Your Guide to Buying Land for a New Home Build

Posted On Jan 31, 2024 |

A comprehensive how-to guide for searching, selecting, and buying land for your new home build!

Embarking on the journey of building your dream home is an exciting venture. Topping the list of choices you’ll make on this journey is selecting the right home site. Choosing the perfect land involves looking at more than just aesthetics, size, or location.

In this guide, we’ll explore what to look for when buying land for a home build to help ensure you achieve the majority of the goals that first drove you to building a new home.

Determine property size

The overall size (or area) of the land is a fundamental consideration. Not only should you evaluate your current needs and lifestyle, but also your anticipated usage goals, needs, and lifestyle. Having this information top of mind will help determine the appropriate size for your new home.

In addition to the size of the home, you’ll also want to consider factors such as outdoor space, potential expansions, and landscaping requirements and possibilities.

Once you have an idea of the overall finished home size and how you envision the use of the remaining land surrounding the new home, you’ll then have a rough idea of the needed property size.

Sites like® can help you search for and find property available for purchase.

Assess buildable area

Just because a parcel of land is a known overall size does not mean that the new home can fill the entire property. Most local government municipalities (like cities and counties) have specific zoning, setback, and easement requirements.

Properly identifying what those boundaries and restrictions entail will result in a remaining buildable area. This is the space in which the new home will need to fit.

Buying land for a home build

Evaluate existing conditions

Costs associated with the property may not be limited to just the purchase price alone. Other factors include:

  • UTILITIES: Accessibility to utility connections like power, water, sewer, gas, internet/cable can be included in the cost of the land, if already installed, or be an additional expense in the case of purchasing raw dirt.

  • SOIL COMPOSITION: Soil plays a vital role in the stability of your home’s foundation. Conducting soil tests can determine its composition and drainage capabilities. This information is crucial for avoiding potential future foundation issues.

  • SLOPE: Evaluate the slope of the land. Extreme slopes are those typically above a 15% grade. Steep properties may require additional engineering, construction, and retaining considerations. It is essential to understand how the slope might affect drainage, accessibility, and the overall design of your home. (For further information, see the comprehensive guide by Robert Olshansky.)

  • DEBRIS: Check for random debris and waste that may have accumulated on the property over time. Cleaning up such materials must be addressed prior to construction and can add unexpected costs to your construction budget.

  • VEGETATION: Assess the existing vegetation on the property. Mature trees can enhance the overall appearance of your new home, but they might also create difficulties during construction. What other pre-existing shrubs or plants will you need to eliminate? Be sure to consider the impact on available sunlight, shade, and potential landscaping needs.

  • WATER: The existence and potential depth of groundwater on the property are important to understand. While presence of some groundwater (at the right depths and through the right soil types) might be beneficial for drilling a well and water supply considerations, groundwater that is too close to the surface could impact the foundation depth and potential for flooding in the future.

Restrictive Property Conditions, CC&Rs (Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions) or Zoning Requirements

Inclusive with the property setback requirements established by the governing municipality, specific property development restrictions should be addressed as well. Many of these specifics can be found on the development plat map. Look for areas such as:

  • Detaining ponds, used for containing and managing stormwater run-off as this may impact the overall size available for the buildable area.

    • Easements, like PUEs (Public Utility Easements), or other rights-of-way will impact the size and position of the home on the property.

    • Zoning Clearances such as can be seen on the Salt Lake City planning and zoning website (structure type allowed, such as R-1 might be used for a single family residence) will limit the type of structure that is permitted to be built by the governing municipality.

    • Development Requirements (including, but not limited to, CC&Rs), like restrictions on overall height and size of structure, acceptable materials to be used, driveway size, allowable curb cut-out size, and so on.

    Buying land for a home build

    Note Nearby Structures

    Pre-existing built structures could positively or negatively impact the new home to be built. When looking for the ideal location, be sure to consider the following features and base your decision on your priorities and lifestyle.

