Choose Your House Plans with Your Lot in Mind for a Match Made in Heaven
The good old real estate adage strikes once again: Location. Location. Location. But this time we’re taking it to its roots because we’re talking about land for building. Selecting the ideal plot of land for building your home is one of the most important decisions you’ll make in the entire construction process. Once you buy the land, there is no turning back.
Dream home by anyone's definition, this 4-bedroom Country style home with Craftsman touches sits perfectly on a flat, pretty nondescript lot. The home plan is perfect for the lot because it comes standard with a slab or crawlspace foundation (Plan #142-1189).
The right decision will lay the foundation (literally) for the homeownership experience of your dreams. The wrong decision could easily flip your big building plans into something of a nightmare of unanticipated expenses and delays, as well as compromises that diminish your dreams for your home.
Choosing the right lot for your dream home is critical. And the truth is it’s not easy. But it can be fun! The building lot will determine a lot about the final design, which is probably what you’ve been dreaming up in your head. There are pitfalls, so it’s helpful to seek assistance if you’ve never bought land to build before. Check out “Tips for Buying Land,” Part 1 and Part 2. For choosing the topography of your desired building lot, read on.
A lot of effort and planning go into choosing the right site to build your dream home. A large rural lot or a suburban corner lot would make a great spot to build this 3-bedroom Country Farmhouse style home with side-entry garage on the right (Plan #141-1306).
Lots of Lots – What Type Is for You?
You can think of a house building lot as the canvas of our dream home. Just as a smooth canvas, a textured canvas, or even a slab of wood can affect the look of a painting, so too a building lot can affect the appearance and performance of a house. Standing in front of an empty patch of land, it could be hard for anybody to imagine how a barely visible slope could impact drainage in the basement or no slope at all would negate a walk-out basement.
Each type of lot has its pros and cons, and some lots lend themselves better to particular features than others. These are things to keep in mind early on if you want your dream home to have huge windows that frame a breathtaking vista or a basement garage with an entrance on the side of the house. Here are the most popular types of lots you will encounter in your search:
A flat green patch of lawn is the default image when it comes to home design. As charming as a nice even carpet of green grass looks (and don’t get us wrong because a nice patch of grass is beautiful), a flat lot doesn’t always equal a perfect piece of land. There are problems that may come with that simple, smooth surface. If your dream home wish list includes a basement, be ready to install a system – even a sump-pump system – to curb potential flooding. Even with the best drainage systems, there is still the potential for water damage if you’re home is sitting at the lowest point in the neighborhood and a sump pump fails.
A flat site is perfect for a home built with a slab or crawlspace foundation, like this 3-bedroom, 2-bath single-story European style home (Plan #193-1066).
Just as it would suggest, a view building lot has a vista to showcase. The design plans for these building lots hopefully include a grand window or outdoor area to enjoy the view. The location will depend on the view you want. Some people are into the urban views and shining city lights, while others want to drink their coffee with a view of the great outdoors. Both views can be stunning, but urban land is much more expensive and is in much shorter supply. The ideal home building lots with amazing views often lie outside of urban areas in beautifully underdeveloped lands … for now. Think ahead and find out if there are any development projects planned. You don’t want to risk swapping a view of fiery autumn leaves for a Walmart parking lot.
This 2-bedroom Country style Vacation home on a lake (top) is built on a view lot, but the land is also a down site, as you can see by looking at the rear of the home (bottom). The covered rear porch looks out on the lake, as do the large windows, swinging glass doors, and sliding glass doors (Plan #196-1013).
A corner lot is just as it sounds. It’s a piece of property that lies on the corner of two intersecting streets, giving two sides of the home a “front.” Homes with side-entry garages are ideal for a corner lot. Corner lots allow easier access to the rear of your home, as well as the option for two separate entrances to the home. For this reason, they can draw a premium over standard lots, though this varies depending on other factors such as size, location, and use of the lot.
Top: With a side-entry 3-car garage on the left, this 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath transitional Ranch style home is a perfect choice for a corner lot (Plan #168-1140). Bottom: Also adaptable to a corner lot, this 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath Craftsman-themed Ranch home could be placed catty-corner on the lot, or the driveway or walkway could curve slightly to one of the streets (Plan #106-1275).
