Ask Yourself These Questions When Looking to Buy Land to Build a Home

Home on open land

Unless you have already purchased your land or are building on family land, it can be challenging to find the right land for building your home. With so many options and budget variables, there are a few things to look at to make the process less of a burden.

1. What's the Budget for Your Land?

First, start with a realistic budget. Think about what you can afford and combine the monthly payment for the land and the home. To get an estimate of the home cost, shop around for similar homes and what they are selling for.

To give yourself a buffer, add costs for custom features that you may want. To figure out the land budget, subtract the home amount from the overall allowance to come up with the land budget.

Remember to Budget for Preparing the Land

But be prepared—there's more to your land budget than just the price of the land. If you're planning to build in a less-developed area, you probably need to plan on a water well and septic system. Those two things combined can cost anywhere from $12,000 to $17,000.

Also, you'll need to take site preparation into account—dirt work to level the pad for the house, tree removal, dirt work to create access from the road to the building site, gravel, maybe a culvert for the drainage ditch by the road, etc.

I've seen costs for all this range from $5,000 to $70,000. Usually it's around $5,000 to $10,000. Subtract the above numbers from your land budget, and that's your budget for buying the land itself.

Now, it's time to go shopping.

2. Where is the Ideal Location?

Figuring out what location works for you is a good place to start. Think about things like proximity to work, school districts, road conditions, distance to neighbors, etc. Drive the areas you're interested in to look for real estate signs and empty land.

Often times, the land you want isn't for sale, but a little digging in county property records will turn up the owner's name. Call them up, or write a letter asking if they'd be interested in selling.

You might be surprised what turns up. Start some market research to find out what land is worth in that area, so you'll know what you should expect to pay.

Here are some other tips to help find the land you're looking for:

  • • Check realtor.com for listings.
  • • There are several websites dedicated to land: landwatch.com, landandfarm.com, landsofamerica.com, and others. Even Craigslist has listings.
  • • When you're driving around in the areas you're interested in, write down the names of real estate agent signs you see. Even if they don't have the listing you want, they'll probably know the area and the community. They might even have a pocket listing, which is land that's for sale but isn't listed anywhere.
  • • Check with builders who build on land. Many times they'll know of land that's for sale because they've helped others look.

3. How Long Should It Take?

Don't get discouraged if it takes awhile to find that piece of land you're looking for. Sometimes we work with people for months, even years, to help them find the right location.

Just remember, when planning something like this, patience is always worth it in the end.

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Tim Turner

Written by Tim Turner

A home builder for 18 years, Tim is the "son" in Turner & Son Homes. He is the CEO of the company and partners with his dad, Ben, who has been building since 1964.

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