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  • Writer's pictureDuff Bangs

I Want to Build My Own House, Where Do I Start? - PART 1



Originally posted by our friends at modFLOOR PLAN LLC on July 15th, 2023


This is a fairly broad question to answer.

There are many places to start in this exciting journey to build your dream home. And there will many people who will be a part of your team to assist you in this journey.

This blog will eventually be expanded into several parts. We will even start to break this down into a more detailed process from the start of your dream idea to the completion of your new home. But, lets start with one of the more important pieces of the puzzle, the land you will build on.

When building your dream home, the land you choose to build on can be just as crucial of a decision as actually designing your new home. There are a multitude of factors to consider which we will expand on in other blog posts. When purchasing land, you will most likely reach out to a real estate agent or a realtor to help you purchase the land.

When considering whether your land is buildable or not, a design professional such an architect or designer can help you navigate the and better understand the restrictions of your land. Here is a list of item to consider:

LOCATION


CITY, SUBURBS, RURAL

Depending on the location, the size of the lot will vary drastically, and the zoning codes vary quite a bit as well. Land location is a personal choice that most likely depends on whether you want to be close to something or far away from something.

A general rule of thumb is the farther you move from a city, the larger that land will be. With this larger land, you may have more options of siting a home and will most likely have more privacy. However, you will be farther from the amenities of a city and will most likely have to drive more often.


UTILITIES

The utilities ones are water, sewer and electricity. And of course there is garbage, internet, irrigation and others. Focusing on the main ones:

WATER

The two main choices are municipal water and a well.

Municipal water is provided by a water district through a series of underground pipes that eventually run to your property. In this case, you will have an initial hookup fee and a monthly fee for usage after that.

In most cases, if you are in or near a city, you will have access to municipal water.

If you are in a rural setting, most likely you will have to rely on a well. Or in some instances, communities can share wells. In general, a well is a pipe that is drilled sometimes hundreds of feet deep to reach a source or water such as an aquifer. Typically, this requires a one time fee to pay a company to test, drill and submit for a permit. Beyond that, there may be occasional fees depending on if your share the well within a community.

What's important to understand is not all properties have to ability to supply a well. If your property has not been tested or does not currently have a well, this is something to considered having tested during the contingency period while purchasing your property.

SEWER

There are typically two options for sewer or waste. Municipal sewer when connects your home to sewer mains at the street and on-site septic systems. Similar to water, municipal sewer has a connection fee when you connect your home and there will be an associated monthly fee.

On site septic has in general a one time cost to test, design, permit and construct with no monthly fee. There will however be occasional maintenance such as pumping the septic tank. Again, similar to water, you will need to make sure your property has the ability to support a septic system. This generally involves a percolation test (a test to see how fast water soaks into the soil) and there needs to be enough physical space. Setbacks to property lines, structures, wells, bodies of water and other challenges may inhibit the placement of a septic system.

ELECTRICITY

Electricity can be broken into two simple categories, off-site generated electricity and on-site generated. Off-site typically comes from power lines which direct power from a power plant such as a dam and sends power to your home. again, a monthly fee is typically associated with this type of power deliver.

In general the biggest limitation with off-site power is the distance from power main. there are two important factors, is there power in the street or adjacent to your property? If not, there will be a cost to run power to your property.

Then, how far does the power need to run from property line to your house. Again, if power has to run a long way, such as up a driveway, there may be a large cost associated with this.

On-site power is typically more associated with renewable sources such as solar, wind and some cases hydro power. Some jurisdictions may have limitations for on-site power. Check with your local jurisdiction if you plan on looking into on-site power.

VIEWS

Views may or may not be a factor but if they are, can your new home be placed to capture the optimal view?

Views cab be considered in two ways, views out of your home and views towards your home.

In some cases, it may be desired to block views of your home from a street or an adjacent property. On the other hand, some people may want others to view their home.

VEGATATION

This can include trees or shrubbery, grass etc.

This big focus here are trees. In some cases, trees may be blocking a view and in other cases trees may actually be the view. If you are to cut trees, you may need to check with your jurisdiction. Some places restrict the size and amount of tress that can be cut from a property.

Additional tree location may affect placement of your home. In some cases, you may be able to build around the trees in others you may need to remove trees.

BODIES OF WATER

Many people have a dream of living on a lake or river however, depending on the jurisdiction, there may be some limitations on how close you can build to the water. These limitations can apply to ponds, streams, wetlands, rivers, lakes and other bodies of water too. Check with your local jurisdiction on what restrictions will include.

ZONING RESTRICTIONS

Almost every piece of land located within the United States will have a set of zoning restrictions to abide by.

First, you will need to know what zoning designation your property sits within. Once you know your zoning, there will be a series of codes to follow that can most likely be found on a county or city website. The following is a list of the typical zoning codes you will need to follow with you property:

Property Line Setbacks- Front year, side yard, rear yard

Height Restrictions - most place restrict how tall you can build.

Buildable area - Typically there will be a percentage of hard surfaces that can be placed on a parcel of land.

Setbacks from other items such as bodies of water (above), other structures and easements as discussed below.


 You will need to contact your city or county permitting jurisdiction or have your design professional assist you in better understanding these zoning codes.

CC&R's

If the property you are interested in sits within a developed plat of land, there is a chance that there will be Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R's) in place.  When purchasing a property, the CC&R documents should be available for review. These documents can be long but there may be guidelines as to how and where you can place a home and there may be restrictions on how you home may look. Be sure to review these documents prior to purchase to make sure they are not too restrictive for your new home design goals

TOPOGRAPHY

Topography refers to the slope of a site. In some cases, a site might be flat but in others you may have a variety of terrain. Depending on how steep a slope is and the type of soil, it may be challenging to build. It is important for an architect or designer to understand the slope of property so the design can be well integrated into the site. This can then help a builder better understand cost to build. For example, if a home has a daylight basement situated on a sloping site, there will be some excavation involved. Additionally, concrete foundation/retaining walls will be needed to set the home within the slope. Knowing how extensive or how deep the home will be set within the site will help the builder understand costs of excavation and cost of concrete.

EASEMENTS

There are numerous types of easements that can be encountered on a piece of property. The two most common types are access and utility easements.

An access easement is typically a road or path that allows someone to cross your property to gain access to a neighboring property. Depending on the type of access easement and jurisdiction, there will be a setback or buffer you will not be able to place any structures in.

A utility easement is similar to an access easement except the path is meant for utilities such as water, electricity or other utilities. Again, there will most likely be setbacks from these utility easement s as well.

In most cases, the title to your property should label these easements.

Another place to look to see if you have easements on your property is County Records. In most cases these records can be accessed online or you can reach out to your county recording office or building department.

The list goes on but, this is a good starting point. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs where we will discuss next steps in the planning process and discuss the various team members who may be involved. Thanks for reading.

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