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Building Lot-Property

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If you are going to build a house, you will need some where to put it. Property comes into in many forms. You can buy an improved or unimproved lot or acreage. The property can be purchased from a land developer, a private owner, general contractor or a farmer.

Improvements - Building lots can have various stages of improvement. A fully improved lot will usually have the following improvements: curb, gutter, sidewalk, electricity, sewer connection, gas, telephone and communications cable. An unimproved lot will have no improvements. Generally the city or county will set the minimum improvements that must be in place before construction can begin. When searching for lots remember that the city may require the owner to install (at the owners expense) improvements as a condition to obtaining a building permit. For example, if an lot doesn't have curb and sidewalk the city may require that they are installed.

Zoning- Cities and counties have planners and that create zoning maps and ordinances. The zoning map specifies the type of building and the use of the property. Typical zones are residential, commercial and industrial. Within each of these classifications are sub-categories. For residential, sub-categories would include single family residential (SFR), Multi family residential (MFR), and High density Residential (HDR) Most houses fall into the single family or multifamily residential zones. High rise apartments and condominiums are built in high density residential. If you are unsure of the zoning of a property, check with your local planning commission or building department.

Location- The three most important factors that determine the value of a property are... location, location and location. Once you have determined your property budget, you are set to shop for a lot.

Five common ways to find a property:

Realtor- Realtors can give you a complete list of the properties for sale. The list can sort the prospective properties by asking price, location, lot size, zoning and other factors.

Drive by- Many times a property is not listed at all. The owner hasn't listed it and has no immediate plans to sell. Drive around a look for vacant lots or undeveloped properties. You can find out the current owners by checking the county records department and contact them directly.

Referral- Often friends and neighbors hear about a property being sold before the owner decides to list it. Get the word out to friends and family in the area that you are looking for building property.

FSBO- (For Sale By Owner) often property owners will sell their property on their own, to avoid the real estate fee. Check in newspapers and real estate magazines. Often good deals can be found.

Developers- Contractors and developers will often sell off some of their lots to owner builders. Often, the least desirable lots will be the ones for sale and for a higher price.

Choosing a Property
There are many factors that make a location desirable. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Proximity to elementary, middle and high schools, religious institutions, shopping and business districts etc.
  2. Average cost of houses in your neighborhood. Houses that are priced near the median range in your neighborhood will sell easier and appreciate faster.
  3. Grade and configuration of Property. This will determine the size and style of house that would be practical to build on the property.
  4. Covenants that limit style, color and building features of the homes in the area.
  5. Distance to railroads, land fills, toxic storage sites and fuel storage sites.
  6. Is the property located on a flood plain?
  7. Is the property located near a fault line?
  8. Are electrical power lines located on or near the property?
  9. Are there any easements which restrict the placement of the house on the property, or affect property rights.
  10. Is there a neighborhood association?
  11. Distance from busy streets, highways, freeways, etc.
  12. What are the soil conditions?
  13. Is the property located in a sensitive soil area as classified by the building department or by local geotechnical engineers?
  14. What was the property used for before it was developed? Has an environmental study been performed on the site?

It is also a good idea to get second opinions from building professionals, engineers and building officials and real estate professionals.

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