All you need to know about choosing the right piece of land for your new family home.Available Land
Here at Beechwood, we are often asked, how do I choose a good block of land?
The difficulty with answering this question is that it is very subjective and there is normally no right or wrong answer. However, there are several block characteristics to look out for. These include:
The old saying goes “Size does matter” and bigger is normally better. Unfortunately, the blocks of land becoming available in new estates are frequently becoming smaller. You need to consider whether your proposed home will physically fit on the block. You also need to take into account things like Council setbacks and other restrictions such as Floor Space Ratio, which is the is the ratio of the floor area of a building to the size of the block.
You should also consider whether you will have any backyard, and possibly room for a pool. The days of the quarter acre block are long gone. Many people are deciding to buy blocks of land in established suburbs and opting for a knock down rebuild on an existing run down dwelling instead of moving into a new housing estate. Beechwood can accomodate for both new housing developments and knock down rebuild projects. Size really does matter.
Many people look to pick up the largest block when new land releases, but rarely consider the shape or orientation of that block. Regular rectangle blocks are often the best, but depending on your tastes, a large battle axe block might be great or could be a poor choice. You should have a proposed home design in mind before buying your block of land.
Some odd shaped blocks might give you extra room for a pool with the right home design or that space may be wasted as it can’t be put to any productive use. You should also consider ongoing maintenance of your block.
The slope of your block is important. Consider the front to back slope (or vice versa) as well as any slope from side to side. On a sloping site, unless you choose a split level design, you are going to have a level building platform and you will need to ‘cut and fill’ around it. You may need retaining walls and/or drop edge beams, which are an added expense.
As a general rule, steeply sloping sites are much more expensive to build on as your builder will charge ‘site costs’ to accommodate for various irregularities. You will also need to consider matters such as driveway gradients, that is, the slope of your driveway from your garage to the street (so that your car can get to your garage). Also consider where other houses will be positioned relative to yours. Will your neighbours be looking over your fence because their building platform will be much higher?
Your block’s exposure to sun and rain will affect if and how your proposed design can be placed on your proposed block. New homes must comply with BASIX requirements, which relate to energy efficiency, thermal and water efficiency. Various BASIX requirements are imposed to reduce your energy use through specific design strategies for lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation. It is a lot more complicated than rain water tanks and roof solar panels. Buying a block of land with the wrong orientation could mean that you will be unable to build your dream home.
Easements, Covenants and Substations – Frequently, there will be restrictions imposed on what you can do on your chosen block of land. These are generally called Covenants or Easements. This is normally imposed by the person selling the land to you, or the local Council or other authorities (such as electricity or water). It is very important for your solicitor or conveyancer to check all the paperwork before you agree to purchase a block of land. The ‘fine print’ can make all the difference between a great block of land or headaches during construction.
Easements typically relate to areas of your block that you are not allowed to build on or near. This may be because there is some service pipe in that vicinity. Covenants are normally building restrictions imposed such as the type of driveway or the type of material to be used in boundary fences.
In addition to the block’s physical characteristics, there are several other factors to consider, including:
When buying a home, people are frequently looking to spend between the next 10 to 40 years of their life at that address. You need to ask yourself, is this where I want to live? As they say in the great Australian movie, The Castle – consider the vibe. Some suburbs feel right and some others don’t. Trust your instincts. You should also take into account how far away the block is away from your current address.
Consider whether you and your children will become estranged by distance from your current friends and relatives or are you moving only a few kilometres away. You should always consider potential re-sale value in the future.
You should also consider nearby schools, local shops and regional shopping centres, doctors and hospitals, recreation, swimming centres, entertainment and transport. Questions to ask include will the kids be changing schools, is it further to get to work, will I get to work using the same method of transport, where can I buy milk and bread?
Sounds simple, but many people make a giant leap without thinking through first. If looking to build in new estates, check out what facilities will be coming soon. Also imagine what that suburb will look like in 5 years and whether you would still be looking to live there.
The soil conditions below your block of land play a huge part in what home design you will be able to build and its cost. As a general rule of thumb, it is very expensive to excavate in rock. However, light and sandy soils often require reinforcement and extra costs can often be incurred due to extra piering to the foundations of the house. Additional excavation and tipping costs may be incurred in removing certain thick clays from your block (as these are often not stable to build on).
It might then be necessary to import suitable soil to maintain proposed levels at additional cost. Worse still, you need to know whether your block has been exposed to soil contamination or has artefacts that will prevent construction, or is subject to ground water or saline requirements (to prevent water or salt moving into buildings)..
You need to consider where connections to services (such as water, sewer, electricity, phone) are located. Some could be located on your block and be easements (which can restrict what can be built over and adjacent to them), while others may be located on the other side of the street, which could lead to additional connection costs.
When buying a block of land, you should obtain the advice of a solicitor or licenced conveyancer. Indeed, you should seek their advice before committing to buy. A good solicitor or conveyancer should be able to tell you about the zoning of your proposed block, any restrictions on what you can do and where and what you can build, developer requirements, such as certain driveways, fencing, landscaping requirements.
A solicitor or conveyancer should check the Certificate of Title for the land as well as indicate people from Council or other relevant bodies and authorities you need to talk with to make sure that you can do what you want. The person selling you the block of land may not tell you about any problems, but they are often forced to disclose certain information in the fine print.
Given many new estates are located near or adjacent to bush land, you need to consider any additional requirements that may be imposed on your proposed home due to this. It is necessary to determine a ‘Bushfire Attack Level’ for new homes near bush land.
As a general rule, the closer your home is to bush land, the greater the chance that additional requirements will be imposed on the type of construction to your home. These can include having to use certain materials that are more capable of withstanding fire. The problem is, these can be very expensive as well as not necessarily be the look that you are after.
Depending upon where your block is located, it may be subject to acoustic requirements or marine requirements. Acoustic requirements are normally imposed in areas near airports or along busy main roads. These requirements specify that certain materials, such as insulation, must be used to help buffer and reduce the noise from nearby vehicles.
Many developers of new estates are selling blocks of land that are not registered (as they still need to be subdivided etc). You are not allowed to build until the land is registered. There are also often delays with planning requirements (ie Council approvals) until the land is registered. Whilst this normally eventually happens, if you buy the wrong block, you could be forced to wait up to 18 months before you can start construction. You may have to pay extra rent during this waiting period. Further, in most cases, builders are subject to price increases from suppliers and contractors, so build costs could be higher by the time you are ready to build.
Talk to a builder first. Whilst it is exciting to go off and buy a block of land, you do not have to do it alone and nor should you. Speak with a reputable home builder (like Beechwood Homes!) about the block you are considering buying. Because of our many years experience, we can often point out some of the potential pitfalls in a certain block or estate before you have made any commitment.
Remember, buying a block of land and building a home upon it is likely to be the largest financial investment you will make in your lifetime. Ask questions, research, double check and trust your instincts. It might sound attractive that a developer is offering a $10,000 discount on a block of land, but if your extra site costs, BASIX and bushfire requirements significantly exceed this (and can often do so), you might not be getting the bargain you thought you were.
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