"Ok, let's start from the top."


Ok, let's start from the top. I hear this phrase a lot when our band is practicing. We all know it means start from the beginning of the song.

I hear this phrase in a different way when a prospective homeowner calls and wants to talk about installing solar panels. We hear it from clients who start by describing their dream home when they haven't even found a lot yet.

Well, I'm a bass player. I like to start with the bottom.

As a builder, I like to start with the foundation.

And as a consultant, I like to start with the location. So let's start there. In coming weeks, I'll take us through the steps to build a home from the bottom up. Sometimes I'll refer to the building blocks in the green building pyramid. See this post about the green building pyramid in the Solluna blog archive. The first step is deciding where to build.

Twelve things to consider when you're looking for a lot

  1. Future growth. The Austin area is a boom town, and growth will continue.
  2. Traffic. Toll roads, construction, infrastructure. 
  3. City or county.  Schools, permits, taxes, police, fire.
  4. Utilities. Are the utilities already curbside, or will you have to build them in?
  5. Soil determines the type of foundation. Is the soil rocky, sandy, clay?
  6. Elevation. Sloped, flat, stair-stepped, below grade. Is there a sweet spot for your house?
  7. Orientation. Locate east, west. How would you orient your home? 
  8. Site preparation. How much effort to clear the lot, remove brush, tear down dilapidated structures?
  9. Water. Is there a public or private water system? Or will you install a rainwater collection system?
  10. Drainage. In central Texas, we end our droughts with flash floods. How will the property drain?
  11. Supply. Evaluate cost, location, terrain, availability.
  12. Payback. Will this lot increase in value?

My suggestion: Do your own homework. Sure, you can call a realtor to help you find a lot, and you should. But let's be honest here -- you need to be involved in the process early on so you can see what's out there. Many people are shocked at the cost of a lot. Two of the most important things about real estate are (1) location, location, location and (2) supply and demand. Be prepared. In this market, you need  cash and secured financing to take advantage of an opportunity when it comes up.

Pay attention to the infrastructure. Some of our Solluna clients are often quite surprised at what it costs to bring in infrastructure like water, electric, septic, driveway, fencing, and so forth. 

Expand your search area. Take a hard look at your must-haves and your nice-to-haves. Spend windshield time looking at "For Sale By Owners" and scouting out the areas you're seeking. Let everyone you know and don't know (that is what social media is for) that you're looking for land.

Put your team together early. You should be talking to a builder/designer at the same time you are talking to a realtor.

Once you've settled on a lot, have your builder look at it either before you make an offer or during the option period. A builder will bring a different set of eyes to assess the lot and identify potential problems.

In our next blog, we'll talk about designing up front for green. Stay tuned!

More reading

See Choosing a Lot for a New Home from the Solluna blog archive.