Tips & Articles
Searching for the perfect piece of land for your custom home? You’ve got an exciting journey ahead! Choosing vacant land to build on is a huge decision, but it’s worth the extra legwork to find a lot that fits the vision of your dream home.
Have patience and be sure to keep the following points in mind.
Research the Location
Are you dreaming of a growing suburb, a secluded country road, or a quiet piece of cottage country? When it comes to buying the perfect lot, you’re in the market for a community as much as for land.
You probably already have a general idea of the kind of place you’d like to buy a piece of land, but don’t forget to do research on community traits like schools access, nearby grocery stores and cultural spaces. You may not have children in the home, but the quality of the local school system is a big factor in the future resale value of your property.
Don’t limit your locational research to the web! Put on your running shoes and explore the neighbourhood in person at different times of day. If you’re searching years in advance of when you plan to buy a lot, visit the area throughout different times of year as well – you might be surprised how the character of the place changes with the seasons.
Examine the Topography
Ravines, valleys, cliffs, rivers…beautiful as they are, these topographical features can be a barrier to building your perfect home.
The topography of the land has a huge impact on where and how exactly you go about building your home. Keep an eye out for rock outcroppings, embankments or other physical traits that may reduce the buildable area of a property.
You must also research the flood risk of the lot. Land that sits next to a lake or river can offer gorgeous views, but it can also be flood-prone and more expensive to insure.
Consider Zoning and Other Restrictions
To put it simply, the perfect land is only perfect if you can actually build on it!
Local zoning laws will govern what you can and can’t do with a property. However, zoning laws aren’t the only restrictions on property – if the lot rests in a developed community, there may be a homeowners association governing the area as well.
If you’re seriously considering buying a property, you must also investigate covenants and easements on the land. An easement permits someone to use the land for a specific purpose – for example, a utility provider may have permission to run a power line. Covenants, which are private agreements between landowners and buyers, can also dictate rules for the property in question.
Think of the Pros and Cons of Lot Types
You might’ve always dreamed of living in a sleepy cul-de-sac or desired a secluded space in the country. But every type of lot comes with benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to think of it from different perspectives before you set your heart on one of the other.
Cul-de-sacs are quieter and generally safe, since there’s no through traffic and fewer vehicles overall, but nosy (or noisy) neighbours seem closer than ever. Corner lots receive more natural light and tend to be larger than neighboring lots, but they also get twice the vehicle noise, have twice the sidewalks to shovel, and half as much privacy (since the house is visible from two roads.) A lot that sits at a T-intersection may be more affordable, but you’ll have oncoming headlights from night time traffic.
You can avoid many of these drawbacks by building a house in the country, but you will have to investigate whether the lot has running water, electricity and sewers. Another concern in the country – wildlife!
Search out Sun Exposure
North of the Equator, any property will enjoy significantly more sunlight exposure on the southern portion of the land. For that reason, homes with a southern view tend to attract higher resale value.
Southern exposure is also important if you plan to grow crops or take advantage of solar energy. Homes facing the south will also benefit from faster-melting snow in the spring.
Invest in a Survey
Once you’ve found a potential lot, always obtain a survey of the land from the seller before you commit. Don’t rely on a survey from years ago, as it could be out of date by now.
Surveys can serve purposes beyond drawing lines: a construction survey, for example, can help you plan out the dimensions and floor plan of the home you want to build.
Additionally, if the land is not part of a suburb, it may benefit to check for soil contamination. Sites that formerly were home to gas stations or auto body shops, for example, will likely have contaminated soil and cannot be built on. Looking for inspiration? Take a virtual tour of beautiful custom homes in Ontario and beyond.