When choosing a lot for house building, it is important to consider the needs as well as the desires of each member of the family. Before choosing a lot, you and your family should carefully consider your priorities and your lifestyle, in order to make sound location decisions. Do you want a home in the country or in the city? Do you prefer a subdivision or would you prefer a rural lot with fewer restrictions.
City Ordinances – While areas vary throughout the country, you will find that cities and towns have many ordinances and restrictions regarding what you can do with your own properties. There are gun ordinances, noise ordinances and even rules about how to best maintain your property. There are setback ordinances that determine exactly where on your lot your home must be placed. Lots are often small so you may find your home size and shape limited by setback ordinances. Zoning ordinances determine the use of your property and may interfere with running a small business out of your home. In addition there may be ordinances forbidding or limiting garages and outbuildings on your lot.
Water – You will probably be forced to use city water and sewer. Some people actually find city water and sewer a plus, while for others do not consider it desirable at all. A lot depends on local water quality and also how easy it is to find water on land in your area. Also to be considered is the rising cost of water most city water. It is predicted that the cost of water will continue to rise throughout the country.
Socialization – Living so close to your neighbors is not for everyone but some find it necessary to their happiness. Many people enjoy having close neighbors, especially children, but parents often find allowing their children to socialize with the neighbors problematic. Safety concerns with traffic, strangers and children playing are a major concern for parents in towns and cities.
Subdivision rules and bi-laws – Most subdivisions are just as restrictive as city ordinances. They also have setback ordinances and control how your home may be placed. In addition they have rules that determine the overall style of your exterior. Your home is expected to blend with others in the area. Often all the homes in a subdivision will be built over just a few house plans, and their variations. It could be important that your home looks almost identical to other homes in the neighborhood. That leaves little opportunity for exterior customization. In addition, many subdivisions are restricted to one builder. This means that in order to live in the community you must let that company build your home. This is a tremendous bargaining disadvantage if you show that you really want to live in a specific community.
Water – Some subdivisions have shared wells and other shared amenities. Shared wells can be a point of contention between neighbors, especially when the well needs repairs. Other subdivisions have individual wells for each home. This can be ideal except that even in high water table areas a new well can negatively impact other wells in the immediate area. Water can be contaminated and in some cases water flow to one well can slow or cease if another well is drilled nearby. If lots are small and neighbors close, wells may interfere with each other. Some subdivisions use the city’s municipal water and sewer.
Socialization – Neighbors in a subdivision can be a delight in most cases, but in some cases they can be a serious problem. Age differences, cultural differences and personality clashes can be extremely frustrating in subdivision life. Singles and elderly people may not appreciate children playing near their homes. Some subdivision rules have been created to determine when, where and how children can be out of doors. There have been cases involving a complete restriction of children playing outside in subdivisions. Be sure to check your bi-laws carefully if you are considering building a home in a subdivision.
Building Codes and County Ordinances – While rural lots and remote areas offer much more freedom of choice than any other situation, there are still rules. Some counties actually zone their rural lands, and most areas enforce building codes. Only truly remote areas allow people to build and live in homes that do not conform to codes. This used to be a problem if someone wanted to build a green materials home, but recent national laws have been passed which generally encourage green building. Still, there may be restrictions that interfere with certain materials and construction methods. Be sure to learn about local building codes and county ordinances before planning an unusual dwelling. In most cases you will be able to run a business on your property, participate in gardening and even keep livestock if you desire. Your dogs will still require fencing or a leash but they will have much more freedom than in any other situation.
Water – Rural and remote areas do not have municipal water and sewer. This means that you will need to have a well drilled and will probably require a septic tank. Sometimes rural situations can avoid the need for a septic tank by installing incinerator toilets, and a green method for dealing with kitchen sink water. If your local ordinances would allow it, you can save thousands by omitting the septic tank. Even more importantly some land will not perk, and is therefore unsuitable for a septic tank. This land sells very cheaply and if you could convince your local officials to let you get by with incinerator toilets rather than a septic tank, you could reclaim this land which was previously limited to non residential use.
Socialization – Rural residents have the opportunity to choose to socialize, but may not find it easy or convenient. Your random encounters with strangers are rare when you are on your own property. Your children will be able to play outside unhindered, but they may complain of boredom or loneliness, especially if they are accustomed to having neighbors their age. You can perhaps avert some of this by inviting children from the area over to play. In this way you and your child can choose whom your children play with and you will be able to supervise their activities more carefully. Even in rural areas there are community activities and church activities. There are women’s clubs and 4-H for the kids if you wish to be involved in these things. One of the main selling points of rural life is that socialization is a choice and you are not forced to interact with people when you do not wish to.
School districts, distance from your job and the overall feel of any community may impact your decision as well. Each type of location has pros and cons, but the most amazing part is that one person’s pro is another person’s con. It can be very frustrating when family members do not agree on where they want to live. It is quite common for one spouse to prefer country life, while the other wants to live in a city or subdivision. These issues must be resolved before a final decision is made.
Whether you are choosing among lots in a subdivision, or walking around your acreage deciding where to place your home, there are a few guidelines to follow.
1. Choose high ground over low lying areas to prevent flooding.
2. Level lots are less expensive to grade than slopes and hills.
3. Slopes of more than 30 degrees may require cut and fill lot preparation, which can become unstable. Cut and fill procedures can also be very expensive.
4. If you have your heart set on a slope, consider a split level house plan or a plan that includes a basement which opens to ground level on one side and is underground on the other side. This will add stability and is preferable to a cut and fill strategy. Houses of this type can be very efficient.
5. Be aware of how water would flow across your lot in heavy rains or times when snow is melting. Water always flows from high ground to low ground. This can lead to erosion. Avoid placing your home in direct line of substantial water flow. This is especially important in mountainous areas, and can be difficult to avoid.
6. Make sure that your home is graded so that the home is on the highest part of the lot, and that water does not drain towards the house. It is easier if the lot is shaped this way to begin with, but if not, substantial grading and landscaping may be required.
When choosing a general location for your home there are no wrong answers only personal preferences. When it comes to choosing a specific building site however choose one that is high, level and dry if possible. If you are not living in an area where level lands are available, choose the higher spot and hire competent grading crews and other experts to determine how to place the home on the lot. Choosing a lot for house building can be very complex under some conditions. Read our many other articles on choosing a lot and download our free 98 page book to help you with this and other home building decisions.