I was asked to write something a little more comprehensive on buying a block of land than my other recent post. The first step when thinking about building a new home is choosing the right block of land. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as looking in the paper and picking a block out. There are far more factors to consider and we’ve listed some of the most important considerations below.
Location Location Location
This may go without saying but it is a rule for any realestate purchase. Your location is extremely important not only for your own personal satisfaction but also for future considerations. Consider the proximity of your block to the following;
- Public transport
- Location of work
- Family and Friends
- Parks and recreation facilities such as sports grounds
- Potential views (Ocean or River?)
- Shopping and Entertainment
- Health care
- Noise (Airport, flight paths, industrial, train line)
- Potential views (Factories, bad neighbours)
- Crime rate
- Hazards (large overhead power lines, landfill, swampland)
- Local Government & Developer Guidelines or Conditions
There are also restrictions in a lot of areas of what can actually be built and other conditions may be imposed on you. Restrictions such as; building materials allowed, colour schemes, Energy Ratings above the BCA requirement. If you’re buying in the town of Vincent or Subiaco, there are countless conditions that must also be met to ensure your home is in keeping with the rest of the suburb.
We recently helped a client design a fantastic home on their narrow block and the development guidelines enforce grey-water systems even though they were planning on having no garden. There’s $4000 – $6000 of cost that will be of no use whatsoever. We’ve also seen energy efficiency ratings above the minimum requirement increase one clients building costs by over $50,000.
Restrictive Covenants on the Titles
This is important to note that a block may have restrictive covenants on the title. These may impose certain conditions on your build which may again result in additional costs.
A good example of this is the recent land release in Ascot by the racecourse. It was a requirement that the home had considerable noise reduction which meant installing double glazed windows to any window that faced the racetrack. Not too bad if the narrow end of your home faced the racecourse, as it may only be $1000 upgrade to your windows. If the wide end of your home was then $10,000 wasn’t unusual.
Easements (No Building Zones)
When we sat down to design a new home for one of our recent clients building in Viveash the survey revealed two sides of the block had a 3 metre building easement. It’s the most extensive easement I’ve ever seen on a block and created a number of design challenges.
Typically easements are there for sewer lines, which means you can build over the easement however you will need to allow for some kind of piling which removes any burden or load from the sewer line. However, there are no-building easements which mean you’re not allowed to build over that line for any reason. This also includes not installing a pool in that area.
Your R Codes (residential design codes) on your block will dictate certain requirements that must be met. This is probably more relevant if you’re purchasing a block with the intention of subdividing later. If you are purchasing and hoping to subdivide as a means of investment, we highly recommend not taking the word of the real estate agent as to what can be done. Instead, pay for a feasibility first to ensure you can do what you’re hoping to do. For the most part and the majority of buyers, it’s not anything to worry about.
Because of the recent changes to the energy efficiency requirements orientation of your home is crucial. As a rule of thumb, the narrow ends of your home are best on the West and East with the wide sides facing north and south. Living areas should be facing north if possible.
Why do I say this? In recent discussions with our energy efficiency assessors the new 6 star energy ratings will be met by most builders by taking the following actions on their home designs;
- Upgrading ceiling insulation to R4.0
- Adding Air-Cell cavity wall insulation to the east and west elevations of the home.
- Removing internal gas points
- Adding self closing exhaust fans
There might be other additional requirements but these will be fundamental for most homes.
It should go without saying, but sticking to your budget should be of primary concern. Having enough money left at the end of your build to fully finish your home will give you a lot more satisfaction than being at the end of your tether and living in a half completed house.
As a guide you’ll want to reserve 15-20% of your building price for the finishing touches (carpets, landscaping, blinds, light fittings, clothes line, mail box, reticulation, air conditioning etc…). You’ll also need to allow money for site works which most builders are adding as $10,000+ to the house price.
More and more builders are putting standard items in with the site cost allowances which means site costs on a lot of jobs are closer to $20,000 whereas 10 years ago they were closer to $5,000. Why do they do this?
Simple, their homes look like they are better value. If they pull $15,000 out of the house price then when you compare it to other builders they seem to be cheaper.
It’s a false economy now though as most builders are following that same practise. At the end of the day, realise there’s money required for site costs and perhaps lower your expectations slightly on your building budget.
What if our block is good with some but not all of the above?
It’s going to be difficult to find a block of land to buy that ticks all of the boxes above. The best thing you can do is make the purchase with your eyes wide open, that way you’ll avoid disappointment later as things may pop up. While we don’t get involved in land purchases, we’re more than happy to help you in your considerations. A quick phone call or email to us may give you the peace of mind you need to know your decision is a good one.