HOW DO I KNOW IF A PIECE OF LAND IS SUITABLE TO BUILD ON?
So you’re wanting to build a new home – congrats! – but you’re looking at land and wondering how you be absolutely sure that you can actually build on it, what things don’t I know that could prevent me putting a beautiful new country home on it? What a great question – we wish everyone would ask it when starting the journey – “how do I know if a piece of land is suitable to build on?”
Unfortunately there’s no such thing as a blog that will provide you with the exact way of identifying all the ins and outs of whether a block is buildable, but we’ll set out some basics and point you in the right direction.
One comment up front – most land is able to be built on, but perhaps if we change a couple of words, it will make all the difference: how do I know if a piece of land is suitable to build what I want on it? It’s no point building something that isn’t going to work for you! As they say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
So our approach has always been a 3-step one and here’s a quick overview of it.
Step 1. Research.
Step 2. Ask.
Step 3. Validate.
Pretty straightforward, but let’s dissect them a bit.
It’s a common tenet we were all taught in school – do your research. In this case, it involves asking the real estate agent for as much info as you can get. A real estate agent is required to provide you with full disclose of everything about the land before you buy. This is called a section 32 after section 32 of the Act that covers real estate agents and we’ve got a separate blog on this which is not to be missed.
Once you get your hands on this valuable document, look for things like council zoning – whether the land allows a dwelling or not, and any planning overlays that could make it difficult, such as a Bushfire Management Overlay or an Environmental Significance Overlay. These overlays are often not a problem but they can be restrictive at times.
Then look for things like any special easements. We’ve seen huge electricity easements running right through the middle of the property that made it impossible to build on – probably only good for keeping a couple of goats on.
Then drill deeper into the title notes. Is there a covenant? A covenant can significantly restrict what you can build or do. It may limit you to a 2 bedroom home. Or it may stipulate the type of cladding or a minimum size you can build. Covenants vary widely and can really cramp your style, so beware.
Other things to look for in a section 32 would be any yearly costs associated with the land. And then of course, what services are available such as power, water and sewer. These are fairly substantial items – and unfortunately documents can mask the real story of whether the services are actually ready to connect into. We’ve read documents where it stated that power was available but all it meant was that there was a power pole in the vicinity – the cost to get a power pit in place that the electrician could connect into was another few thousand dollars.
Step 2 is to ask. Once again, not rocket science, but the little secret here is who you ask. So you’ve researched lots of things and you’ve found out lots but you’ve now got a lot of questions. Well, start asking, and ask the people that are professionals – people that have experience and know what they’re doing.
With all due respect, we’ve seen the sad story of people leaning heavily on their friends and family and things turned pear-shaped later on. Friends and family obviously mean well, but buying land is not an everyday event and you need to get tried and tested advice.
Sometimes this advice may cost you something, but mostly people will be prepared to answer some basic questions. Calling the council to chat about the permits is an obvious one. Meeting an earthworks contractor on site to discuss the topography and access costs. Talking to your builder about it is a great thing to do. Sitting down with your lawyer or conveyancer is also highly recommended. Others on the list might be tradespeople such as electricians and plumbers, and arborists if there are trees involved. As funny as this may seem, even ask your future neighbours for their comments.
All of these people have a depth of experience and understanding from different aspects and will be in a position to alert you of potential problems. Listen to them carefully and don’t be afraid to keep asking the questions until you’ve got the thing crystal clear in your mind.
Don’t be one of those people that immerse themselves in research and eventually reach a point where they’ve got it all figured out themselves and then jump right in … into a big mess. None of us know it all – don’t be afraid to ask for advice!
Final step is to put the last 2 steps together and start testing your hypothesis. Whether you write it out, type it up, or just talk it through in detail with your significant other, it doesn’t really matter – everyone has a different style – but you need to consolidate everything and then look at it from each angle to make sure it’s all watertight. Like looking at a globe of the earth, you have to look at it from all sides and angles to get the full story.
Double checking everything will make sure any potential problems are captured. Of course, with some blocks of land, you’ll only get 10 minutes into your research before abandoning it because you’ve identified a deal breaker – what a pain but what a relief, you haven’t wasted your precious time and energy and money on something that isn’t going to work. At least not work for you anyway. Leave it to someone else and move onto looking at another block.
Happy searching and we’re always here to help!
Disclaimer. This blog is our opinion only. The information provided in our blogs is accurate and true to the best of our knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes. The information presented in our blogs is for informational purposes only and we are not professionals, so the content we provide shouldn’t be taken as legal advice. We strongly recommend consulting with a professional before taking any sort of action. We reserve the right to change how we manage our blog and we may change the focus or content at any time.
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