If you are like most people, buying a home will be the largest financial commitment you will make in your lifetime. Along with that commitment comes a series of big decisions, the first of which is the decision of whether to buy an existing home or build your new home. If you have made the decision to build your new home, the next big decision is selecting the right lot. There are a number of considerations when selecting a lot for your new home build, some of which are obvious and some that may not be.
It should come as no surprise that the first decision you will need to make is the general area where you want to live. Start broad with deciding whether you want to live in a rural area, suburb, or in a city/urban area. There are many factors that will influence this decision from the lifestyle you want to live in, the size of the lot you want, the length of your commute, schools, etc. Rural areas generally provide more land for your money, but you may have a long commute and fewer close amenities. Lots in urban areas tend to be smaller with higher priced lots, but more amenities.
When a commute to work or school will be a concern, one suggestion is to make the drive during the time that you would normally do so. Completing a couple trial commutes from the area you are looking at buying a lot can help you decide on whether the commute is something you can live with. You may want to consider doing the same for your favorites restaurants, entertainment options, and other places you may visit on a frequent basis.
After determining the general area, the next step is to narrow your search down to a more specific subdivision or neighborhood. This step generally goes one of two ways. You may be able to first select your desired neighborhood, and then see what lots are available. Other times the availability of lots will determine what neighborhood you will end up buying it.
Now that the general decisions on location have been decided, there are a number of factors to consider when looking at specific lots including:
- Where and how close are the neighboring houses? Are you okay with homes on all three sides? Perhaps you would prefer a lot with no homes behind.
- Do you want a corner lot? Corner lots provide the advantages of generally having a large side yard in addition to a backyard and having a maximum of two neighboring homes. However, if the lot is located on a busy corner, you will have to deal with more traffic and the noise that comes with it.
- Is the lot located near or on a busy road? Again, you may have issues with safety and noise from the traffic.
- Understand the zoning laws that are applicable to the lot you are interested in. There may be requirements such as setbacks, minimum build size, amount of required open space, and what can be done with existing vegetation.
- Investigate what utilities are available. Is natural gas available? Is the water supplied by the municipality or an on-site well? Can the lot be connected to a sewer system or will a septic system be required? Also, understand the cost of connecting to the available services by determining wither access is close to the property line.
- Consider the orientation of lot and the house that will be built on it. Will the sun exposure be east/west, north/south, or somewhere in between? Here in Arizona, having a west facing backyard will be hot in the afternoon and may greatly reduce its usability compared to a backyard facing east or north.
- Consider the slope and topography. Will it require a lot of earthworks resulting in higher site preparation costs? Some hillside lots can greatly increase the cost of your home. Will you be able to utilize a steeper slope and design a walk-out basement/lower level?
- What are the soil conditions of the lot?
- What size lot do you want? Larger lots can provide more privacy but may require more maintenance than a smaller lot.
- Is the lot located in a homeowner’s association?
- Scout out the lot at different times of the day to get a better feel for what the area will be like on a day-to-day basis.
- Will the lot size exceed your landscaping budget? Many homeowners want the large piece of land but fail to consider the cost to landscape such a big piece of property.
These are just some of the many factors to consider when finding the right lot for your new home build. It is important to keep in mind that the location of your lot will impact just about every aspect of your day-to-day life. Understanding how each factor will affect your budget, home design, build, and day-to-day life is extremely important in deciding on the lot that is the right fit for you.