Building a House: Choosing the Right Lot
When it came to building the house, I put a lot of thought into everything. I found it hard not to when this was the biggest purchase/investment of our lives. While it may seem silly, I considered a lot of things when choosing the right lot for our preferences.
Keep in mind we built with a production builder, I detailed all of that in the first post of the Building a House series.
When looking at new construction neighborhoods, I’d encourage you to go online first and look up that neighborhood on the builder’s website. Most have neighborhood maps online with all of the lots depicted and which lots have been sold and which are still available.
Do you want to be by the entrance/exit or further away?
Do you care if the back of your house looks into the back of your neighbor’s house?
Or would you rather your backyard butt up to something more private like woods or a lake?
How big/small of a lot would you like?
The lots in our neighborhood range from around .3 acres to .7 acres. We wish we could’ve had a bigger yard, but we would’ve had to buy private land in the country and do a custom build, which would’ve been more expensive. We didn’t want to be by the main entrances or exits in a our neighborhood. It’s just a personal preference to be tucked further back into a neighborhood where there, hopefully, isn’t as much traffic. We also didn’t want our property to meet up with our neighbor’s property in the back. We’ve just never been fans of being only a couple hundred feet from our neighbor’s backdoor. We kind of have that with our house, but there’s a lake separating us from our neighbors behind us– the lake is a nice buffer. And speaking of the lake, living on a lake wasn’t a must-have for us, but it wasn’t a turn off either. But we love the view, and once we get a fence (with locking gates) put in, I’ll feel more comfortable with Owen playing outside. But for now we’re always out there with him, and he hasn’t shown interest in the lake.
Which direction do you want your house to face?
Do you like a lot of natural sunlight?
Keep in mind you may not have a lot of options in choosing your lot location and position depending on how many lots have sold in the neighborhood and what’s available.
I knew I wanted a north facing lot. And it all has to do with natural sunlight. Our floor plan has the main living areas (living room, kitchen, dining room, playroom) on the south side of the house, and I wanted those rooms to be filled with as much sunlight as possible throughout the day. Because the south side of your house will receive the most sunlight throughout the day. It just so happened that our neighborhood had one north-facing lot that would fit our house, so it worked out perfectly.
Something to consider is if you like spending a lot of time in your backyard in the evening and don’t like the sun blaring in your face, you may want a west facing house. Because in the evening the sun will shade the back of the house. Another thing to think about is if you live in a climate where it snows a lot, consider where your driveway and walkways are going to be located. If they’re on the north side (and/or west) of the house, it will take longer for the snow and ice to melt.
Will the House Fit?
If you’re wanting to build a specific house, let’s say Floor Plan A, Elevation A with a side loading garage, make sure you ask your builder if that specific house with a side loading garage will fit on the lot you want. We were looking at the lot next to ours but our house wouldn’t fit on it with a side loading garage. We didn’t want a front loading garage so we went with our current lot. So just be prepared that the house you love may not fit on the lot that you love.
After getting home from our initial meeting with the builder, I busted out my laptop and did a sunlight analysis on our perspective lot. Yes, I went that far. The sunlight analysis website shows you how the sun will hit a certain location throughout the time of year and time of day. So I found a pre-existing houses that would face the same way as ours and did analyses on it. When I told our realtor about my little experiment she said, “You’re my first client to ever do that.” I replied, “Thank you. I take that as a compliment.” She then said her engineer husband was impressed. *brushes dirt off shoulder*
I don’t know if this is the case everywhere, but where we live, most lots have easements. Most easements are sections of land that are granted to utility companies to run lines. Easements can also be for proper water drainage/flow.
Make sure you check with your builder and find out how much of your yard is yours and how much is the easement. Where we live, you can’t put any permanent structure in the easement. For example, our yard has a pretty big easement. We have 25 feet of yard and 45 feet of easement from the end of the yard to the edge of the lake. So when we add a deck next spring, we can’t go past the 25 foot mark and into the easement.
Some HOAs are lenient with easements. For example, our HOA said we can put a portion of our fence in the easement. I called the HOA before we selected our lot to see if they would let us put the fence in the easement because that may have been a deal breaker for us. So don’t be afraid to call neighborhood HOA and ask questions before choosing your lot. Your builder should have the HOA contact information.
Walk the Lot
Once you’ve chosen a potential lot or lots, go walk them. I walked our lot a handful of times and took pictures from various angles of the property. Also keep in mind the elevation of your house. When standing on the first floor of our house, we’re about 3-4 feet above the ground. So the view inside of the house is slightly different from just standing on the ground outside. Bring some family members or friends to walk lots with you. Getting different opinions can be helpful.
Note: I suggest wearing some sort of boots when walking lots because most lots can be rather muddy.
In our neighborhood, the same houses with the same elevations can’t be built directly next to each other or across the street. (Example: if I want to build Floor Plan A, Elevation A, I can’t build across the street or next to another House A, Elevation A.) If you have your heart set on a particular house, make sure you ask your builder if you can build it on the lot you’re eyeing. Also in our neighborhood, you can’t use the same brick or main siding color as the surrounding houses. This may not be the same for every builder, but be sure to ask.
Standard Lot Vs. Look Out Vs. Walk Out Lot
When you buy a new construction home you should receive a lot survey. This will show how your new home will sit on the lot and should show easements, topography, lot Line measurements, etc. Depending on the topography of the neighborhood, some homesites can be either walk out, look out, or standard. Walkout means full-size windows in the basement with a door leading outside. Lookout means full-size windows in the basement but no door. Standard means you can have a window, but it would need to be an egress window. Our house is a standard with an egress window.
BUILDING A HOUSE SERIES
Don’t forget to check out the other posts in my Building a House Series!
Building with a Production Builder
Thank you so much for documenting everything so clearly! We have been thinking about building and the sunlight thing has been a question on my mind – the sunlight analysis website is genius – thanks for sharing!! I also prefer side loading garages. So basically, if we decide to build will you be our project manager / general contractor?! 😉
Love your attention to detail. Thanks for sharing!
We built a few years ago, and I agree that picking the right lot is one of the most important decisions we made. I think it’s definitely worth paying a premium for good lot, because unlike other upgrades like paint and flooring, you can’t change the lot later. I also did not want another house directly behind me, and I wanted some mature trees since any trees you plant yourself will take several years to get tall. I also preferred not to be near a pond, because I’ve lived near one before that had major issues with crazy Canadian geese!
I wish we would have been more detailed and on top of things. Our neighbor doesn’t have as many regulations as yours. But our house was built cockeyed, so on one side of our house where we should have 8 feet. We have less than 5 feet. Its awful. I’m sure selling will be a PITA.
Our builder already had each lot predestined for a certain model, elevation, and garage side. We actually ended up going with our second favorite elevation because we liked that lot better than any available in our first choice. I don’t regret it at all because I love the times of day we get sun on the back/front our house, and the location is perfect. Loving these posts!
My wife and I have been looking at homes for sale, and I think that being able get some tips would be good. I’m glad you talked about being able to look at neighbors houses, which I think would be good. I’m going to have to look at some different homes for sale and see what we can find!
This is some really good information about choosing a house lot. It is good to know that it would be smart to consider how much sunlight the lot will get and where the sun hits the lot. I know that Iw ould like to have a lot of natural light in my house without having to be woken up in the morning by the sun.
Great informative post about building a house! Thanks for sharing this post with us.
Ok, so here’s a topic not often mention in home building articles, thanks for citing this topic! Informative indeed! I agree, before buying or constructing a new house, to consider the placement of everything, I think the Sunlight Analysis is smart. Not all homeowners take this into account. Great advice!