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How To Choose a Buildable Lot For Your New Home

July 28th, 2023

By Sofia Alonso

3 min read


If you don’t already have a lot to build your new home on, you will have to go through the process of finding and choosing land. When you're looking to build a new home for yourself or your family, conducting a feasibility study before purchasing a lot can save you from potential headaches and unexpected costs later on. 

At AV Architects + Builders, we have been helping clients find the perfect lot to build their dream home on for over two decades. As experienced architects and builders, we know the important factors to consider when browsing lots and considering your options.

Here are some essential factors to consider when evaluating whether a lot is buildable and suitable for your needs.


1. Your Home’s Orientation with the Sun:

One of the primary considerations when choosing a lot is its orientation with the sun. Ideally, you want the front door of your home to face north and the backyard to face south. This way, you can maximize natural light in the gathering spaces at the back of the house. Southern exposure in the rear yard and northern exposure in the front is generally desirable for energy efficiency and comfort.


2. Topography of the land:

The topography of a lot plays a significant role in its buildability and construction costs. A lot with a gentle slope is acceptable, but a steep lot can be challenging and more expensive to develop. When walking on the lot, if you can't see the bottom of the slope from where the house would be, then it's generally just too steep. Additionally, slopes that direct water towards the house can cause drainage issues, so it's essential to ensure that if there is a slope it drops away from the house to avoid potential water-related problems.


3. Lot's Access to Utilities:

Consider the availability of public utilities, such as water, sewer, and gas. Connecting to existing public utilities is more cost-efficient than creating or bringing utilities to the site. If you have to install a septic system, drill a well, or run electrical lines, it can significantly increase the overall project cost. Additionally, if you have to install a septic system the costs can vary depending on which type of system your lot requires. This can be dependent on not only the size of the house and the number of bedrooms, but also the condition of the soil on the lot. 


4. Water and Resource Protection Areas (RPAs):

When viewing lots, check for nearby bodies of water like creeks, streams, lakes, or ponds. Some properties may fall under Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) that have restrictions on building near them due to environmental protection regulations. These areas might limit the buildable portion of your lot and require a lengthy approval process with the county for any construction near them. For example, the lot may be 5 acres in total size, but only have 1 acre that is actually buildable due to the RPA.  


5. Historic Sites and Zoning Restrictions:

Lots with historic significance or existing historic properties may have restrictions that prevent any development or alteration. Investigate the zoning regulations for the area to ensure there are no restrictions that hinder your building plans before purchasing a lot.


6. Homeowner's Association (HOA) Rules:

If the lot is part of a homeowner's association (HOA), be aware of their rules and regulations, including home styles, fence styles, and materials' colors. HOAs may have specific guidelines that dictate the type of homes allowed in the neighborhood and this may limit a specific house design that you have in mind. 


7. Shape of the Lot:

Consider the shape of the lot and its impact on the design and functionality of your future home. A narrow lot might limit the layout possibilities of your home if you want a larger footprint or main level living. A triangle-shaped lot can be more difficult to build additional structures like a deck, guest house, pool, or pool house. An ideal lot is generally square-shaped as it can provide more space for outdoor areas and additional structures. Additionally, some lots have “setbacks” that limit how close you can build to the property line on a lot. 


8. Proximity of the Lot to Busy or Main Roads:

Evaluate the location of the lot concerning nearby roads. If it's close to a busy or main road, consider the potential impact on noise, safety, and privacy, especially if you have children or pets.


How to Choose a Buildable Lot for Your New Home

Conducting a thorough feasibility study before choosing a lot is essential to ensure that it aligns with your vision for your dream home and that it is suitable for construction without major challenges. By carefully considering factors like orientation, topography, access to utilities, nearby water resources, zoning restrictions, HOA rules, lot shape, and road proximity, you can make an informed decision and set the foundation for a successful home-building project.

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Great Falls, VA 22066
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