    • Nearby Homes: Are they similar in size and type to what you have in mind? Will your new home fit in, add to the local property values, or appear out of place? Be sure to assess the style, size, and condition of these neighboring homes as it can impact your home’s resale value and overall aesthetic appeal.

    • Schools: Do you need to consider the proximity to schools or which school district in which the property is located? These are often a significant factor and have great appeal for families. Research nearby educational institutions and their reputation to make sure the fit is right for you.

    • Business : How close is the property to business or industrial areas? Will the answer be beneficial to you and your lifestyle (eg, shorter commute) or will it be a detriment (eg, too much traffic at certain times of the day)?

    • Roadways, Public Transportation Routes/Tracks, and Transportation Hubs: Do you like the idea of having direct access to where you live, work, play and are you planning on a personal vehicle for your transportation or would you prefer using public transport systems?

    • Industrial Operations or Facilities: Are there nearby structures like power plants, manufacturing, and mining, logging, or warehouse operations? These types of facilities can produce air, light, and noise pollution and impact your visual and safe living conditions, to name a few.

    Pay attention to nature

    Our natural surroundings can provide clues as to what the climate and geological conditions of the property are. Additionally, there may be stunning vistas that will invite a calm atmosphere at our home and on our property that we will want to take advantage of. Particular features to look out for might include:

    • Bodies of water: Determine the distance to nearby streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, or the ocean. Consider both the potential positive and negative impact these could have on your property like risk of flooding, drainage problems, drowning hazards (for yourself, family, or guests) or calming and tranquil settings & sounds, desired natural beauty, enjoyable natural recreational activities such as fishing, kayaking, canoeing, or swimming.

    • Views: Pay particular attention to the scenery that is the most desirable to you. Whether it’s a mountain range, cityscape, or a serene landscape, factor in how the views would contribute to your overall living experience.

    • Geological & Environmental Conditions: From soil type to slope of property, the geological conditions of the property can impact the cost of building while at the same time increase the interest or variety and enjoyment of actually living on the property after the home is built. Become a great investigator to determine other hidden factors like, structural integrity of the ground, possibility of an earthquake or landslide, or if the land is in a swamp, flood plain, or subject to tornadoes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters.

    Set a Budget

    Last, before finalizing any land purchase, thoroughly assess your budget against available funds and purchasing power (if you are factoring in financing). Be sure to include in the equation not only the cost of the land itself, but also expenses related to site preparation, permits, utilities and other infrastructure requirements, and finished landscaping needs. It is essential to have a clear understanding of your financial capabilities and to leave room for unexpected costs that may arise during construction. Be realistic about what you can afford and ensure that the chosen property aligns with your budgetary constraints.

    Buying land for a home build

    Top Tips for Selecting Land for a Home Build

    Why does this matter to you?

    At the most basic level, home ownership can be a hefty financial investment. While at the most sublime level, it is also an extremely emotional investment for most homeowners. Taking a thorough approach to selecting and purchasing property for building your new, custom home is a worthwhile investment of both your time and your money.

    How can you implement this?

    From the categories shared above, determine what your highest and lowest priorities are. Use these rankings as a guide when looking at different parcels of land. This will help keep the emotions in check so you can operate from a more pragmatic perspective, if desired.

    What are the top take-aways?

    Keeping in mind the following seven categories will help you find the property that best accomplishes your new construction goals.

    1. Property Size

    2. Buildable Area

    3. Existing Conditions

    4. Property and Zoning Requirements

    5. Nearby Structures

    6. Nature

    7. Budget


    Choosing the right land for your home build involves a thorough assessment of a variety of factors. By factoring in size, buildable area, existing conditions, zoning requirements, nearby structures, nature, and budget, you’ll be well-equipped to make an informed decision that aligns with your vision for the perfect home in the perfect setting.

    Taking the time to conduct a comprehensive evaluation will ensure a smooth and successful construction process, ultimately leading to the fulfillment of living your best life in a perfect home that supports and nurtures your greatest dreams and goals.

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