Buying land may be one of the largest investments you make, especially when building your home there. In order to avoid mental anguish and costly pitfalls, you need to find out what you are legally able to do with the property prior to signing on the dotted line.
To avoid problems for home owners and businesses alike, ordinances, or local laws are in effect wherever land is available. It saves homeowners from a factory setting up shop next door. Conversely, businesses are often more successful when grouped together.
Here’s where it gets a little tricky. A zoning designation may be clearly stated as residential or commercial. But you can’t rely on that alone. There may be further restrictions. Generally, there are numerous zoning types.
- Commercial – retail stores, offices, restaurants, and entertainment usually fall under this category.
- Industrial – factories are allowed in this zone.
- Residential – this covers homes or apartment buildings.
- Historical and Environmental – protections are offered for structures and sensitive natural areas, respectively.
- Rural – farms and open land is delegated in these areas.
- Aesthetic – structures must have a particular look, so the area presents a particular feel to it.
Often each zone has a sub-type. Where a single-family home may be built, there could be restrictions for an apartment building or even modular homes. And there may be overlapping zones for a given property. Commercial buildings may require a certain facade and also fall under an Aesthetic zone. And, a property may be restricted to only one or two structures.
Sloped land can offer spectacular views for a home, but also create hazards, such as mudslides. Water is one of the biggest enemies, and when in doubt, check with a civil engineer or two. Will a slab be needed? Is leveling required? In itself, leveling is fine, but it must be done with care and proper compacting to avoid uneven settling of the foundation, which may create cracks. Leveling may even be strictly prohibited for safety.
What are the sewer codes? Will a well be dug? Is there a size restriction on the home or outbuildings? Can the property be cleared, or are there endangered species of plants present? Check with city records for known issues and the planning commission with the zoning restrictions before buying land. Leave no stone unturned to save yourself heartache and a broken wallet. Then you can enjoy the dream home you’ve always wanted!