Building Old Salt Farm Series: How to select a building lot

Hooray! We are making progress!  Our property will hopefully close in the next week, and the final touches are being made to the plans. We will be building on nine beautiful acres in upstate New York, at the bottom of the Appalachian Mountains.  It’s wooded, with a perfect meadow for the house to sit, and a tree-covered hill in the back.  We’ve got plans galore, and I’m just so excited to get started.

I’m also excited about the “Building Old Salt Farm” series that I’ll be doing during the duration of the building.  I’ll be sharing the entire building process, along with things that I’ve learned along the way. I’ve been waiting to really begin this series until we were closer to building, and I think now’s the right time!For the first post, let’s start at the beginning…how to select a building lot.  Where you build is just as important as what you build, and I’m sharing some things you may want to consider as you’re selecting the perfect place for your new home.

How to Select a Building Lot | Building Old Salt Farm series |

Before you start searching for property, make a list of all the things that are important to you in a lot, and prioritize them. You may or may not be able to find property that has all of those things, but having a list gives you direction, and makes it easier to narrow down the options.  The right lot is often a compromise, but being flexible and keeping your options open helps too! It also really helps to already have house plans, or at least a good idea of the house footprint and dimensions, so you know how (and if) it will fit on the lots you’re looking at.

Our priorities were:

-more than 2 acres (preferably 5+)

-not in a neighborhood/no HOA


-within 30 minutes of stores


-good schools

-certain commute time for my husband

-staying within budget

When we started searching in the areas around us, we were able to automatically narrow it down by the parameters we set. Once we found a couple we really liked, we started doing more in-depth research.  We’ve bought three pieces of property to build on now, and we’ve learned a lot about the process, especially the last one.  Here’s a rundown of a few things to keep in mind, and important items to look into before signing on the dotted line!

* Check to see if the property is in a flood zone or wetlands.  It can mean you have to carry special flood insurance and possibly pose issues or cause extra steps during the building process.

*Consider your commute if you work away from home.  It’s not just the mileage to consider, it’s also the traffic at the times of day when you’ll be driving. We wanted to live in the country, so we knew the commute would be just a little longer than living in the city, but we were willing to accept it up to a certain amount. It’s not just work though–think about grocery stores, doctors’ offices, schools, and wherever you’ll be driving on a regular basis.

*Investigate the neighborhood and area thoroughly.  Drive the whole general area and neighborhood to see what the traffic is like.  Are there train tracks or an airport nearby?  What about a landfill, highways, sewage treatment plant?  Is it a fast-growing area? There could be issues that exist because of that, like overcrowded schools, which is what we experienced in one of the areas we lived in.  Property records are public records, so you can see who owns homes that would be near your home.  Check for any homes that aren’t owned by individuals, but are owned by companies, etc.

*Vacant land nearby? Why? If there is any vacant land nearby, know if there is anything planned for it. Check with the town building and zoning departments for information and possible upcoming meetings in relation to it. You don’t want to end up with a strip mall or major grocery store across the street!

*Look into the schools, even if you don’t have children right now.  A good school system is important if you have children or plan to have them eventually, but it’s also important if you don’t, because it could be a factor in the resale of your home at a later date.

*Consider parks and recreation options, which area great for families with children, but everyone as it relates to the quality of life.  Are there bike or walking trails? Parks?  Dog parks? Places for your children to be involved in sports and other activities?

*Take the time to research the real estate taxes. Find out if there are any planned assessments or increases, especially if it’s an area that’s growing quickly.  Knowing the estimated taxes is important when planning your budget too, because higher taxes may mean having to lower your house price to achieve a certain payment.

*Neighborhood vs. country/rural: what are you looking for?  Do you want sidewalks, lit roads, neighbors? Or are you looking for something more rural, more space, peace & quiet? Would the neighborhood have an HOA fee?  Or dictate to you how far back your home is, or what the outside has to look like?  If you have very specific ideas for your home, it’s definitely something you want to ask about, because there could be regulations in place preventing them.

*Consider the aspects of the lot itself, and how your home would fit on it. Will your house fit in the buildable area of the lot? Do you want a side-load garage?  The lot needs to be wide enough to accommodate that. Which way will it face? Are there any easements?  Driveway agreements? Is it on a corner? That could be mean a bigger lot but also higher traffic. Cul-de-sac?  A cul-de-sac is great for kids, but it can be harder for snow removal, and they have wedge-shaped yards. If the lot is narrow in the front, your home may need to be further back, which means a longer driveway and possibly higher costs associated with it.  Does the lot slope in front or back?  Is it heavily wooded? Wooded lots are beautiful, but it will cost to cut down the ones where your house will be.  If it’s a large property and your home is going to sit really far back, utility companies often will only put in a certain amount of feet, and then you have to pay for any additional feet.  When you consider electrical, gas, and water, plus the cost of paving it, it can add up really quick. We chose a custom builder before we chose our lot, so we were able to have them come out and take a look at the lot beforehand. That was SO helpful, because they were able to give us a really good idea of what was possible, what the costs could be, and let us know of any other possible problems they saw.

*BREATHE! Building a home is a journey, and you’re not just building a home, but a life and lifestyle.  You want to make sure you cover all the bases, and take your time to do as much research as possible–it’s worth it!

One last thing…these are just our tips and ideas from things we’ve learned along the way. We’re certainly not experts, just passing info along from our own experiences.  For professional advice, consult a realtor, attorney, a builder, and anyone else you feel is necessary to help you make your decision!

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  1. I know you mentioned that in March your family would start building the new home! Can’t wait to see how the process goes. I know you have experience and lots of good ideas, just reading this article, you give a lot of thoughts to consider. If I was younger, might think of building, but think I’ll just take this journey with you!

    1. Thank you so much for following along with me, Jeri Lynn! I’m so happy you’re on this journey with me! xoxo

  2. It sounds like you put a lot of thought into this before proceeding, which is great – it should ensure that you get exactly what you want. These are great tips, thanks for sharing. Good luck to you in your build!

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