Finding the Right Block of Land

Welcome to Lesson 5 of your Ubuild Owner Builder E-course.

The next step in Syntax Owner Building is about Finding the Right Block of Land.

The most important guideline to finding the best block of land is this: Make your buying decision based on logic – not emotion!

Unfortunately, many people with the dream of getting their ideal home built, find this “wonderful piece of land”, picture their dream home on it, rush off and get a nice set of plans drawn up to suit the block, and then give it to two or three builders for quotes on the cost of construction… and have their dream shattered.

Really, for hassle-free home building you should follow the Syntax – and don’t buy the block of land until you have done your research and worked out the costs. You need to assess the block of land before you buy it and consider the cost of construction as part of your buying decision.

Here are some things you should consider.

If the block of land is not level:

  1. Are you going to cut your block on the high side? If you undertake what we call “cut and fill” then you will need to ensure you use retaining walls. And remember, an engineer’s design may be required on walls to a certain height. Investigate first. Cutting and filling is not always the best option depending on depth of the cut.  
  2. Are you going to cut the land and fill in the lower side? If you do, you must ensure there are no drainage problems. You will need to ensure there is proper drainage sumps to carry excess water away. Grading the block as well would be a smart move.
  3. When a block has been cut and filled, understand that all fill being built on must either be piered or compacted. Compaction of soil has to be supervised by an engineer so once again do some research before starting. Be sure you have the correct costings of the piers (costings are per lineal metre) and cover this in your purchasing agreement before any pouring of concrete.
  4. Beware: homes cut in too deep on low sides are harder to sell, and this may affect your re-sale value in the future.
  5. In terms of your budget with a sloping block of land, know this fact: the more the slope, the more the cost.

If your proposed land has an Easement:

  1. Get all of the information (in detail!) from your conveyancing company with regards to any easement on the land.
  2. Some easements can be built over with the use of piering or mass density concrete encasement, and some allow you to build right up to their boundary. The construction methods vary depending upon the ‘zone of influence’. For more details on this please contact us at UBuild Homes.
  3. In terms of your budget with regards to easements: Find out how much it will cost to overcome an easement problem before you begin.

Soil Testing:

  1. Conducting a soil test as early as possible is probably the best investment you can ever make with regards to land.
  2. All building blocks require a full soil test with the site plan marked out on it. The condition and quality of the soil (and subsurface conditions) enable the design of appropriate foundations by an engineer. This is compulsory. Please contact UBuild Homes for further details as we can assist you to organise this. 
  3. The Australian Standards classify sites based on the expected movement of the foundation soil (generally related to the capacity of the soil to shrink and swell). The typical classifications are:Class A – Little or no ground movement
    Class S – Slightly reactive sites
    Class M – Moderately reactive sites
    Class H – Highly reactive sites
    Class E – Extremely reactive sites
    Class P – Problem site

Hot Tip #1

Here is a strategy for you to protect yourself and avoid a costly mistake:

Make your offer on the land subject to a satisfactory soil test so that if your block of land proves to be a problem site in any way then you can negotiate your estimated additional costs down from the contract price, or walk away from the contract with your deposit returned. This could either save you thousands off the purchase price of the land or allow you to walk away from the deal, avoiding costly nightmares down the track.
Hot Tip #2
Do not over-pay for a soil test. Some Owner Builders are quoted thousands of dollars for a soil test, which is outrageous! If you are contemplating a soil test and you have a couple of quotes and think that you are being overcharged (something that happens to Owner Builders more often than you think) then drop us a line and we will only be too happy to review the quotes with you.

Consider if Council Restrictions apply when choosing land:

  1. Does the council have any building restrictions over the land? Seek advice from a local council planning department.

Consider what Building Covenants exist on the land and if they benefit you or not:

  1. A Building Covenant means that the developer maintains control over the quality and aesthetics of the houses built on the estate. There are upsides and downsides to this set up. The benefit for you as the builder can be that it ensures a level of quality on all buildings in the estate. The drawback can be the cost as the covenant may require you to spend more on the construction of the house than you are prepared to.
  2. Covenants and Planning Instruments may be placed over:
    * The building envelope allowed for
    * The minimum size of the house to be built
    * Driveways and fence construction types
    * The external facade allowed
    * Water courses on the block

For help with choosing the right block of land for your requirements please contact us or give us a call at UBuild Homes.