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What to Consider Before Buying Land in Cincinnati, OH

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Purchasing property to build your new custom home is the very first step in your journey. On the surface, this may seem like an easy decision. Find something that you can envision your new home on. Maybe it’s location, possibly the features, easy right? But beware that not all lots are equal. Throw in the purchase price development costs and the picture is not so clear. Understand that the property purchase will have the biggest impact on your overall budget. Therefore, it is very important to do your due diligence prior to purchasing. But what do you need to consider when evaluating property? I will highlight some key areas to consider.

Zoning

With most properties, there are rules and regulations on what you can do with a property. Jurisdictions have zoning laws that define the rules. It is important to know what the zoning or local ordinances are for the property. Zoning regulations will define the rules. Items such as the property use (commercial vs residential), the size and types of structures that can be built, & the setbacks are typical items of a zoning regulation. It is important to know these rules to make sure your ideas are legally possible on the property.   The local zoning or building departments and or builders/ architects can help you find the information.

Utilities

A home needs water, electricity, sewage. Knowing what access you may or may not have to these items will have a huge impact on your budget and the feasibility of a property. This is where you need to dig into the specifics. A quick call to the local utilities can confirm the availability of services to the property. Also, ask about fees for these services. Many times, the basic fees may only cover part of the costs. An example would be the electric service. The local electric utility might bring service to the house at no charge up to 200 feet from the road but after that, they charge a fee beyond that.   There are also typically “tap” fees. These are costs charged by the utility to hook up to their service. One of the biggest utility costs is sewage. If a public sewer connection is not present on the property, you may need to extend to the public sewer or put an on-site septic system. Either option has a big cost implication.

Site Development

The characteristics of the property can have an impact on your overall budget and home design. Any property will have to have the site prepared to build a home on it. A slightly sloping lot that is clear of trees and has public sewer access is easier to prepare than a lot on a hillside, covered with trees, and needs an on-site septic system. The latter would incur more costs to clear the trees, install a septic system, excavation, and geotechnical investigations.   It could even spill over into more costs for foundations and footings for the home.   Understand that the site prep costs are mostly independent of the size/ type of home.

Price

When evaluating several properties, you need to consider the full picture. Your true costs are not the asking price but the sum of the price and site development costs. I have had people in the past come to me after purchasing the property and tell me they got a “great deal” on the property only to find out that the site development costs made building a home cost-prohibitive. My advice is to do your homework upfront prior to purchasing. However, sometimes a property becomes available, and you don’t want to lose the opportunity to purchase it. I recommend in those cases to putting a due diligence clause in the purchase contract. This can give you time to properly evaluate the land and if things don’t check out, a means to terminate the contract.

Research Builders

Many people go find a property then go find the builder. I would argue against this approach. You need to put together your team for the build. Any good custom home builder has the experience, knowledge, and resources to evaluate a property.   By determining which builder you want to work with prior to purchasing property, you now have a team of people and resources to pull from. This will help greatly in figuring out the suitability of the properties and lead to a successful new home build.

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