Finding a great piece of land where to build your house is not an easy task.
As the World’s population grows, we are boxed into urban areas and, while the amount of available land (let alone the land with outstanding views) becomes more and more scarce, laws and restrictions on land use become more and more tight.
Finding land can take quite some time.
In this article we’ll share some tips to make this process as easy as possible and to help you get the results you want:
- get a great piece of land at a price you can afford;
- get a land you can actually build on;
- get a land that can be easily used for the purpose you intend to use it… without the need to spend a fortune to prepare it for building.
Searching for land
As with anything house related, your vision is of utmost importance.
How do you imagine this land?
…and which are your wants and needs?
STEP 1: IMAGINE
Make a list of everything you want: describe the view, the trees, the road.
Describe how you will get the water and electricity, how close other houses are, how noisy the place is, how close it is to services and places you like (kid’s school, shopping center, pub, entertainment places, …).
STEP 2: DRIVE
Drive around and look for a place like the one you imagined.
If you’ve been detailed enough, it won’t be difficult to pinpoint an area that has the characteristics you listed.
IMPORTANT: don’t stop only to look for vacant land. A piece of land with an old building on it is a great start for your development… you’ll just need to demolish the existing building first (this adds to your budget but you could be able to get the land at a better price or maybe the location is just better).
STEP 3: FIND THE OWNER
This is probably not going to be easy nor pleasant… however, it is one of the best ways to get good pieces of land.
As you find a land you like, start asking around to get in contact with its owner. If the Municipality has digital public records, this task is pretty simple.
The goal is to talk to the owner and ask if he is willing to sell.
Usually, the answer is NO.
This is totally normal and you should not be discouraged.
Don’t just push the owner, try to get to know him… maybe friend him on Facebook.
Go back to him one month later and talk about common interests before asking again if he changed his mind.
Repeat after 3 months.
It might take a long time BUT, sure enough at some point he will consider selling.
At that point, you’ll be the first person that comes to his mind.
NOTE: you do all this ONLY if you are 100% sure THAT is the land you want. If you are still open to alternatives, you might consider to keep looking.
STEP 4: LOOK ONLINE
If your driving does not give any result, start looking for online listings.
You may also ask on local Facebook groups.
NOTE: finding a land before it gets listed online usually guarantees a much better deal.
Evaluating the land
The four steps above should bring you in the position of having a few land candidates.
Here are a few tips and criteria you should consider when evaluating a land…
1. CHECK IT AGAINST YOUR VISION
You worked hard to put together a vision. How well does this land match it?
If you write down the main components of your vision, you can build up a spreadsheet to “rank” these lands.
REMEMBER: the price is only one of the criteria!
2. NEVER SELECT ONE OPTION ONLY
This goes without saying: when negotiating, you don’t want to be in the position where you have no alternatives.
Make sure you start your evaluation (and negotiation) only when you have two or three properties on your radar.
3. THINK ABOUT GROUNDWORKS
The cost of groundworks might vary by a lot depending on the type of soil, conditions of the ground, presence of trees or rocks…
You need to be extra careful in evaluating this. Failure to do so might cost you a considerable amount of money.
4. BRING THERE A BUILDER
To help you in assessing the groundworks and other aspects of the future build, it is wise to involve a builder in your scouting process.
You surely know someone who builds houses (or your friends know him). Get him to join you and ask his professional opinion.
Many builders will do this for free in the hope of getting a part in the works when you buy the land (others will do it for a beer).
Again, be particularly attentive to the presence of rocks, uneven ground, sand, and everything that might require a lot of preparation for the foundation works.
5. MAKE SURE THE ROAD IS GOOD
Building a road might cost you a fortune.
A pre-existing access road is almost always a pre-requisite.
You also need to make sure the existing road is suitable for the truck that will deliver your house kit.
The size of a delivery truck is usually 2.5m wide, 13m long.
A road which is too narrow, too steep or with sharp turns might create problems which will result in extra costs.
6. HOW WILL YOU GET WATER AND ELECTRICITY?
You do not necessarily need to get grid access for water and electricity (you can totally live off-grid) but you need to take that into account in your budget from the very beginning.
So, make sure you know how will you solve water, sewer, electricity.
7. IS THERE SOMETHING TO BE DEMOLISHED?
As suggested above, buying a land with an old building on it is a great way to get a good location (overlooked by many).
A few issues to keep in mind in this case:
- how much will it cost you the get rid of the existing building?
- are you allowed to demolish it?
- are you allowed to build something different in its place?
8. WHAT ABOUT TREES?
Are there trees to be cut? …this might slow down groundworks and generate extra costs.
Also, how healthy is the rest of the trees?
Dealing with old or unhealthy plants could become a burden really quickly. Keep it in mind.
NOTE: if you have a lot of trees on your property, you might want to consider using them for heating.
9. IS THE AREA SAFE?
This is actually a major issue. You don’t want to build on a location that has safety issues.
I am not talking about “police” safety (although that is important as well) but more of “natural disaster” safety.
If the land high enough on the surroundings to prevent flooding?
If it far enough from the nearest river?
Can you exclude the possibility of landslides?
How about strong winds, tornadoes, hurricanes? …any tree that might fall on the house?
11. PHONE AND INTERNET
Last but not least: connectivity.
Today one can build a house to be 100% self-sufficient concerning water, sewage, electricity.
Unfortunately, we still depend on a network for what concerns phone and intent.
So, make super sure your phone works on your land!
If you need a good internet speed, make sure data works correctly.
Unless you have a cable connection available, this is something you can hardly fix later!
Getting the right land for your build takes time.
By following a process you can surely make this quest faster and more efficient.
Try to keep in mind at all times the important questions you should ask.
To help with this you might want to consult our 100 Questions Guide as well.