“Be not afraid of life. Believe that life IS worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” – James Truslow Adams
Standing in the model home sales office, leaning on the padded edges of the builder’s “topo” board, you stare at the little shapes, numbers and street names as the builder’s sales consultant explains their new home neighborhood layout. You’ve chosen the floor plan that flipped your switch, and now it’s time to select a home site for it. Although you’ve driven around the community’s empty streets and half-built rows of homes, you’re having a tough time making a decision between lots # 47, 49, or 52.
There is only so much selection and so much assistance production homebuilder personnel can give you when choosing a home site. Faced with the prospect of making a decision from among the available lots it’s ultimately up to you. You must study each of the home sites’ liabilities and opportunities for the home you have chosen. Identifying the site characteristics that both please you and disappoint you before any structure has even been started takes some time and forethought. To do this, you may want to ask the following questions and see what answers both you and your sales consultant find in the process:
1. What direction does the house face? Study the home’s floor plan and where the sun rises and sets in relation to the rooms. Is direct sun shining on the front of the house in the mornings or afternoons? How will either orientation affect life in that area of the home at different times of the day? If you’re planning a pool in the back yard, how long will the sun linger there? Will the home’s energy efficiency be affected by its orientation?
2. What will your windows overlook? If you are buying in a production home neighborhood, will you be privy to activities through a neighbor’s bedroom windows, or will they be able to see into yours? (Decide just how much of the “American Beauty” lifestyle you can take.)
3. Does anything have the potential to block views you consider worthwhile keeping? What are the builder’s plans for homes around you? What may be planned by the city for the area around this new home area that can eventually be visible from the home site?
4. Is the home site in a low-lying area? If so, what is the potential for flooding from higher grounds and homes above?
5. Is the home site level, gradually sloped, or dramatically sloped? How steep will your driveway be, and how can that affect you, your family, your visitors, and your vehicles? If you are working with an architect and considering choosing a home site for a custom home, get him involved in the selection process to answer these questions.
6. How is the lot shaped, and how will the home you choose fit on it? Have the agent, consultant, architect, or homebuilder plot the house’s “footprint” onto a mini-map for you, giving you backyard, front yard and side yard distances from the house to the property lines. These will dictate how much room you have for recreation, boat or RV parking, courtyards and patios and privacy from neighbors. Also ask about the approved setbacks for that area.
7. If the property has a slope to be retained, how will it be treated? Redwood? Concrete blocks? Railroad ties? How high will retaining walls be and what is required by the city? As the agent or builder to explain slope ratios to you and also explain how much usable yard space may be robbed by retaining walls.
8. How will the site drain? If you are in an elevated area, you can be held liable if your lot’s grading causes low-lying homes to flood in heavy rains. Find out where the water goes and how the swails are arranged to avoid this phenomenon.
9. Where does traffic go when it passes the home site? If you have small children, corner lots can be desirable size-wise, but offer little protection from cars whipping around curves. If the home site is at the entry to a community, you can count on a busy home front at certain times of the day. Homes located at the back of a subdivision get the least amount of traffic when the neighborhood is an enclave.
10. Ask the agent to fully explain easements for access, utilities and any other purposes that created their existence. Generally speaking, you are not allowed to build any structure over an easement, so make sure this is not space your would plan for pools, outbuildings, or eventual add-ons.
Getting as much information as early as possible is the key to making a wise choice in the location of your home. If you can’t get immediate answers to your questions, it may be wise to wait until they are answered to make a final decision. The choice you make may make a huge difference in your own family’s comfort and well-being and affect your future property value as well.