Selecting a lot to build your home on when you don’t even know what your house will look like is a bit of a daunting task.
We literally looked for our lot probably about 4 years in all. We were looking first at lake front, thinking we wanted lake access. However, in an effort to free up our vacation rental homes for rent, we had purchased a home that was on a lake front lot to stay in while we were in the area. I forgot to mention that we live about 4 hours away from the place we will be building and it is a tourism area.
The house we bought was new but we did not build it. It is what a builder refers to as a spec home, meaning the builder goes ahead and builds a home with no buyer and then lists it. The home is lovely. You can tour it at Chatham Hill on the Lake. After a short time living there we realized we would prefer a hillside view of the lake rather than lake access. Don’t get me wrong, it is sweet to take a path down to the lake, fish, toss our kayak in and float away reading a book, but the view is woods and a peek of the water through the trees. Because of the woods, there is little sunshine flowing in the back of the home and I need a bright home. So, this changed our search to look for another type of lot.
Some lots do not have water, electric or even roads yet and the costs of putting that in can really give you pause. I think it is the number of unknowns that just make selecting a lot to build on so difficult.
We would drive for hours. When you are looking around a lake there are lots of inlets and peninsulas so it takes a long time to check out each street that you find with a lot for sale. In the map below, you are not even seeing the whole lake as it goes well into Arkansas. Our home on the lake is located at the bottom in Blue Eye. Our vacation rentals are almost directly across the lake off of the 265 road. The land we ended up purchasing is far over towards the middle in Kimberling City. From Blue Eye to Kimberling City is nearly an hour.
It’s All About the View
If you are living at the lake, the view is what it is all about. Having a view filled with boat docks is not as preferred as one that has nothing but water.
What lies across the lake from you and also in your view will matter as well. Are there condos, hotels, lots of residential homes? A good rule of thumb is to check a lot you are considering buying at different times of the day, especially the night. You may be looking across at a mass of lights. You may like that view…or not.
Where does the sun rise and set? Do you want to be able to sit out on the back deck and watch the sun sink into the skyline? Then check it out at sunset. The photo above was taken in our new development as we were driving down towards the boat dock. You will notice you can’t see anything across the water. It is all National Forest and will not be touched.
This breath taking sunset photo was taken as I sat in a chair outside of the wine and whiskey bar on the lower level of Top of the Rock. There was a fire in front and built in stone fireplaces on either side of us. The infinity pool in front with the sculpture and the lake beyond as the sun was setting. This is a very relaxing moment in the day.
The view is not only out on the lake or in the sky. It also matters what is on either side of you or across from you. There was one group of lots that we were looking at that butted right up against a trailer park. It was not well kept on the exterior of the homes and we knew that it would not make us happy to have to see discarded appliances and such on an adjacent lot. Often in rural areas there are not restrictions on what people can place on their land.
That brings me to covenants and restrictions. These things matter. If you are going to spend a lot of money to build a wonderful home, be sure that the area you are in has some restrictions or that you are completely protected from any lots near you. If not, you could end up with a commercial building next to you that has lots of activity and noise.
Lots of land can sound like a dream. It did to us. We were willing to purchase as much as 60 acres. It seemed a little foolish in some ways since we are doing this at retirement when we have no idea how long we will have our health, but when you have a dream you want to follow it.
As we continued to search we decided that 10 or less acres would be a lot more practical for us. We still knew for sure that we did not want to see our neighbors easily. We have lived in a subdivision for the last 26 years where we are at the end of the culdesac and there is nothing but common ground behind us. In the front I can see neighbors, in the back we have privacy.
Advantages of a Development
There are a lot of positive things to say about selecting a lot within a development.
- There will be Covenants & Restrictions which protects your property
- There are roads and most often there will be water and electric already on your property
- You can see what is already being built and know whether this is going to fit the style and size of the house you are looking to build
Disadvantages of a Development
For me disadvantages are overshadowed by the positive advantages, but I do want to point out a couple of them for you to consider.
- You may have to use the builder of the development and that may limit you in terms of negotiating cost or in the scope of what and how that builder builds.
- Covenants & Restrictions can also work against you if you want to build a separate building on your property or you would like to have chickens or horses on your land.
The land’s highs and lows, valleys and hills, bluffs and drop offs can all be a confusing consideration.
We drove up to a row of lots that were extremely high on a bluff and they would literally have been hanging in the air on the back. It can be done. We saw some homes while riding in a boat looking at lots from the lake. For us the bluff lot is not an option. I don’t want to worry about my grandchildren wanting to go play and having a dangerous place where they might have a tragic injury.
Still the better views are going to be on land that is sloped.
We finally found our lot a year ago. I seem to have a pattern when I find a place to live. 27 years ago as we were looking for a new home to move to, we were driving on a road and I saw a few homes sprinkled in an area but we could not see a road to get to them. I remember telling my husband that I would love to live there. Several years later when a bridge that we used to drive our kids to school had been washed out by a flood, we had to take a different route. As I was driving one day I realized first that I could see my home from that road, and second, that we were actually living in that place I had seen and didn’t know how to get to. That floored me.
So, this time not quite as dramatic, we were driving down a road and I saw a subdivision behind iron gates and the homes looked gorgeous and were all set to look out over an amazing view. I told my husband that is where I want to live.
I don’t know if we went in that day but eventually we did. There was a lot for sale and we really loved what we imagined the view to be. We came by often to check it out because it is hard to make a decision like that. One day the neighbors came out and talked to us. Invited us in their home. Gave us a tour and invited us out on their boat! We didn’t take them up on the boat ride that day but we were pleased that they were so friendly and loved where they had built.
The photo below was taken from the road at our lot and turned towards the Right. Everywhere you look it is breath taking and yes, the sun will be setting all across the back of our home throughout each season.
My husband measured the lot which was a little smaller than we were hoping at 2.5 acres. He said it was not wide enough for anything we would build. So reluctantly we walked away from that one.
My mom was in town for a visit and I decided to take her over to the area and show her what we had been looking at. Now not only was that lot still for sale but the one next to it now had a sign as well. I was elated!
I called my husband and told him the news and well we now own both lots and there are already homes on either side so we have peace that our surroundings are gorgeous.
The photo below shows the three tiers of streets in our development. Our lot is not visible in this shot but we are on the 2nd tier and off to the Left of the wide light colored home.
The lot is a little over 5 acres and a strong slope. It is heavily wooded. We know that there will be a foundation that is built beneath our walk out because that is how they build on these slopes. Unfortunately that is a significant added cost.
We still have concerns about the cost of removing the trees for our view and how much will it actually cost to build our home since the land is a separate cost it is not the typical dollar per square foot that includes the land.
But at the end of the day, this view from the swing of our community boat dock is a place we are looking forward to living in a few years. Only God knows if it will actually happen, but I hope you join us on this exciting yet worrisome journey. We promise to be real as we face each triumph as well as each obstacle.
If you are considering building a home from architect plans and looking for a lot, I would love to hear your thoughts or questions. If you have already done it, we would love to hear your experience, advice, etc.
If you aren’t planning it at all, we still hope you will be involved since there is so much that goes into the process that can apply to lots of home issues.