7 Things to Consider When Buying Land to Build in the St. Louis Area
Are you considering buying land to build your own custom home? Lately it seems more and more people are choosing to go this route. However, it isn’t as simple as picking a piece of land and getting started. There are some important things you need to know before you even begin your search. Our land and real estate experts share 7 things you should know before buying land to build on in the St. Louis area.
1. Consider the Location & Area Growth
You probably have at least an idea of where you would like to live. When making this decision, for any home purchase, it is important to be aware of what future plans might exist for an area to ensure they fit your desired environment for the foreseeable future. For example, you may be looking for land in a secluded area, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. If this is what you are hoping for, make sure you look into recent and projected growth for the area, and find out any plans for development around the land. This way, you won’t be disappointed when, in a few years, new shops and developments start to move in and take away from the views and atmosphere you expected.
2. Understand the Lot’s Build-Readiness
Not all land is created equal when it comes to building. It is extremely important to note the build-readiness of the land you are considering purchasing. Many people buy a piece of land because it looks nice or because it is in a great location, but fail to investigate the time or costs that would be associated with preparing the land to build a home, or if a home can even be built there at all! This is where having an experienced real estate agent can pay off big time. If it is not build-ready, you can expect to incur additional expenses to get it to that point. This is a cost you MUST consider since it can get expensive, and failing to do so can put you over your budget and leave you with a piece of land that you are unable to use for your intended purpose.
Build-ready land is ready for immediate construction, given that all permits have been properly secured, and is usually the preferred land type for banks when securing a loan, since it comes with the least risk. This is also the land that will come with the fewest additional expenses, since it already has many of the things it needs, like utilities, road access, etc.
You should pay careful attention during your land search to ensure that you know exactly what you are getting before you consider writing an offer. We recommend that you consult an experienced and trusted home builder at this point in the process who can assist you with evaluating your build options for any piece of land.
We caught up with Katie Bassmann, Sales Manager with Lombardo Homes, who shared with us some information about their Anywhere Lombardo program, and how they can help you evaluate and build on your own land. She shared, “We have a dedicated team that works with our build-on-your-lot customers in helping build their dream home. We can build an Anywhere Lombardo home anywhere within St. Louis, St. Charles, Lincoln, Franklin, Warren, and Jefferson counties.”
Katie went on to say, “During your homesite visit, we will help you determine the views and orientation for your new home, as well as discuss your ideal outdoor living style. We want to ensure your home and your homesite complement each other perfectly. We will also start researching attributes unique to your homesite, which we refer to as due diligence. We will collect information on the boundary survey, topography, test pits, environmental studies, and more.”
3. Be Aware of Zoning and Ordinances
A crucial step before purchasing land to build on, is to check with the governing authorities to verify that a home can actually be built there. Jurisdictions have land that is zoned for a particular use, and if the land is not zoned for residential use, you will be unable to obtain the necessary permits to build a home. Without this important piece of information, you risk buying land that, if your goal is to build a home, is essentially useless.
You should also keep in mind any ordinances that cover the area. Many municipalities in the St. Louis area have their own ordinances that govern things like local law enforcement, parks, roads, trash service, and what is and isn't allowed when it comes to your home. You should be aware of these, so you don’t run into any conflicts down the road.
4. Know if There is an HOA or Similar Authority
If you are looking at land located within a subdivision or already developed community, it is highly likely that community is also governed by a Homeowners Association or similar authority. HOAs usually involve more restrictive and specific covenants, such as how many cars can park outside the home, what type of fencing material is allowed, and even what color your front door can be. Often, owning a home within a subdivision with an HOA also includes yearly fees to help with any neighborhood amenities, like pools, clubhouses, or trails. You want to make sure you know about this ahead of time and take it into consideration.
5. Check for Utilities and Road Access
As mentioned earlier, you will need to know if the property includes utilities, as these are a vital component of a livable home. The most basic utilities include electricity, gas, phone, internet, water, and sewage. If a property does not include these utilities, it can be quite a hassle and become quite expensive to get them there. Although not necessarily impossible, this is something you will absolutely need to find out before you make an offer on a lot, so you can consider what is necessary in your home-building budget and timeline. Choosing a build-ready lot is typically the simplest way to get started since the utilities are already there.
In addition to utilities, it’s important to ensure you have a legal way to access it, especially if it does not include access to public roadways. This means ensuring that you have a way to get to the property without driving on private property that belongs to neighbors. This is most likely in rural settings, where property might be land-locked. In some cases, obtaining the rights to add a roadway to access the property may require obtaining an easement, which is the right to use land legally owned by someone else for a specific purpose, such as a roadway to your property. Depending on the neighbors, gaining an easement can become costly, time consuming, and flat out stressful. You should also check to see if there is an easement on the title of the land you are considering purchasing, so you can be aware and factor this into your decision to purchase.
6. Perform the Necessary Environmental Tests
Much like a home inspection and background research on an existing home you are considering for purchase, land must be tested and checked before buying it to build a home. You will need to have tests run on the land for things like soil contamination, flooding, and soil conditions. All of these affect the ability to build a home, and while they may not outrule putting a structure there, they can bring unexpected expenses in order to do so. Taking the extra care to evaluate the land before you purchase it can save a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road.
7. Work With a Trusted Real Estate Agent and Home Builder
Working with a trusted real estate agent who is familiar with the land purchase and build process can save you time and money, and help ensure there are no surprises. Also, real estate agents often have access to additional resources for listings, which will broaden your search and give you more options when looking for land.
It is also a good idea to consult a home builder before writing an offer on a piece of land to ensure that you fully understand what will need to be done to prepare the land, and all of the costs associated with building on that piece of land. That way, you will be fully prepared and can ensure that you are keeping within your budget.
The Chad Wilson Group has experience working with many new home builders in the St. Louis area and can help you evaluate which one fits your needs best and facilitate the process from start to finish. The expertise of our agents, along with trusted partnerships with area home builders, like Lombardo Homes, ensures that our clients are seeing the whole picture when they consider the costs to purchase land to build a custom home.
The Bottom Line
There are many things to know about buying land to build a home, and it can be overwhelming for many people. Having an experienced real estate agent can take a huge weight off your shoulders during your land search and can save you valuable time and money. An agent will make sure you know the right questions to ask and what to look for to ensure you are buying exactly what you are looking for. They will also be in your corner throughout the process of evaluating the land, negotiating prices, and closing the property.
The Chad Wilson Group has experience working with many new home builders in the St. Louis area and can help you evaluate which one fits your needs best and facilitate the process from start to finish.
Are You Thinking About Selling Land?
More and more, our team is seeing buyers looking to purchase land to build their own custom home. With the rise in land interest, many who have been sitting on land are finding now is a great time to sell. The Chad Wilson Group has helped many people buy and sell land, and would love the opportunity to serve you.
If you are looking for land to build a custom home, or if you have land you are considering selling, there has never been a better time! Contact us using the form below for a free, no obligation consultation with one of our land experts to get started.