To Build or not to Build?

By: Josh Sloan

In many cases, one can save some money and have a lot of input into the home they will have by buying a nice piece of land and building a new home on it. However, to determine if this is the right choice for you, carefully consider all the costs and obstacles that may be in place.

Zoning is an important issue. Be sure the are you want to buy in is zoned for the kind of building you want to do. If it is a home you want to build, obviously you are looking for residential zoning. Some areas that look like they are full of residences can be zoned for only recreational use. This means the homes there cannot be lived in full time. There may be a limit to the number homes and outbuildings on a property. If you want a larger property and plan on building a second home or a suite to use as a mortgage helper or to house your inlaws, be sure the area allows for this. Again, if you want animals, check the zoning.

Also, find out where municipal water and sewer lines are. If they are conveniently right at the lot line, then great. If it is a rural area and you need to drill a well, this is a whole new expense and you will need to be prepared well in advance. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries before a successful well is drilled, and the costs can add-up fast. If you need a septic system, you will need to determine where on the land it will go. A perq test will determine where a septic system can safely be put in so that it doesn't contaminate the ground water. If will need both a septic system and a well, you won't even be able to determine where you can build your house until the locations of these two necessities are established. If the land you have in mind is rocky or very sloped, this can further complicate things.

Finally, consider what builders you will be using. Will you do some of the work yourself, or hire a builder to take care of it? Will that builder be responsible for bringing in the plumber, electrician and other trades as they are needed? When will the project be completed, and if it is behind schedule, what then? These are all questions you need to make sure you address before committing to anything.

None of this is an attempt to scare you away from building your own home. This can be an extremely rewarding experience, and people do it all the time. It is best, though, to be aware of all the possible expenses so you can be prepared for what you are getting into. In many cases, it will be the best choice to build a new home. In other cases, buying an existing home and doing a few custom renovations might end up being far simpler in the long-run. Whatever you choose, have fun, and do your research.

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