Selecting a site for your home.
To be honest, none of them look like much at the start: a bit of land, maybe it has trees or maybe its bare. It might have a view or it might not - but it’s yours. You’ve got it and you're ready to make it into your new home! But (this can be become a big BUT), have you done your research prior to signing over your hard earned money? If you haven’t, you're basically throwing your money in on a big bet and hoping it will land (literally). Before signing on the dotted line, there are a number of things that you need to consider, and you can even add some of these points as conditions on your offer for your new piece of property. Here’s a few to consider:
BAL or Bushfire Attack Level. It sounds serious, and it is. This can burn a serious hole in your pocket if you end up in a BAL that is high and therefore restrictive on what you can build. The best thing to do is to check if the property you are considering buying is on the Bushfire Prone map (available on the DFES website). If your site does come back as being prone to bushfire, you should consider having a Bushfire assessor review your property to determine its BAL. This information will be needed when you go through the design process anyway, and if you find out early what level your property is then you can potentially save yourself some heartache in the future. Levels to be wary of: BAL 40 and BAL FZ. I go into this in more detail in ‘BAL! What’s it mean’.
Soil Test or Geotechnical Report. This is a quick and easy way to see if your site is going to be difficult to build on structurally. Sometimes you can tell just by walking on the site what it will most likely be. For example, a clay site can sometimes be spotted if you can see high levels of water retention on the surface. Or if you are close to the beach, there is a higher chance that your Soil Test will come back as sand (S or A Class). But when you have no idea of what properties your site has, it can lead to serious issues and expenses further down the track. Contaminated fills or previous uses of a site can lead to large amounts of earthworks. The Geotechnical report will be required during the design stage of the project, so it is useful to have the information before purchasing your site. As we all know, information is power and you are putting down potentially a lifetime of savings and another 30 years of loan repayments to build/buy this property.
Steep or Sloping Sites. When you go to a site, it's either a flat sand pad (normally found in built up suburban areas), sloping away from you, or sloping towards you. The level of slope on the site will have different impacts on your end design and construction method. The site in the photo above doesn’t look like it has much of a slope, but it dropped down significantly from the road to the base of the property (approximately 6m), and the site was a small (by country standards) 480m2. The point I’m getting to is that if you are buying a steep or sloping site, the Architect or Builder that you choose to design and build your new home with needs to have experience in this type of site. Therefore, the best option for these types of sites is to not sink all your money into the ground (eg. retaining). Run up that hill of a site and away from the anyone if they mention just filling it all up and retaining everything, cause guess what…there goes a nice big portion of your budget. I go into this in more detail in ‘Help! I bought a Steep Site’.
Aspect. What direction does your potential new site face? This is important to consider, and can make a significant difference to the overall design of your project. The orientation of your home to your site can/should be addressed with good design (call me…just saying). If you are buying the land because it has a great view but faces south, then you need to decide what’s most important to you: your energy star rating or your window budget? You’ll come up against some other issues if choosing to prioritize beautiful southern views over northern orientation. If your lucky enough to have views then there are solutions to resolve this item.
If you are buying in a suburban area that doesn’t necessarily have views, then you can select a piece of land that allows you to have access to that beautiful northern and eastern morning light. It is also important to take advantage of what nature has to offer and create an environmentally conscious home.
Policies. Pick the phone up and call your City, Shire etc. to request the information regarding your site in reference to local policies, special zoning or requirements. If the representative says that “nothing but the standard R-Codes apply”, that’s generally a pretty good sign. If they have any other policies etc., you can actually book in a time to discuss it further with someone at the planning department or with an architect. Ask the planner to also email the policies through to you so you can have a read. If the policies look like a foreign language, don’t worry. Your planning department office or your Architect will be able to go over it with you and help with what you should potentially focus on. These can include historic policies, steep or sloping site policies, tourist or special zoning etc.
Covenants, Easements and Restrictions. Please ask the real-estate agent for this information. You do not want to find out that there is a height restriction on the property when you had dreams of building a two level home which can only be one story high. If you are at the top of the hill and don’t want to pay for a pump to literally pump your business back up to the sewer line, check for an easement through the property in front of you that allows for you to run your sewer/stormwater to a connection at the bottom of the hill (gravity just makes sense). If you require a septic or an ATU system, you’ll want to do your research as well - these systems are expensive and you’ll want to budget that in. Is there a restriction on the colours or design aspects for the area? It's an easy item overall to include as a condition and should be considered if you're unsure. Settlement Agents also help with all this information and often offer insurance for this (hopefully you won't need the insurance if you've done your research).
These are just a few things to consider that don’t involve the bank or how much money you have, but can potentially result in you needing to spend more money then you were ready for. I see these items come up with clients often but what really matters is if it's after they have purchased the property or before. Are they having some sleepless nights, unaware of what they have gotten themselves into? Or have they picked and chosen their site by reviewing the above and seeing what was or wasn’t the deal breaker on their new property. Love at first site happens but don’t be dumb, do the research and spend the time.
As always please send your questions through, thanks for reading.