Most people dreaming about building a house start by looking at house plans. The question many don't realize is how important it is to pick a house style that fits the neighborhood and/or building lot where the house will be built. As with many decisions, you've got to prioritize and make trade-offs.
- Factors to Consider When Picking a Building Lot.
- What is a Building Lot?
- How do You Buy a Building Lot?
- Want More Home Building Resources?
- … plus more photos in this articles, Building vs Buying a House.
Factors to Consider When Picking a Building Lot
- Location where you want to build your house. You might prioritize schools, health care, proximity to where you work or with the house I'm now building, I wanted to be close to my granddaughter.
- Community or neighborhood where you want to build your new home. Some people want a gated community with families while others want an active, senior community or maybe you want the ability to walk to restaurants?
- Road access and utilities are a big factor in picking a building lot. The cost to put in roads, drainage and utilities is huge. That's why most people chose to build where these items have already been completed. And problems still happen like no phone lines available with our custom house, so for two weeks we had no phone service … before cell phones, LOL.
- Amenities may be important to those wanting to build a house. Things like a community pool, tennis courts and a golf course are major selling points in many Florida communities.
- Building lot shape, size and elevation (flat versus sloped) can also affect the style of house you build. When we built our custom home years ago, we had to reverse the floor plan to add a sliding patio door on the down slope of our plot.
So here's how I picked the building lot for my new house in Florida. Priority one was living within 30 minutes of my granddaughter. There was a of of building near her home, so I decided to visit these communities and quickly narrowed my choice down to two developments, both about six minutes away from my granddaughter.
- Both houses are in new communities. That's because there's lots of development going on in Florida, and most of the land close to Disney is owned by large, national builders.
- Road access, utilities and amenities for both these communities are already in place, so that wasn't something I had to worry about when picking my building lot. In the photo above, you can see the pool and nearby, tennis courts and a sand volleyball court. The only funny thing was a call from my realtor asking if they could flip the plan to match where the electrical and water connections were located.
- A building lot with a great view (see below) was one of my top priorities. One community had retention ponds for a water view in the backyard versus backing up to someone else's yard. The other builder allowed me to pick the last building lot that backed up to wetlands providing open green fields behind my house … and that's the one I picked (see below).
What is a Building Lot?
Driving down a beautiful street, you might wonder if you can build a house there. It's not that simple as there are lots of rules that govern how a building lot is created. It starts with a survey done by a surveyor. They will physically measure the land to document the legal the building lot. A survey includes:
- Boundaries of the plot, including any structures on the land. This can be important when you or a neighbor wants to put a fence up along the property line.
- Elevation points to help you pick the best place to build your home. That's because you need to know if your building lot is in a flood plain, along with drainage and where your well and septic system will go.
- Easements, building setbacks and other local restrictions for building are documented on a survey. This is very important in deciding if the house you want to build will fit on the building lot you like. I foolishly assumed 10 foot setbacks in Florida as that's what I've dealt with in the past and seemed to be true in the development. Later I learned they're only five feet in my development so I have some concerns on one side of the house.
The cost of a land survey varies based on the size and complexity of the plot but it's worth the investment. Prices vary from $200 to $1,000 with a national average around $500. To find a surveyor, visit the National Society of Professional Surveyors website.
How Do You Buy a Building Lot?
Finding a building lot where you want to live isn't as easy as you think. Here are the most common ways you can identify potential building lots in the area where you want to build:
- Search online for building lots and the name of the area, like Winter Park Florida, where you want to build. You'll find lots of websites with listings for land and you'll quickly see the range of prices. Some of them like LandWatch.com and LandAndFarm.com specialize on building lots and larger.
- Find a realtor who specializes on land sales. A good place to find them is on the websites specializing in land. They'll know a lot more about lot sizes, prices and the amenities found with building lots like road access, utilities and water front views.
- Production builders developing a community in the area you want might be a good solution. They offer both “move-in ready” homes and the option to pick your lot, customize one of their plans and they'll build your house. This is the option I picked so I could get the floor plan and view I wanted.
- Drive around the areas you like and you'll find empty lots scattered in developed communities. You can locate the owner and try to contact them but the two times I tried this approach didn't work. One owner wasn't ready to sell and the other never responded to our inquiry … until two years later when we'd moved on to another building lot.
- Small engineering firms that specialize in subdivisions are my preferred approach to finding building lots that are coming on the market. That's how we found the land where we built our custom home years ago. The building lot was a wonderful 1.5 acres, the house hidden from the road and the neighborhood was wonderful with kids living in 6 of the 10 houses.
- Architects who design custom houses are also a good resource to find builders, and most builders have purchased building lots or an option to buy them. We found our builder through our architect when we put a 4-story addition on our 100 year old Victorian house in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Want More Home Building Resources?
As my new Florida home is built, I plan to share photos and tips for those of you who are considering building a house. This is the second home I'm building but digital cameras didn't exist so I don't have photos from the custom house I built years ago. What I do have is a wealth of knowledge from renovating a poorly maintained house, putting a 4-story addition on a 100 year old Victorian and numerous kitchen remodels. I invite you to join my journey and let me know if you've got specific questions I can help answer.
Here are some related articles I've written that might help you …
- Custom Home Builders: Who They Are & What They Do
- Building Costs, Carpentry and Corners?
- 3 House Building Mistakes to Avoid
- Building a House & Homeowner Allowances
- Tips for Buying House Building Materials