right down the road.
- How much does it cost? If you find more than one lot that meets all of your criteria, it may come down to which lot offers the most for the least cost. When you look at the price of a lot, check to see how much similar lots sold for a few years ago, and how much a typical lot in the same area is now. A lot that costs more now, but appreciates at a faster rate may be a good investment if you think you will sell your home at some point.
Once you've found the perfect site for your new home, try to get out and meet some of your new neighbors. It will make it that much easier to adjust to your neighborhood when you move in to your new home.