Are you looking to purchase a lot to build your custom dream home? Most people aren’t really sure what to look for beyond the obvious things like location, schools, etc. But there are lot characteristics that, while desirable, could also impact your cost to develop the property. Don’t worry! As long as you know what you’re dealing with ahead of time, you can plan around it.
Just remember, you can’t always predict what will be uncovered on the site, especially below grade.
This is a real picture of an excavation (not one of ours!). It is obviously a very, very extreme case, but I think it’s a cool picture.
So while you can’t predict everything, there are three (obvious) lot characteristics that could impact site development costs…
Dreaming of a Long Driveway?
Are you looking at large pieces of land? Do you envision having a long driveway up to the new house? If yes, you will want to budget for this – not only for the installation and maintenance of your construction driveway but also for your permanent driveway. On a typical project, we will budget for a driveway that is approximately 25-30′ from the street to the new home. If you decide to place your home further away from the street (you’ve got the land, why not?), you will need to budget more.
Longing For Privacy?
Lots that are heavily treed are great for creating privacy but remember, trees will need to come out to make room for the house, driveway, and maybe utilities. They’re pretty but depending on the size and quantity to be removed, you could be talking about additional costs.
Empty Lots Aren’t Cheaper (to develop)
Just because the lot is empty, doesn’t mean it will be cheaper to develop. Back in the day, empty lots and tear down lots used be fairly comparable in terms of site costs. You didn’t have the house to tear down on an empty lot, but you would have additional costs to pay to get the water and sewer installed (tap fees to the county and completely new line installs since there aren’t existing water & sewer lines). All of that is still true but in the last several years, the county has increased their tap fees from around $13K to over $25K for both sewer and water. It is ridiculous (IMO) and it has driven up the costs for the homeowner.
Other characteristics to consider when looking at lots to purchase…
Is the lot on public water & sewer or private well & septic? Both are perfectly fine but they each have their percs – ha! See how I did that? #badbuilderjoke
Is the lot flat or does it have a slope? Again, both can be perfectly desirable. You just need to know what comes with one or the other (i.e. flat lots typically = dirt removal).
Remember! None of these lot characteristics should deter you from pursuing a lot. But the more you know, the better prepared you will be.
Dream Big. Build Smart.