The real estate market has been experiencing an unprecedented boom. Housing prices have significantly increased in all countries compared to the base level of 2015. And, while the rate of increase has recently slowed, you can still expect to spend a relative fortune if you buy a house.
This is especially true if you are trying to buy your first home because you have not benefited from those previous increases in home valuations. Often, the ‘deposit gap’ means that you could still be some years off achieving your dream of ownership. However, there may be an alternative that ‘gets you on the property ladder…
Buying vacant land to build a house is usually considerably cheaper than purchasing an existing home. While the process is more complex than investing in a constructed house, purchasing vacant land has several benefits.
Not only is it usually more affordable to buy vacant land and then build your own home, but you can also design your dream house from scratch and add a personal touch to it. If you have time, you can even do some of the construction work yourself to compound your savings.
With good planning, you can even design and build a home that grows with your needs. For example, you may be a young couple planning to start a family in another four or five years. Do you really need the four bedrooms, three-bathroom McMansion today or would a ‘Stage 1’ dwelling of one-bedroom, study, and one-bathroom dwelling be more appropriate? It would certainly be easier and cheaper to clean and maintain until that family becomes a reality!
While it might be challenging to go for the less convenient option of building your house from scratch, following a proper checklist can help make the process more straightforward:
1. Hire an Attorney
The laws regulating the real estate market are complex. Navigating the market without an attorney can cause you to miss critical legal considerations. Without a qualified professional, you might land yourself in legal trouble.
An attorney can help you understand critical legal issues related to purchasing your land, such as the zoning regulations. They can also review the land’s files and see if there were any previous attempts to build a property on that site.
If such attempts exist, your attorney could help you discover why those plans were unsuccessful, and you can avoid making those mistakes. Your attorney can also review any lawsuits involving the land or neighborhood.
2. Understand Zoning Regulations
You cannot build just any kind of property on your vacant land. The laws of the United States regulate the use of vacant property, binding you to use your land only for the permitted purpose. You must understand what zone your land is in before you buy it.
If you are buying land to build a house, make sure it is zoned residential. No matter how suitable you find the land, you cannot buy it in a commercial zone to develop a house. Hence, you should be aware of the zoning restrictions before buying a vacant land, so you don’t run into legal trouble later on.
3. Scout the Land
Once you find a piece of land, make a note of the following:
- All fence lines should be within the parameters of your property to avoid any property line disputes from arising in the future
- The land must be able to support a solid drainage system and water runoff
- The plot should not be near wetlands. Most countries restrict construction close to a swamp
- The land should have an appropriate topology that supports building a house. You will need the help of a licensed builder to determine this
- Ensure there are no safety hazards
4. Evaluate Services
Whether you are buying the land for residential or commercial purposes, you will need it to be connected with essential services. Evaluate the access to these amenities from your desired land:
- Check which school district your property is located in, especially if you are developing your property for residential purposes. Ensure the school performs well relative to other school districts
- Assess whether the area has well-maintained roads connecting it to the national roads infrastructure
- Investigate the cable and internet services available in the location. High-speed internet services must be available if you are developing your land for commercial use
- Ensure that emergency and rescue services such as a hospital or a fire station are nearby and can promptly reach you in an emergency
5. Obtain Necessary Permits
You will require permits for many amenities, such as sewer service and water. You should obtain them at your earliest convenience.
- Both public water connections and building private wells require a permit. If you do not want to use public water, you can get a license to make a private well, but it must be located at some distance from a septic system.
- You will need a permit to get a connection to the town’s sewer system as well. If the sewer line is far from your land, installing a private septic system would be cost-effective. However, this requires that you get a permit before installation.
6. Keep Construction Costs in Mind
While buying vacant land is cheaper than other alternatives, you should keep the construction costs of your property in mind before purchasing the land. Determine if you’ll still have enough money to build your dream house after you buy the land. The construction costs of your home depend upon various factors.
A simple shape, such as a rectangle, costs less than elaborate designs, while a small house’s price per square meter is greater than that of a large house. The choice of material used in construction also impacts your budget. You should get an estimate of your house’s construction costs before buying the land to plan accordingly and avoid sustaining financial losses.
The Benefits of Buying Vacant Land
1. Low Costs
Vacant land has a lower entry price than an improved lot. Anything built on vacant land has value and raises the cost of the lot. It is cheaper to develop the property on a vacant lot for residential or commercial purposes instead of buying these buildings.
2. Maximum Flexibility
Vacant land is a blank canvas that you can develop into almost anything. You can build a house from scratch how you want it, or you can develop it into the commercial property of your dreams, as long as you comply with the zoning laws. You have maximum flexibility and creativity in developing the lot according to your style and preferences.
3. Long-term Appreciation
Vacant land will usually remain in the same condition you buy it in, barring the effects of erosion and natural disasters. The value of the land will not depreciate over time. In fact, its worth might increase in the long term as the surrounding area becomes more developed.
Buying vacant land can be a good investment opportunity. Not only is it cheaper, but you can also design your dream property on your own terms. However, obtaining vacant land can be difficult, so you should hire an attorney before you begin scouting for land. Understand zoning laws and construction costs before shortlisting vacant lots and estimating your budget.
You should also visit the land to check for any problems and evaluate if it possesses the necessary amenities. Obtaining permits for water and sewer systems and following this checklist will help you avoid legal or financial problems.
The bottom line is that buying vacant land now can not only get you on the ‘property ladder’, but it can also allow you to build in stages, use your own labor and skills, live where you want in your dream home, and potentially save many $thousands while doing so!