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Looking to Purchase Land for your Custom Home?

Some helpful tips to help you find what you are looking for.

Finding land to purchase can be a difficult process.  Below are some insights and helpful tips to consider on your journey to find that "perfect" piece of land.


With a significant increasing population growth over the last years, we have seen much more government regulation to accommodate this growth.  Wetland restoration and setbacks keep increasing, storm water requirements are substantially more restrictive, septic system requirements are costlier.  Installing a driveway and bringing water and power to a house also are just not as simple as before.  In addition, our State Governments created a law called "Growth Management Act" to try and restrict urban growth from the open spaces on the county.  The most significant result of this rule is that most land can only have 1 house per 5 acres in the county, and city lots have become very small (this is why you see houses 10' from the neighboring house).  The exception to the GMA are all the previous lots that were already existing.  The a 2 acre lot in the county comes available for sale, it is most likely because it was already a 2 acre lot before the GMA.  The result is that it is very difficult for most people to find the ideal piece of land at a reasonable/affordable price.  It takes patience and diligence to keep looking.  A really nice piece of land eventually becomes available!  Just keep looking.

We would like to help you with the information and tools to find your own property for your ideal custom home.  We hope this will help you make a well informed and wise decision with as little stress as possible.

1.  Property seems to sell very quickly in our locale.  Our suggestion, if you find a piece of property that you feel will be ideal for you, make an offer immediately!  We have seen many people lose out on a really great lot because someone else made an offer while our client was doing research on the land.  Note that after an agreement has been made between you and the seller, one can then research the property with due diligence.  In every Purchase and Sale Agreement, there should be a "feasibility" clause.  Typically, the purchaser is given 30-45 days (the amount of days can be negotiable) to research any issues that would be important to know in order for the purchaser to use the land as hoped for (like building a custom home on it). 

2.  Consider partnering with your builder.  You should get a more holistic perspective on the costs, and any possible challenges to build on this land.  An experienced builder will be looking for any issues that one will encounter while building your solar exposure and light to the home, access, easement, slopes, vegetation/trees, setbacks, gophers, utility installation costs (water, power, septic, cable, phone), wetlands, marine, storm water issues, etc...  Depending on the discoveries, this gives you the opportunity to purchase the land with confidence or renegotiate the price with the seller.  If you are unhappy or just unsettled, and unable to build your ideal home with the budget that you have, typically the feasibility clause allows you to cancel the purchase and sale agreement and receive a full refund of your earnest money.

3.  Consider what the site work costs may be.  Is there going to be a long driveway to install?  Will utilities be close or far from the house?  Are there lots of trees and stumps that need to be removed?  Slopes to be regarded?  None of these things should be a deal breaker, but it is a cost to your project that should be factored in.  And all these things do add costs to the project.

4.  Understand what municipality/County the property is located in (within city limits?).  Each government entity has its own rules and regulation.  Some of those regulations may add significant costs to the project.  Will sidewalks be required?  What must be down to access the public road?  What land is left to build on after all the regulated setback are established.

5.  Are there impact fees required for permitting (and how much are they?)  For example, it costs about $38,000 now to get a permit in Olympia, $30,000 in Tumwater, $24,000 in Lacey, and about $10,000 in Thurston County.  All cities and counties have different impact fees.

6.  What is the Zoning of the land?  Are duplexes allowed?  Are mobile homes allowed?  Commercial property? Mixed use? Is the wooded land next door going to get logged or is it a green belt?  You may not care, but it is wise to know what can happen next door to you.

7.  Review any community covenants and restrictions.  Are there architectural restrictions that prevent you from staying in budget?  Like the zoning issues above, are there restrictions on what your neighbors can and cannot build that may reduce the value of your home?  Will you be happy with the limitations on your freedoms to choose design considerations (garages, porches, parking RV, minimum size of the home, can you build a rambler only, an ADU or guest house, etc?), colors of your home, or landscaping requirement, or?

8.  Are utilities available?  Status of availability of sewer needs to be checked out.  How deep is the sewer line?  Sometimes the city will require you to hook up to their sewer, even though it is way down at the other end of the road.  What will it cost to hook up to the water system?  Or the average cost of a well in your area?  Is the power and cable available at the road?  Is trenching under the road needed for any of these utilities?  What are the connection costs?  How far will they need to be brought onto the property?  If there is an existing septic design, is it valid?  If not, what will it take to make it valid again?

9.  Is the property in a flood zone, are there any ponds or streams nearby, or is the property in a wetland area?  Recently we had a piece of property deemed unbuildable because of setbacks from wetlands on the neighbor's property.  Another case the county did not show wetlands on the Geodata site, but our wetlands expert shared that we had wetlands and knew it would need to be addressed.  The house could not be located where the client first wanted to build their house.


10.  Are there any slope, landslide or erosion issues?  A Geotech study may be required before building.  What are the setbacks from a steep slope going to be?  How do we deal with storm water on this property?


11.  Removing trees, debris and stumps can be very expensive.  If the lot is full of trees, one should get a bid for how much it will cost to clear a site to build on.  Removing large stumps where the foundation of the house will be could also cause additional costs for installing a foundation.  Not a deal breaker, just something to be aware of when accounting for all the costs.

12.  Consider all the building setbacks from government ordinances, zoning, and wetland setbacks, and top of slope, and marine bluff setbacks, etc.  Depending on lot size, do you have enough room to build?  What size is the footprint of the house you want to build?  Is the layout of the land still what you envisions for landscaping and quality of life in the yard?

13.  Have you considered buying land that has an existing manufactured home or a "tear down" level of quality home?  If this is in the right location and is the land you love...and it has all the right amenities and view, but there is a manufactured home or junk house on it.  These less than desirable homes can be demolished/removed, often for less money than adding all amenities and landscaping to raw land.

14.  Consider viewing the property site a couple different times of the day.  Look for the sun. You will want your custom designed home to be light and bright.

Contact us today with any questions or to schedule an appointment.  We are here to serve you.

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