OK, so you’re wanting to build a custom home. You’re already dreaming about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you want, the open floor plan, the double-oven and the central vac system, but before all that, there’s one very important decision you still have to make: Where is this house going to be?
They say the most important thing in real estate is “location, location, location,” so what is that location for you? If you’re needing a plot of land for your home, here are some things to keep in mind — remembering that at WillowTree, our real estate wing is more than able to help you in this process.
1. Where do I find the land?
Here are some popular ways to search for vacant land:
- Real estate agents: Yes, even in the age of the internet, brokerages have the best, most up-to-date search tools available. And since only 8 percent of real estate sales are by owner, you can be confident that you’re getting the comprehensive list of what’s available.
- The internet: Real estate sites like Zillow, Trulia and Redfin are good go-tos if you’re doing cursory searches without a real estate agent, and popular online bulletin board Craigslist is known to have good local listings, too.
- Auction sites: Did you know you can buy land on eBay? It’s true. The online marketplace also offers land sales. Search for local auction houses in your area to see if they, too, offer land sales in their live auctions.
- For sale by owner: As was mentioned, this is a small number of total sales, but if you happen to stumble upon a plot of land that you want and it’s being sold independently, you’ve lucked out.
2. What’s going to happen in the future?
Is this plot of land surrounded by fields in a metropolitan area that is booming in growth? You might want to consider the fact that your serene surroundings could become a bustling construction zone (because hey, you chose to build there, too). Is the plot of land just outside the city limits and could be annexed in a few years?
You might want to take an additional tax burden into consideration before you buy. What about road construction? Commercial development? Plans for some big-box store, jail or power plant? You’ll want to do as much homework as possible before settling on that dream plot. It could turn into a nightmare in just a few years.
3. Are there any kinds of natural hazards?
Find out if your plot of land has any kinds of environmental issues. From soil erosion to contamination to being in a floodplain, it’s important to take these concerns into account before looking to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars.
4. What kind of restrictions are on the land?
First things first: You have to make sure the land on which you want to build a house is actually part of a residential zone. The best way is to check with a city or county’s planning or zoning department. Also, you’ll want to make sure your real estate agent (if you have one) checks for easements or liens that can be a real pain to how you use the land.
Additionally, there could be some building code requirements, HOA bylaws and other rules that you’ll want to be aware of.
5. Are utilities available onsite?
According to FitSmallBusiness.com, a lot of land buyers forget to take into account utilities. If they’re not at your property already, you’re going to have to pay to have them brought in. Essentials like water, power, sewer/septic, gas and phone may already be connected to your empty lot. But if they aren’t, it can run you between $10,000 and $30,000 — not a small amount, especially if you aren’t prepared for it.
6. Do I have my financing figured out?
Financing an empty plot of land isn’t quite the slam-dunk mortgage process we all enjoy for already-built homes.
“It’s common to pay cash for land because getting a loan for this type of purchase can be tricky. Raw land can’t be leveraged by a bank.
If you do get a loan—and there are a few lenders out there who specialize in and will touch this type of transaction—don’t expect to be approved for more than maybe 50 percent of the purchase price. You might have more success if your land has utility access and is reasonably accessible by roadway.”
Hopefully with these tips, you’ll be better prepared to find that perfect piece of land for your future home. Still intimidated, confused or otherwise intrigued? Call WillowTree — we have the expertise to help walk you through every part of the homebuilding process, including land selection.