When building a home, choosing the right lot is, arguably, the most important decision made in the process. Your lot is your location, your address, and your home base. Your lot determines your commute, your neighbors, your yard, and can be a major influence on the future look and feel of your home. There are many things to keep in mind when picking a lot. Here are some things to keep in mind during the process.
Take note of all aspects of the lot. What types of trees boarder the lot? Where does water drain? Where will the house sit? What about the driveway? These are all important things to consider when inspecting a lot. Having a grove of trees or a stream will certainly make the lot more beautiful and appealing, but how will those features effect your home? A stream that bisects a medium sized lot can end up being an issue when it comes to choosing where your home will sit, and how large it can be (and that same stream might not look so appealing sitting 30 feet from your home after a few days of heavy rain).
Choose a lot for your home, and a home for your lot. It is important that your home and your lot function well as a package, both physically and aesthetically. If you are certain that you want your home to be Spanish colonial revival, be sure to consider how it will look surrounded by spruce trees. If you are convinced that you would like to build in the English Tudor style, you might want to reconsider a lot surrounded by grasslands. And while form is important, you must also consider function. In a southern climate, it might not be wise to build a large, uncovered patio on the southern side of your home if there are no trees available to provide relief from the hot summer sun, If your lot sloped upwards, away from the street, that patio might become a challenge. If you would like to incorporate a lot of natural sunlight into your home, be sure to remember that pine trees do not lose their needles in winter, which can cause your home to become rather dark. In short, remember that the home and the lot are in a lot of ways indistinguishable from each other. If you are not convinced, imagine Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic “Fallingwater.” Now imagine it again on a prairie.
Consult with a builder first. Most builders have a wide variety of lots available for purchase, and you can save money by bundling the lot and home. Home builders are also knowledgeable about what other lots might be available for purchase, and in general want to make sure the home that they construct for you is to your liking. That said, I understand that some people might feel like the advice they receive from a builder, especially one trying to sell you on a lot you own, might be seen as disingenuous. While that may be a fair point, a builder can also bring a lot of other wisdom and expertise to the table when choosing a lot. Builders are more knowledgeable on issues such as drainage, utility location, and soil quality. Imagine buying the perfect lot, only to discover that the soil is not firm enough to support the home your family of 6 requires. In addition, seemingly small things can make a big difference. An old gas station a mile away can, in some cases contaminate the groundwater near your home. In addition, complicated details with zoning or easements can escape the average consumer, but will not escape a seasoned professional. Bringing a builder, and in some cases an architect or structural engineer, can provide crucial information when making your final choice.
Take your time, and be deliberate. Choosing a lot can easily turn from a logical choice to an emotional one. It is easy, and even expected, for a potential purchaser to fall in love with various aspects of a lot. In these situations, it is crucial that you take a step back, and consider all aspects of the lot. Like the stream mentioned above, even some of the seemingly best aspects of a lot can turn into significant problems if not thoroughly considered. Be sure to view your lot at different times of the day. A realtor or builder will generally choose a nice day, and if possible a time that compliments the lot. Your home, however, will be there rain or shine. See how the lot looks at dusk and in the morning. Stop by during the morning commute to check noise levels, or after a rain storm to check drainage. Be sure to do diligent research on the city/village/town your lot is located in, and if possible try to find out a little about the neighborhood and the people living there. Bring a long a friend or family member who will not be living with you, and ask them to act as a set of “unbiased eyes.” Encourage them to be honest, or perhaps even overly critical of all aspects of the lot, especially if it is one you are strongly considering. It might not be fun to hear your sibling be critical of “your” lot for having an odd shape that might be difficult to build on, but it is better to hear it early than to discover that your home will not fit properly on the lot, or your driveway will have to be narrow and heavily sloped (if you live in an area that has snow cover in the winter, you know how difficult sloped driveways can be!). Be sure to look into local schools and the overall safety of the neighborhood, and also consider things such as traffic patterns (heavily trafficked roads can turn a 10 mile commute into a 45 minute ordeal). On a more positive note, also consider what angles make for the best views, and what spots mine be ideal for a patio, or gazebo. By the time you purchase a lot, it should feel as if you’ve already lived there.
While this list brings to like many points, there are still others to be considered when purchasing a lot. Be sure to do your research, and know what you are looking for before you begin the search. While a lot might seem like a relatively trivial matter to some, there are many circumstances in which the lot is more important than the home. These steps will help you make sure you are making the right decision.