Buying a block of land should be easy. Unlike purchasing an existing home, there’s no construction quality issues to consider, no style to choose, and no decorating details to slow down the decision-making. However, it’s not as simple as looking in the paper and picking a block out. There are far more factors to consider as your choice of land is intrinsic to the success of your custom-built home… so here is a checklist with some of the more important considerations.
Location is the Key
The first step is to go out and see how much land is currently available, where it is located and at what price.
While you don’t want to be too far from facilities such as shops, parks, schools and public transport, when it comes to infrastructure like freeways or a train line, for example; you definitely don’t want to be too close.
Where facilities are not yet in place, this means doing some research to find out where and when they will appear, at the same time being aware that not all promises come to fruition.
Consider Land Suitability
It is also important to make sure the land you purchase is compatible with your home design, with the size, the shape, orientation, slope and soil type all points you need to consider.
Every site is different and it is not financially logical to do a soil test on every block of land you consider purchasing, so consult adjoining property owners or local builders. When you have decided on the land you feel is right for you, then obtain a soil report.
The cost of foundations can vary significantly depending on the type of soil involved. Sandy and light soils may need reinforcement even over light gradients, and thick clay or rocky soils may incur additional excavation and tipping costs. Damp blocks may require additional drainage, even across garden areas, while the costs or suitability of underground garaging or cellaring can vary hugely depending on the wetness of the site.
Even the most poorly oriented block can look sunny and elevated when it is vacant – get an expert opinion on how your block’s exposure to sun, wind and rain will affect the home you hope to build.
Check Services & Facilities
Some of the things to think about when choosing your block are the availability of power, water and sewerage, and storm water easements; these can all substantially add to the cost of building. While most blocks in established areas are fully-serviced, you shouldn’t automatically assume that all services are available. Blocks on new estates, in rural and remote areas, will often incur additional costs for service connection.
Acreage, in particular, will have costs associated with installing a household sewerage treatment plant, power lines, water tanks, telephone and internet connection, and possibly even access roads. Steep blocks or sites with difficult access all have challenges that will cost you more money. There are also possible additional costs if you’re building a considerable distance from the property alignment.
Once you have narrowed down the options on your land, talk to the local authority planning branch to check flood levels, landslip, buffer zones and other easements. Do your homework and talk to some industry experts; the more research you do, the fewer surprises you will have when you start building.
Check out the Neighbourhood
When inspecting land, consider the age and lifestyle of those living in the area. Do you have anything in common with your potential neighbours? How close are shops, public transport and schools? Is the neighbourhood relatively quiet? Does it offer you a lot of variety? If you’re seeking privacy, is the area one where you can live a comfortable distance from your nearest neighbour?
Think about how long you plan to live in the area and whether it can meet your needs now and in the future. Look at the location and quality of the surrounding homes. Your re-sale and enjoyment are dependant on the neighbourhood you purchase in.
Uncover easements (No Building Zones)
Check the Land Title Certificate carefully, visit the Council and approach the relevant bodies to discover whether there are encumbrances on your land.
An easement in the backyard may be a small thing unless it happens to be where you want to put the pool; a road-widening order or heritage listing may not affect how you use the block today but could vitally affect how you sell your home in the future.
For impartial advice on available options and what is needed before building a home, please read the Buying Land and Building a Home booklet.
The booklet outlines what to look for when choosing a block of land, the different building options available, how to select the right builder, what the building contract should contain and what rights the buyer has when entering into a building contract.
It also outlines what qualifications and approvals are required for owner/builders.
Like all Housing NSW publications, there is a list of contact phone numbers for government and non-government organisations which can assist further.