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Buying a Lot to Build Your Dream Home: 5 Things You Should Know

Owning a home is a big part of the American dream. But buying the perfect lot of land and building your dream home piece by piece, from the ground up, is above and beyond. However, if you’ve ever gone through renovations, additions, or other building projects, then you probably have some notion of the scale of work coming your way when you opt to build a brand new structure. What you may not realize is what you could come up against when purchasing an empty lot. Here are just a few things you should know going into the process.

  1. Zoning laws. Any time you buy an empty lot you’ll want to make sure that the zoning laws meet your criteria for building. For example, you may not be permitted to erect a private home in a district zoned for commercial or industrial purposes. Or suppose you want to run a B&B; you might not be allowed to do so in a strictly residential area (or you might need additional permits to proceed). What if you want to have livestock like horses or goats on your property? You’ll need to make sure the area is zoned for large animals. In short, it pays to check zoning laws before you buy.
  2. Building codes. If you’re purchasing land within city limits, chances are good you’ll have to deal with a slew of rules and regulations related to what you can and cannot do during the building process. For example, you might have to comply with height limits, you may have to meet requirements related to the distance between the building and the property line, or you may not be allowed to install an eco-friendly parking pad in the back. Your building contractor should be well aware of any laws that could affect your building plans, but it’s probably best to be aware of potential issues before you buy the lot and start building.
  3. History. Is the property line under dispute with neighbors (or has it been in the past)? Was the land at one time a dumping site for a nearby mining project or is it downriver from a Superfund site? These aren’t things the average homeowner has to worry about, but when you’re buying a lot of land with the intent of building on it, you might want to find out all you can about the history. Generally speaking, building contractors come into an area and check on any potential problems before they begin building a tract of homes. But you won’t have that handy service provided – you’ll have to do all the checking on your own. So it behooves you to learn all you can rather than discover toxic waste when you dig up the foundations of your home, or learn that the property line is under dispute when you try to put up a fence.
  4. Consider location. Location is important in any home purchase because it will play a role in your property value now and in the future. However, it can be important for a number of other reasons when you’re purchasing an empty lot. If you’re looking into buying acreage for farming, for example, you need to make sure you’re near water and that you can get water rights for irrigation. And the soil will have to be suitable not only for planting, but also for erecting a stable structure. You should probably make sure that you’re not on a flood plain or in the middle of a migration route for elk. And you’ll need to find out if there are services for your lot, including wiring and piping for electrical, telephone, plumbing, sewage, and so on. Otherwise you’ll have to pay to get these services run out to your lot. Of course, access to roads could be an issue, as well. You’re starting to get the picture.
  5. Costs. There could be more to building your dream home than the cost of the lot and the price to hire building contractors. You need to understand all of the potential costs going in. While it’s certainly a treat to build your home exactly how you want it, you may want to take some time to view homes in CastleRock Communities or at least poke around on Zillow. You may find an existing property that is close to what you want and requires only minimal adjustments to be practically perfect for your purposes at a lot less hassle and cost.

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