If you’re looking to build in the inner city, you’re not looking for a lot to accommodate a cute picket fence enclosing a large yard or a garden. Narrow building lots – those 45 feet wide or under – do sacrifice space, but with the right builder, they won’t lack design efficiency or beauty. They are becoming increasingly popular as old buildings are being torn down in conjunction with people making a shift toward smaller, more simple living.
At just 24 ft. wide (and 30 ft. deep), this charming 2-bedroom Bungalow style home would be just the ticket if you were in possession of a narrow building lot (Plan #115-1370).
There are three kinds of sloped lots, and this is a popular option because, depending on direction and amount of slope, it may avoid basement flooding much better than flat land. But sloped lots can also be steep for your wallet. It’s a general rule that you’ll pay an additional $10,000 in site-preparation and other costs for every meter of fall.
• Side Slope: A reason people go for the side slope is the design features it accommodates. Building on a side slope creates the opportunity for a walk-out basement with the entrance on the side or – more commonly – a side-entry basement garage. Of course, you could enter the home from the garage (going into the basement or directly upstairs), but you would also likely have an entry pathway from the driveway up to the house as well as an entry directly from the street.
This one-story 3-bedroom Country style Ranch home has a basement, but not a walkout type; the lot doesn't allow for it. However, the left-sloping lot affords the homeowners to have large egress windows on the left and/or rear of the house for a daylight basement with bedrooms if desired. (Plan #120-2530).
• Up Slope: Also called an “up site,” this type of home building lot has the house sitting higher than the approaching road or street, so you have to walk up (often with stairs) to it. This site is ideal for a home with a front-entry basement garage. In most cases, the slope continues up past the back of the house, but it doesn’t have to.
Because you have to walk uphill to this 4-bedroom Contemporary style luxury home, it's site is an "up" type, but the site is also a view lot of the right and rear. (Plan #149-1876)
• Down Slope: Also called a “down site,” this building lot slopes down and away from the house, so it is ideal for a walkout basement with the exit/entrance in the rear. You may have to walk down from the street level to the front of the house but not always. A view lot may also be a down site, but not necessarily.
An ideal design for a down site, this 3-bedroom Country style home has a walkout basement in the rear (top), while the front of the house (middle) seems as if it's on a flat site. A side view of the garage and house (bottom) gives a good view of how the home is positioned on the down-sloping site (Plan #116-1074).
What Else Should I Consider?
As you may have guessed, deciding on the land itself isn’t enough consideration for buying the land. Here are a few more things you should think about before you decide a parceled patch of land is “the one.”
1. Choose your builder first – The right builder will be able to assist you in sourcing the ideal plot of land and may be able to help you fin your search for the best home design to match.
2. Accessibility – Where is the site located? Are you on a main street, and if not, how easy is it to get to main roads?
3. Nearby Amenities – Is the lot located near shops, schools, childcare, and gas stations. Are there development plans for the future? Do your research!
4. Lot Orientation – North-facing lots often make sense because the lucky homeowner gets to enjoy the sun in most living spaces through all four seasons. North-facing or not, consider the lot’s orientation while searching for your home floor plan to ensure that your most-often-used living spaces get as much natural sunlight as possible.
5. Are you connected? – Establish which utilities and services are available for you to connect, such as gas, telephone, water, electricity, and sewer systems.
6. Privacy – If you’re in a small-lot subdivision, you want to make sure there are no overlooking issues that could infringe on your daily privacy. However, if you’re seeking total privacy in a secluded area, safety is another concern you should have.
Talk about private! This 4-bedroom, 4-bath, 2-half-bath luxury Craftsman-influenced mountain style home is a high-end getaway with rolling hills as the only neighbors (Plan 161-1021).
7. Street-front views – Check out the building lot from street front to make sure there isn’t anything you might find objectionable affecting the preferred position of the house, such as verge trees, light poles, sewers, and fire hydrants.
8. Design guidelines – Are you buying in a neighborhood with specific design and material guidelines or, worse, restrictions?
9. Buy now and for the future – Just as when you buy a home, always consider the resale value of the site and location.
This ornate 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath Country style home on a beautifully landscaped up-site lot pretty much ensures resale just because of how beautiful it is (Plan #198-1021).
As you can see, buying a piece of land to build your dream home is no small deal. There is a lot to consider, but the first thing should be the type of lot.
Work with your builder to asses the land and the design options available with your unique block. Then you can marry the logistics of the land with the additional considerations to design and build the home of your dreams.