Tips for Buying a Lot to Build Your Home

With prices at an all-time low over the last few years, now may be the perfect time to buy land for your future dream home. Before you do so, make sure to do your homework before submitting an offer. You don’t want to end up with property that is a hassle, doesn't meet your building requirements, or that causes you unforeseen expenses. Here are a few tips that can help you save a lot of stress (and money) when purchasing land. 


  1. Check Zoning. Check with your real estate agent to ensure the land is zoned residential. You’ll also want to check zoning for neighboring properties because don’t want a big industrial building being built next to your home. Zoning will also tell you the distance required between your future home and the lot lines (called setback requirements) and any height restrictions for the home. Once you have the zoning setback requirements, you can start to get an idea of what size home you can build.
  2. Review Homeowner’s Association (HOA) Requirements: If you are purchasing land in a subdivision, you’ll need to check with the homeowner’s association (if there is one) to find out if there are any restrictions on the height of homes or if they limit the distance to a body of water. Some municipalities have established setback requirements from lakes to preserve the natural beauty. The homeowner’s association will also be able to give you any architectural restrictions including maximum and minimum square footage of the home, material requirements (siding, roof, etc.), and architectural style requirements. Also ask your real estate agent if there are any easements on the property. Easements give the right to enter the property for a given reason…maybe to run utilities or repair utilities in the future or maybe to provide access for the neighboring property. Unfortunately, you cannot build in these areas so it’s good to know where they are located.
  3. Review Utilities: You will also want to know what utilities are run to the site. This includes electric, phone, cable, gas, sewer and water. If some of these are not available, you will most likely have additional building costs to allow for this utility set up. Sometimes the utility companies will bring service to your site in order to get your business but it really depends on how much effort/expense is involved. If you don’t have city sewer or water available, you will need a septic system and well. Check with the current owner to see if a perk test has been done. This test determines the capacity of the soil for the septic system and will give you an idea of the type of system required. If you need help determining the local utility providers, check with your Realtor. 
  4. Determine Fees to Build: Before purchasing your dream lot, you will want to make a trip down to your county’s building and public works department to get a list of fees for building your new home. Be sure to ask if they know of any other fees that you will incur, including permit fees, driveway connection fees, impact fees, tree clearing fees, and water and sewer connection fees (if available). 
  5. Legal Review: As with any real estate transaction, consult with your attorney to review the contract. An attorney will recommend you have a title search done to make sure there are no liens or encumbrances on the property. You may also want to have a clause added to the contract to protect you from any abnormal subsurface items. Since you cannot see under the ground, you may want to protect yourself in case the soil is unsuitable to support the home.
  6. Visit Property at Different Times: When evaluating properties, visit them at different times of day and different days of the week. You will want to look for any nuisances or annoyances that may not be there all the time. For example, is the property within an airport’s flight path or is there a nearby train that rolls through only at night.


Building your own home is a great way to get exactly what you want and save money. Call one of our Expert Real Estate Team professionals to help you with each of these steps and to avoid being surprised by extra expenses and hassles when you’re ready to build your dream home.