Q&A / 


All too often I discover people focusing their attention on the sticks and bricks of their new home. It makes all the sense in the world to do this. After all, you are going to live in the house and want it to be as perfect as possible. But the land or lot upon which the house will be built is far more important than you might think.

If you build a wonderful home on a poorly situated lot, you may have all sorts of misery down the road. Paint a room the wrong color and that can be changed in an afternoon. But what can you really do to stop acres of water that cascade from ground upslope from your lot? How easy is it to adjust where the sun rises and sets? Actually you can control these things by making important observations when looking for a building lot.

Drainage, compass orientation, trees, location of public utilities, etc. are all very important things to look at when you start to shop for a building lot. Ask anyone who suffers sitting on a west-facing deck and they will tell you they made a mistake. How many people do you know who have swamps in their backyard after every rainfall? Imagine your surprise when a large track hoe shows up in your side yard one year to replace a broken subdivision sewer line? It can and does happen every week somewhere in the USA.

Think twice before you buy a lot in a low spot or valley in the subdivision. There is a good chance the storm and sanitary sewers run in or near the natural low spots of the subdivision. Storms can and do cause backups into these systems. If you are on high ground, you can avoid flooding nightmares.

If you have an inexpensive compass with you as you scout lots, use it to determine which direction your house will face. Perhaps you want to have morning sun stream into a breakfast area or adjacent sitting room. Perhaps you want to avoid harsh afternoon sun from baking your family room, patio or deck. But on the other hand if you intend to have a swimming pool, you may want afternoon sun to bath the pool area so you can work on that tan all day long. Use the compass to insure you will buy a lot that will work best for your lifestyle.

Prevailing wind direction may also come into play. You may want to orient your home so the side that has the fewest windows and doors faces north. Even the best windows and doors leak some air so maximize your indoor comfort by orienting your house so these cold blasts do not blow your money into the account of the local utility company.

The prevailing winds in summer months may be different and these can bring vicious sheets of rain that will try to infiltrate any crack or crevice. But on the other hand these same summer winds may be a delight if they blow directly through your screened-in porch. Simply be aware that prevailing winds can and do exist and they can offer both misery and delight.

Be careful not to fall in love with a certain house plan before you purchase your lot. Some plans work much better than others on certain lots. If you desire a walkout basement for example, then you need a lot that provides enough fall to make it possible. But a lot with too much fall has you falling off a cliff when you walk through the basement sliding glass door.

Don't try to estimate the slope with your eye. Be sure to consult with the builder and architect and make sure they use a transit or some other instrument to calculate the actual slope where your house will sit.

Finally be sure to investigate all local zoning and subdivision rules and regulations. Certain possessions you own may not be permitted to be stored on your new lot. You may not even be allowed to build an outdoor storage shed. Fences may not even be allowed; if fences are allowed, their height and style may be severely restricted. Spend lots of time studying your lot. It will pay huge dividends.


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