Buying a finished home is a tricky process.
Building a house from the ground up isn’t any easier. Finding land for sale is the easy part — the real work happens as you move to turn your vision into reality.
The payoff is well worth the effort, though. If you’re truly committed to building a home of your own, you’ll want to do these six things in order.
1. Set Out Your Vision for the Parcel
First, set out a cohesive and comprehensive vision for the parcel. Early on, this vision will consist of broad strokes: placement of the main house and outbuildings, driveways and other rights of way, infrastructure improvements, and any special features you’d like to include.
Eventually, you’ll need to create a schematic that can pass muster with local zoning authorities. If you’re not up to the task, consider hiring a site planner.
2. Have Cash on Hand
Lenders are generally reticent to underwrite vacant land purchases. If you are able to secure a loan, it’s unlikely to cover more than 50% of the transaction. Shore up your cash position accordingly.
3. Get to Know the Property
Before you build, you need to be intimately familiar with the property: grading, timber coverage, wetland areas, existing rights of way or easements, neighboring uses. Consider conducting a proper land survey. The more you know upfront, the less likely you are to encounter serious issues during build-out.
4. Understand Local Codes
Understand your obligations under local zoning and building codes. These regulations vary widely by jurisdiction, so it’s important to check directly with local sources for up-to-date information. You’ll also need to understand for what, if anything, you’ll need to pull building permits and when, if ever, you’ll be required to file site plans or schematics with the proper authorities. Since this information could significantly affect your building plans, it’s important to ascertain it as soon as possible.
5. Feel Out Your Neighbors
Before you build, get to know your neighbors, or at least learn as much as is publicly available about the parcels adjoining your land. As long as your building plans comply with local zoning and building codes, your neighbors have limited recourse — but making the effort to reach out and explain your position nevertheless engenders good will.
6. Put Your Financial Plan in Motion
You’ll most likely need to finance the initial purchase of your vacant plot out of your own funds. Once that’s done, you’ll find it much easier to secure a loan to finance your lot’s build-out. Before you begin applying for loans, tally up your expected construction costs and research values for comparable homes in the area. You’ll need to make a convincing case.
A Home of Your Own
There’s no place like home.
That’s doubly true when “home” is a place you’ve helped create. If you’re prepared for the unexpected, building your own house is a rewarding, life-changing experience — one that will pay dividends for years to come.