Lots about lots

When you’re thinking about building a new home it’s pretty easy to get caught up in thinking only about the sticks and bricks of the structure.  Many people overlook the fact that the lot you choose to build on can be just as important a factor in determining your future happiness as the home itself. Before you get too involved in the details of you house plan, it can pay to invest some time I finding the perfect lot.  There are a number of key questions that you can ask yourself to help determine what lot is right for you.

DO YOU ALREADY HAVE A HOMEPLAN?

If you already have your dream home planned, and you know the style and size, then it makes sense to look for a lot that will complement and maximize you design. If you don’t have a house plan yet, then you may want to search for the perfect lot and then design a home to fit.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?

Knowing in advance where you want to live will help you stay focused and avoid throwing lots that don’t meet your need into the mix.  If you are new to an area, find a knowledgeable real estate agent to help in your search.  You must also consider proximity to shopping, schools, churches, playgrounds, and work.  All of these factors influence property and resale value. Finally you should carefully research the value of other homes in the area. As a rule of thumb, you will want the value of your home and the lot to be approximately the same as others in the area.  Having too high or too low a value for the neighbourhood can make it more difficult to sell your home in the future. You should also take the time to check for area zoning restrictions or restrictive covenants that might limit your freedom to build the house you want.

IS THE LOT LARGE ENOUGH?

More than likely there will be some setbacks that will leave only a portion of the lot for the actual house.  How much back and front yard space do you want? Will there be a driveway? Will you be building a garage? These are all things that you must consider. Even if the garage might be a future addition, it’s smart to think about it now.  You will also want to check for any easements on the lot.  An easement is an area on the lot that is restricted from building.  Most easements are for utility line access.

WHAT IS THE TOPOGRAPHY LIKE?

A flat lot is much less expensive to prepare and build on, but a sloping lot can be much more scenic. You should also be wary of lots in low spots that may be prone to flooding. No matter what lot you are considering, take the time to visit it after a heavy rainfall to evaluate the drainage. Take the time to look for the sun direction as well. Many homeowners will orient their house to maximize natural light exposure. Don’t stop at what’s above ground either. The type of soil or rock under the ground can affect how easily you will be able to dig a foundation and how well it will support you home.  Bedrock is very expensive to dig through, while clay soils expand and contract which could cause cracks and leaky basements.

WHAT WILL YOU WANT IN THE FUTURE?

We will go through changes in our lives, and having a lot that gives you the flexibility to accommodate these changes is a big plus.  Whether it’s an addition to the family that requires an addition to the house, or maybe a new garage or swimming pool, you don’t want to find yourself somewhere down the road without sufficient space.

FINAL THOUGHT

It’s very difficult to find a lot that meets all of your criteria.  In many cases there are trade-offs to be made, so list your criteria in order of important. If you find yourself overwhelmed, you can seek the services of a landscape architect, surveyor or professional contractor to help you make the right decision.

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