So, you’ve made the decision to build a brand new home – congratulations, by the way – from our experience it will be an amazing journey and the end result will give you immense pleasure and pride.
Buying a block of land is the first step in building your new custom home, and this can be more challenging than you might expect.
There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a building block, which could have huge implications on the cost of your build, the design options open to you and even the energy efficiency of your new home.
It’s an obvious point to make, but blocks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and with a wide variety of available amenities.
In the end, like buying a house, it comes down to personal choice – sometimes you just get a good feeling about a particular block and need to navigate all the eventualities it may present.
That said, if you have a budget in mind that you need to stick with, you’ll need to be aware of how certain features can impact the cost.
Here are a few tips to consider when searching for your dream parcel of paradise.
Location, Location, Location
Think about how important it is for you to be close to shops, cafes & restaurants, schools, recreation facilities, children’s amenities etc.
Being in walking distance will save you a drive and you’re more likely to feel part of the community. You may think you’ll never sell your beautiful new home, but you really never know how you might feel in the future, so considering resale value is still important. Proximity to the aforementioned services definitely adds value, so long as your building block is not too close to any busy main roads, which can be off-putting to potential buyers.
Some people love corner blocks, but be aware that others may have concerns about privacy and security.
Any block with views of the ocean, bushland or parks will inevitably be more desirable and will come with a premium price tag.
Practically, you also need to ascertain whether your block is prone to flooding or bushfires, which will involve your builder using specialist materials and building techniques – again, adding to the cost of your build.
Sourcing a block with an existing property can be a good idea too – you can take advice from your builder on demolition costs.
A couple of advantages could be:
You can live in the existing dwelling, or rent it out to tenants while you work on your plans and DA application, saving precious funds for the build.
If the block is large enough it might be possible to live on site while your home is being built, before demolishing the old building.
It’s harder than it looks to judge how much house you can fit onto a plot and just how big your home needs to be.
Getting around a few open homes is great for design inspiration and also to get a good feel for space and how it feels.
An experienced builder or architect will be able to help you to realise your vision and explore how you and your family live day to day, to ensure the space fits perfectly with your lifestyle.
Outlook and orientation is paramount when selecting your building block. Generally, you’ll want to have your living space, outdoor entertaining and pool area facing north to capture the natural sunlight and flood your home with light.
Good orientation is probably one of the most important factors in choosing a block.
You should always aim to have your living and outdoor entertaining areas facing a Northerly aspect. Not only will this create an airy and elegant living space, but will aid the energy efficiency of your home.
Read our blog on green technologies to explore more ways of leveraging the power on the sun, while keeping your home cool in the heat of the day.
The flatter the block the cheaper it will be for you to build on, though Sydney is teeming with sloping blocks that present more of a challenge.
A steep block can make for a spectacular architectural masterpiece, often with stunning views. The result can be pretty impressive, but be warned that it can add many thousands of dollars to your build.
Clever design can utilise the slope effectively and also give you an increased footprint, so there are certainly advantages, but they come at a cost.
The biggest cost in this scenario is likely to be excavation and the associated necessity of retaining walls.
On the subject of excavation, you will need to get a soil test on the block you are looking to buy. This is not expensive and could save you thousands of dollars if it shows anything in the ground that could be a cause for concern. Large rocks on the site can add significantly to the cost of excavations, and amazingly, you could find yourselves with ‘problem soil’, which can affect the foundations and materials you need to use in the build.
We all, generally do our home and block viewings in the daylight, but it’s a really good idea to visit at different times of the day to assess how the sun travels across the property – and more importantly at night.
How good is the street lighting? What about the position of streetlamps? Light pollution may or may not be an issue for you, but it’s best to avoid unwelcome surprises, once the house is complete.
Consider, also the effect of car headlights if your block is facing a T junction, or positioned on a bend, which can be immensely irritating.
Understanding how your building block looks in the dark, will also help you with the planning of your garden lighting scheme.
What’s going on?
If you’re purchasing a block on a significant sized subdivision, be sure to check out what future plans the developer might have for facilities other than housing.
If your desired block is in a built-up area and you’ve noticed some large homes or small commercial buildings are starting to be replaced by new apartment blocks, this could be due to the area being re-zoned for development, which could start to feel overpopulated in the not too distant future.
You may find some building blocks come with quite restrictive covenants. While these are in place in the main to ensure good quality building, some guidelines can be pretty onerous and again, add cost to your build.
Check to see if there are any easements on the block you are looking to buy.
An easement is a section of land registered on your property title, which gives someone the right to use your land for access – a shared driveway, for example – or access to the waterfront. Easements are not necessarily a problem, but they can have an impact on the design of your home and could in-turn affect the build cost.
A good property lawyer will be able to perform all the appropriate searches for your block and point out any contractual peculiarities before you commit to a purchase.
If your passion is for a small acreage site, you may need to check your building block is connected to all the services you’re going to need. If not, first make sure services such as sewerage, gas and water are available at all in the area, and research what alternatives are open to you if you needed.
If services are available in the area, it could still be an expensive exercise to bring them into your property.
Follow your heart…
So, assuming we haven’t put you off completely, we hope you’ll feel a little more informed and confident you know what to look out for.
In the end, your heart will likely win when it comes to choosing your perfect block, but at least with some inside knowledge, this is one love affair you’ll be going into with your eyes wide open.