Your own patch of land is like a slice of heaven. It’s yours to do with what you will—no need to get a landlord’s permission to put up a doggie run or plant a cherry tree. (Not to mention you’ll be building equity in your own home.) If you’re fed up with searching MLS sites trying to find the perfect home for your family, you’re likely thinking of buying a plot of land and building your own home.
At Shorten Homes, we work with aspiring homeowners every day who understand the value of modular construction—it’s less expensive and less time-consuming, yet offers comparable resale and exceptional aesthetics when compared to conventionally built homes. One of the first steps in becoming the proud owner of a high-quality modular home is to purchase a plot of land. There are a number of factors you need to consider before signing on the dotted line, however.
Know where to look.
Before you can determine what to look for in a plot of land, you need to know where to look. You’re likely to find occasional listings for vacant land up for sale on MLS sites, such as Realtor.com and Redfin.com. However, these are few and far between. You may have better luck and expanded options by checking dedicated land transaction websites. These include LandWatch, LandCentral, and LandHub.
Don’t stop there, however. Depending on which state you wish to live in, you may have access to state land bank operations. Land banks acquire problematic real estate property, such as foreclosed, vacant, and abandoned property. Many of these properties are undeveloped land, and they can be worth checking out.
Look for road access.
Road access is critical. You’ll want to buy a parcel of land that has a decent amount of road frontage. If you have your heart set on a parcel that lacks road frontage, you’ll need to create your own access road, which means you’ll need to acquire an easement.
Check the zoning and building codes.
It’s a good idea to hire a real estate lawyer who understands the ins and outs of local ordinances and zoning. First and foremost, you’ll need to ensure that the land is zoned for residential use. If so, you’ll need to check whether there are any restrictions placed on the land. For example, some land-use regulations include minimum and maximum building areas, maximum lot coverage, and limits on accessory structures.
Check with your city or county planning department regarding the building codes applicable to the area. You might be surprised to learn that some land zoned as residential isn’t actually buildable because it doesn’t meet the requirements regarding topography, soil, sewer access, and so forth.
Consider whether utility hookups are available.
Property labelled as “raw” or “undeveloped” land is unlikely to have connected utilities. You’ll need to do your due diligence to determine if it’s feasible to connect the necessary utilities, and if so, how much it will cost.
For example, you will need to determine if you can connect the property to a public water supply. Otherwise, you’ll need to drill a well. Then, check with your municipality and power company regarding the cost required to run power lines to your property. Don’t rely on vague descriptions in property listings, as “nearby power hookups” could mean a few yards down the road or a few miles away.
Sewage is another issue to consider. Is there a public sewer connection available? If not, is a connection possible? If you can’t connect to public sewer lines, you’ll need to hire a septic company to install a septic system. If you do need to install a septic system, you should have the company evaluate the land and do soil tests before you purchase it. Some land is unsuitable for septic system installations, such as soil with high clay content.
Don’t neglect to consider cellphone service and Wi-Fi availability, either. Many rural areas lack or have spotty service.
Check the flood maps.
It’s safe to say that parcels located near rivers and coastal water bodies are within floodplains. However, floods can and do occur anywhere—even long distances away from major bodies of water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers flood maps for public use. You can check the FEMA website to find and download flood maps applicable to your area to assess its potential risk. If the property is located within a flood zone, you’ll want to purchase flood insurance.
When you’ve found the perfect plot of land for your new home—or even if you’re still searching for it—come talk to the friendly folks at Shorten Homes. Since 1977, our family-owned business has designed, built, and assembled more than 5,000 beautiful modular homes. Over the years, we’ve developed a sterling reputation for dependability, outstanding customer service, and quality craftsmanship using exceptionally durable materials. Contact us today at info@ShortenHomes.com or swing by our design center in Scranton, PA to get started.