What to Know Before Buying Property to Build Your Home

The Feasibility of the Land

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September 30, 2022

Finding the ideal property on which to build your custom home can be a challenge, so it’s tempting to jump at the first chance you get. But before you rush to buy, it’s crucial to consider any limitations or challenges the lot may present that could bust your budget and derail your dreams.

Picture this: After months of searching, you finally find the perfect parcel of land. It’s in a great school district, on a quiet road, has old-growth trees, and offers sweeping views of the Salish Sea. You take out a loan, sign the papers, and start shopping for a builder. Little did you know that three-quarters of the acre is protected wetlands, there’s a large setback from the water, neighbors have had their wells run dry, and it’s going to cost thousands of dollars to get utilities brought up the narrow road. Suddenly, your dream home has become a nightmare before a single plan is drawn.

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This illustrates why it’s so important to do your due diligence on a property before you buy. Engaging in research will help inform you of any potential roadblocks—and how much it’s going to cost to overcome them (and therefore cut into your building budget).


Get to Know the Property

You can do the research on your own or, as a client of Estes Builders, engage in a professional feasibility study.

Here are some of the things to look for and ask:

  • Local variances: Each jurisdiction has different requirements. For example, Jefferson County, Washington, recently had a building moratorium depending on certain criteria. In addition, what are the permitting regulations for your local jurisdiction? Find out in advance what red-tape barriers may be part of the build process.


  • Utilities: Is there sewer service or will you need to invest in a septic system? If septic, what do the neighbors have and have they encountered any issues? If you’re in a remote area, how far will electrical lines need to be brought and will the utility pay for it? Will you have access to high-speed internet?

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  • Water: Are you on public water or will you need to invest in a well? If a well is needed, have neighbors had any challenges with wells running dry?


  • Water usage: Does the jurisdiction limit what you can use water for? For example, some areas might restrict watering for a garden, quashing the dreams of many a retiree.


  • Title report: Obtain and keep a preliminary title report, which will provide a history on the property, exhibits, and a legal description. The report should also have covenants, restrictions, easements, and rights (such as mineral and water) that can impact where and how (and even if) you can build on the land.

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  • Property lines: Make sure you understand where those are and how close you can build to them.  


  • Critical areas: Learn about any wetlands protections for stormwater drainage and erosion protection, as well as landslide potential and requirements for maintaining trees and vegetation. Understand where you’ll be living, what’s around you, and what you are comfortable with.


  • Zoning, height restrictions, setbacks: What other requirements will affect what you can build? For example, if you’re in a view corridor, you probably can’t have a three-story house.

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  • The neighborhood: Get to know the surrounding area and neighboring properties. Is what you want to build too large for the area? Will it feel out of place? Will it appraise lower than it should as a result?


How Estes Can Help With Your Property

Evaluating a property for building can be daunting, especially if you discover unknown obstacles. That’s why having a partner like Estes Builders is so important. As one of the first steps as an Estes homebuyer, we can provide a feasibility study and help you understand how the challenges with the property will impact your building budget before you commit, and we can provide guidance on what to ask the city and county.

What’s more, Estes is known for building on difficult properties. Along with navigating the red tape, requirements, and road blocks, our in-house design team can create a home layout that works with the property and maximizes its assets like views and trees.

If you’re embarking on the process of finding the perfect lot, be informed but try not to feel overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know—and don’t be afraid to ask questions. A feasibility study provides that freedom to ask questions so you can feel confident in your decision to move forward.

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 Ready to start planning? Estes Builders’ Custom Home Investment Study is the first step to helping turn your dream home into a reality. Schedule your Custom Home Investment Study today.