Urban Home – Aug/Sept 2011

Article - Custom Home Advice

Lot “Cost” and Lot “Price” can be two VERY different numbers!

By Karen Matuszewski, By Design – Custom Home Consulting


After a lengthy search you finally found the perfect lot for your new custom home. The neighborhood is perfect, the view is spectacular and the price fits your budget . . . or does it? There are many more things to consider when evaluating a lot than merely the asking price for the property.

While price and location are always prime and obvious considerations, many factors will impact the final “cost” of that seemingly perfect home site that must be considered before purchasing. Here are a few of the things that custom home buyers tend to overlook:

1. Are there deed or building restrictions that govern home construction? Subdivisions often have stipulations requiring specific building materials (i.e. tile roof or wood windows), either item could add $30,000 or more to the price of your home.

2. Are there impact or tap fees? For example, in subdivisions with community propane systems, the developer assesses a cost recovery fee to every lot in order to recoup the cost of the improvement. All lots are assessed the fee even if homeowners don’t intend to use propane.

3 The perfect tree-lined lot can incur fees to thin out the existing foliage or even remove trees from the potential building site. If your lot lacks trees, bringing in mature vegetation can be very expensive.

4. Sewer or septic? Lots with sewer may, in addition to a tap fee, also require the addition of a grinder pump. Lots utilizing septic systems will require system engineering to the specification of the governing authority.

5. Topography or grade of the lot can substantially impact building costs. A lot with a significant slope either front to back or side to side can mean a portion of your house might be very high off the ground, resulting in added cost for the slab or added cost to cut the lot to level the building site. Cutting a lot will also require the additional expense of a retaining wall. Lots that drop off from front to back can result in a back patio that could be 15 feet or more higher than your backyard. If your dream was to sit in your living room and look out at your pool, that will not happen unless you raise your pool 15 feet above the ground which is extremely expensive.

These are just a few of the many considerations that need to be taken into account BEFORE purchasing a lot for the home of your dreams. Finding these things out after closing can be a costly mistake requiring scaling back on the amenities in your new home, expanding your budget in order to make the house work for your lifestyle, or worse, selling the lot you just bought and starting over! Working with a professional who knows the questions to ask and can research issues that arise, can prevent your dream home project from starting with a nightmare!

Have a specific question you would like me to address? Send your questions to me at Karen_Matuszewski@yahoo.com.