You’re shopping for the perfect place to build your luxury home in the Hill Country. The thought of buying a raw tract of land can be intimidating, given all the considerations. Buying a lot or acreage tract is different than buying an existing home but similar rules apply to both transactions.
Here are some issues you may encounter when selecting your lot. Knowing what to look out for and what to avoid can help you through the lot buying process.
Don’t go it alone
Get help from a professional, preferably a design-build firm. Their knowledge and experience can save you time and trouble. A builder will also help you consider the cost and compare features of the different lots you are considering.
Know WHERE you are buying
Find out which permitting authority controls the land you are considering. Is the tract located within the city limits? Is it in the extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) of a town or city? Is the property zoned? When considering a planned subdivision, your lot will most likely be subject to an additional set of covenants and deed restrictions that further regulate what you can build on your lot. Your subdivision may require an architectural review of your building and landscaping and limit your construction to certain architectural styles. In most subdivisions, a homeowners association (HOA) will collect dues and set rules for behavior and decorum in the development. It’s important to understand what an HOA will require of you as a homeowner and member.
Access can be a complex issue when you’re purchasing a vacant lot. In cities, access is rarely a problem. In the countryside, rural tracts of land could be cut off from a public road and be accessible only via private road. This can introduce a number of problems. If your land isn’t accessible via public roadway, it might not have access to city water or sewage. You could end up requiring a septic system and a well to handle those basic utilities, which will add to the construction costs.
A public road guarantees a route to a vacant lot at all times. But when private roads enter into the equation, things get complicated. If your property is landlocked, you may require an easement to guarantee access to your property.
A new or updated survey will identify any easements that may cross or effect your use of the property. No permanent structure can be built over a utility easement.
Setbacks and building envelopes
Lot size can be misleading if there is a relatively small building envelope after setbacks and easements are known. Know what percentage of your land is “buildable” before selecting your lot.
If you want to break ground without breaking the bank, be sure to consider the topography of your lot. Our beloved Hill Country has no shortage of breathtaking views. Those rolling hills can present quite the financial challenge when uneven terrain must be terraformed to support your home’s foundation.
Does any part of your building envelope fall within the 100-year floodplain? This can lead to significant additional costs and considerations when designing and building your home.
Is your lot in the City of Austin, Lakeway, Westlake Hills, Travis County or other?
A lot within the city comes with a premium price tag.
Onsite utilities like power, water, sewer, phone, cable and fiber are preferable. If these are not already established, they will have to be brought on site later and that can cost big bucks.
Since flat lots are hard to come by in the Hill Country, the cost of building on graded lots is important to understand. A 2 foot foundation costs roughly $10 per square foot with a premium of about $2 per square foot for each additional foot above that.
Here’s an illustration:
5,000 SF with a 2 ft. foundation @ $10/SF = $50,000. 5,000 SF with an 8 ft. foundation @ $22/SF = $110,000
Since our prevailing winds come from the Southeast off the Gulf of Mexico during the Summer and from the North during the Winter, The desirable orientation of the home on your lot would be front facing North and Back facing South.
The size of a lot can be misleading if there is a relatively small building envelope after setbacks and easements are seen. This can add to issues when selecting a lot that may lie in the floodplain.
If any elevation within your building envelope is below 721 feet, then part of the home may fall into the 100-year floodplain. That can result in significant additional costs and considerations when designing and building your home.
We’re here to help
Jenkins Design + Build is ready to assist. Contact us even before you close on the lot so that we can answer any questions you may have.