• Duff Bangs

Considerations When Choosing Property

Updated: Feb 19

In today’s post I would like to share a few thoughts on purchasing a piece of land with the intent of building a new home. These are just a few considerations when researching land.


SETBACKS

Every property in the US (at least as far as I know) will have setbacks from property lines. If the property is quite large and someone is planning on building in the center of the parcel, then typically the setbacks are not going to be a crucial item. If someone is building on a small city lot, then the setbacks will be very important to understanding your building footprint. The typical setbacks involved include front, side and rear setbacks. If the property abuts and alley, then typically special setbacks will take effect. Other setbacks include: Setbacks from easements, setbacks from roads or highways, setback or buffers bodies of water or wetlands, etc.


EASEMENTS

Easements are typically recorded in the property deed. These easements must be established and understood because typically no structure or development will be allowed to cross into these setbacks.

One example of an easement is an access easement. Access easements allow owners of adjacent property to cross the subject property for access purposes.

Typically a surveyor will record these easements on their official survey drawings. This will be very important information to know when placing a home on a piece of property.


SIZE OF PROPERTY

In certain jurisdictions, impervious surface will be calculated when building a new home. This is essentially any hard surfaces such as paved driveways, decks over a certain height and the house itself. The purpose of calculating impervious surface is to determine the amount of hard surfaces compared to soft surfaces and how much rain water can naturally percolate into the native soil. Building jurisdictions will limit the amount of this impervious surface. If your property is several acres, typically this is not a concern however, still needs to be calculated. Building jurisdictions will typically limit impervious surface to 30-40%. With a parcel of 5,000sf, a home with a footprint of 1,800sf is very close to a 35% impervious surface.


UTILITIES

When building in a city, utilities are typically not a large concern. If someone is building on a blank lot within a city, there will typically be connection fees associated with connecting to utilities such as water, electricity, sewer and internet.

If the property is located farther away from town, then utility connections may cost substantially more depending on how far away the nearest connection is located. If utilities need to be installed under a service road, there may be large costs associated with this work.


TOPOGRAPHY

The topography or terrain of the property is an important consideration. If the property is flat than the process of constructing a new home is fairly simple. If the new home is to be built on some slope, there may be extra structural considerations for the foundation of the home.

If the home is to be built on flat terrain near the top or the bottom of a slope, extra foundation structural factors will have to be consider.


TREES

The codes around trees must be understood for the jurisdiction before trees can be cleared. In many jurisdictions on the west side of Washington state, a limited amount of trees can be removed from a parcel per year without a permit. If you plan on placing your home in a heavily wooded area, extra permits or fees may need to be followed to remove these trees. In addition, trees not to be removed but close to the building site, may need to be protected during the construction process.


GEOLOGY

If any sort of geological hazards exist, a geotechnical report is crucial in understanding a safe location to place the home. A geotechnical report will determine the soil condition, soil stability, slope stability and many other factors.


VIEWS

After all the above factors have been taken into account, the views are another important consideration. Typically the view from the home looking out towards the landscape is usually thought to be the most important. However, the views from outside the property looking in should also be considered. Is privacy a concern? How should windows on the new home be placed for optimal privacy? Will car headlights shine into the house from the road?


These are just some of the considerations to start thinking about when choosing property to build your new home on.

Thanks for reading and please comment below if you have any other thoughts.

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