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How to Buy Land for Your Custom Home

The biggest mistake people make when buying land is to buy the cheapest lot available. It is still possible to find bargains. However, the laws of supply and demand are working against you. You might get lucky and get a great lot using this method. However, I would not count on it. The majority of the time you will need to follow a tested procedure. This article will provide you with a step by step guide to purchase land for your custom home or as an investment vehicle.

Before you start uncovering the winning strategies and start making offers, you need to define what you want in detail. The clearer and more specific you can be describing the land you want, the better the chances of getting it:

  • If you intend to build your dream home on this lot, my advise is for you is to get the floor plan you want before you start the search. With the floor plan, you will know minimum dimensions of your potential lot. Setbacks and other critical dimensions will be easy to determine.
  • Do you want a large lot which will require more maintenance or a smaller lot with no maintenance?. Define the number of acres needed based on your need.
  • It is also important to consider the view of the lot. If this is the land that you chose, you will enjoy or endure the current view for a long, long time.
  • Do you want a basement? If you do, this is another parameter that you will need to add to your search. A basement is easier to build on a sloped lot.
  • How wide do you need your lot? Do not neglect this step or it will cause you severe heart burn. Most of the building codes will have a minimum width required to build a home.
  • Do you need residential or commercial properties? How many houses can you build on your lot? This is defined by the existing zoning requirement.
  • Do you want to build on an existing subdivision or you might want to buy where there are no restrictions. If you are buying a lot in a subdivision, make sure that the covenants will work for you not against you.
  • Do you have any children of school age? In this case, it will be necessary for you to locate your lot close to good schools.
  • How far are you willing to commute to reach your job?
  • There is an old saying about the three most important factors when buying land: location, location and location. Well, it is true.

Where do you look for land? – finding the right lot may involve approaching the task from several angles. The following list has worked for me in the past.

Sources of building lots:

  • MLS – Real Estate Agents. Get the real estate agent on your side. They can provide weekly listing of all the lots in your area. Some times, they get deals before they become part of the MLS.
  • Internet search – You might want to search for the following terms: “land for sale” or “lots for sale” + name of the area where you want to search. For instance, if you want to find land for sale in Raleigh NC, you will want to enter the following terms in your favorite search engine “land for sale’ + “Raleigh NC” or “lots for sale” + Raleigh NC.
  • Newspapers – The Sunday’s classified section of your local newspaper is still a good source of people who want to sell their properties. Make it a habit to check the Sunday’s listings.
  • Search legal plats in county courthouses or local government office.
  • Where only large parcels of land are available, you can buy and subdivide the land. However, before taking this step, make sure that the local zoning will allow it.
  • Some times you can buy lots from a developer who has completed his project and wants to move out.
  • Check foreclosure lists
  • Ask Home Builders. Visit their websites.
  • Read Real estate magazines.
  • Driving for lots. Look for “For sale ” signs in lot.
  • Advertise for lots
  • Friends – If you make it know that your are looking for land, people will let you know if they see a sign advertising a lot.

Six keys to Success:

Once you have located the lot for your future custom house, it is of vital important that you test it for the following parameters:

  1. Is your land located in a flood zone?. You can determine the zoning by accessing the internet county records. If you do not have access to the internet, you real estate agent should be able to tell you this information.
  2. Does you lot meet the minimum size county requirement for a home?. If it does, great!. However, you still need to make sure you fit your future custom home in the lot and meet the required setbacks?. If it doesn’t, move to your next choice.
  3. How far is your lot located from the street?. If your lot is very far from the road, you will to estimate the cost of building an access road or driveway. Is it economically feasible to continue with the project?
  4. Does your lot have easy access the city utilities?. If it does NOT, you will need to come to grips with the following choices:
    1. A well might be necessary to supply you with all your potable water.
    2. If you are not close to a sewer line, it will be necessary to install a septic tank. In this case, before you make an offer on the lot, you will need to add a clause to the contract stating that it needs to pass a perk test. If the land fails the perk test, it will not be suitable for a septic tank.
    3. It is also a good idea to invest in an emergency generator in case the electricity fails.
  5. Before you buy your lot, check the home prices in the area. If they are lower by 20% than your proposed home, you might want think twice before proceeding.
  6. Obtain a title search of the property before buying the land. This will insure that the title is free and clear.

Clearly, finding a “nice” lot is not easy. It requires a major investment of time and resources. However, If you follow the guide lines stated in this article, you will find your lot. The pay off is worth it and will last a life time.
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