Choosing a Homesite

Before you can build a home, you will need a piece of land. Usually land will fall into one of two categories – a piece of land that is for sale independent of a builder or development or a homesite within a development with a predetermined builder or selection of builders.

If you find the perfect piece of land to build on, please understand that it doesn’t mean it is buildable. If you will need a septic system, ask the land owner if there has been a percolation (perc) test done. If so, what were the results? A perc test will tell you if a septic system can be installed, where it can be installed (on 4 acres of land, you may not want your home setback on 25 feet from the road, so finding out where is important), and how many bedrooms it can support (If you are a family of ten, you will want to know that it can only support a family of two. This is why perc test results are given in the form of bedrooms (assuming 2 people per bedroom instead of bathrooms). If a perc test has not been completed, make your offer contingent on a successful perc test.

If the land you are looking at is within a development you will want to ask what options you have for builders. Next, you will want to make sure you understand what the final plans are for the entire development. Right now the homesite may look private with mature trees behind it, but will it stay that way or is the developer planning to remove those trees and build another set of homes in what you think is a nice tranquil backyard? How close will the homes be to each other? Are there any amenities within the development and if so, where will they be located? When do they expect the community to be complete? In a development where you are one of the first to build, these questions will be important. You want to make sure you aren’t surprised by the progression of the community after you are living in the home you have built.

The condition of the land will impact the time and expense of building a home. An peice of land with a successful perc test (when needed) will be easier to build on if the land is flat and clear. Land that requires leveling, retaining walls, and tree clearing will add to the expense and time of the build. Most developers have either lot fees or have built in the price to prepare the land in their home prices.

Our building project is the final home of an already developed neighborhood. We know that the homes in this neighborhood are on public water and sewer so a perc test is not needed. We know nothing more can be built in the woods behind the homesite because of a conservation easement. We are well aware of the setback requirements and proximity to neighbors. We know that the homes in this neighborhood are on public water and sewer so a perc test is not needed. We also know we will need to put some work into making the site buildable. We are very excited to see the transformation.

There are no pre-determined builders for this homesite, so we are free to interview builders and decide who would be best for this project. In the next segment of our blog, we will talk about what questions you should be asking builders and what makes one builder better than another. Stay tuned!

Other Related Articles

Home Building Guide - ebook

Hiring a Builder

When hiring a builder think about how involved you want to be in the process. Typically a person who is building a home will fall into one of three categories:

1) Not too interested in design choices, but would like a nicely built home. – Many of the larger builders offer limited selections and don’t allow for changes. This is a good choice for a person who isn’t interested in the details.

2) Desires a completely custom home. – The very high end custom builders say “yes” to almost all requests and their clients pay a premium for this flexibility.

3) Interested in being involved in the process and would like flexibility in the building and finishings. – Many small and medium sized builders have a selection of floor plans and options, but allow for changes to those plans and flexibility on the finishings and details of the home. This home building series can benefit all three categories of people but is most inline with the the person who is wanting to be involved and make choices, but doesn’t have an endless bank account.

Site Prep

Some homesites will requires days or weeks of site prep. This post is designed to help you think through the potential tasks needed to prepare your land – tree clearing, fill dirt, retaining wall, and drainage.

Creating a Backyard

We have said from the beginning that we like a challenge. This particular piece of land presents challenges because of this steep drop, but it is a challenge that can be overcome with some engineering. It would have been easier to say this home would not have a backyard, but that wasn’t going to work for me.

Cement, Rebar, and Engineer Plans, Oh My!

The average home sits on top of a 12 inch footer with metal rebar every 3 to 4 feet. If you have been following our blog, you know this is not your average home. After the lot was cleared and dirt was moved around, the engineer came out to re-assess. This was the plan all along – start clearing and moving dirt then re-assess our building plan. Even if you know a home can be built, but it is important to take a step back and make sure it is being done the best way.

Window Selections

It may seem early in the process to start thinking about “selections”, but these decisions are often made before the framing is done to ensure all materials are delivered in a timely manner and the contractors have what they need when they are ready to start installing.

Color Selection

I love color. However, picking the right paint color always leaves me stumped. I am the queen of paint samples, samples, and more samples. I have quickly learned that the tiny little color swatch is very different than a 9 foot wall (multiplied by 4 walls). But repainting a powder room a few times isn’t the end of the world. Although my husband may disagree.

Framing Tips

While the builder has the framing crew at your home site, you will be spending your time making all your selections.  But there are some important things to be thinking about during the framing process.  If you haven’t already, ask about the width of the wood being used.  2×4’s are appropriate and used in most homes.  But if you are worried about the cost to heat and cool your home, you may want to ask for your exterior walls to be framed with 2×6’s. It should not be too expensive for this upgrade and you will be gaining 2 inches of insulation (6 inches instead of 4 inches).  And since we are on the topic of insulation, discuss to differences between spray foam and batting with your builder and ask what they intend to use to insulate your home.   Foam’s R-Value, or thermal performance, is twice that of the traditional batting.  Don’t forget about extra insulation in the attic, basement, and over the garage.

Flooring, Cabinetry and Countertop Selections

While the walls and stairs are being built inside your home, it is time to start thinking about the finishing touches. The more custom your builder is, the more options you will have available to you. The three areas we will focus on are: Flooring, Cabinetry, Countertops