Ten Concerns When Buying Land and Building

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA

There are several good reasons for buying land and building your own house. Maybe you just want to customize a house that fits your family and needs. Maybe you're tired of losing bidding wars. Maybe you have 6-9 months left on a lease and don't want to continue renting. Whatever the reason, you have decided to buy land and build. Where to start? The process is different than buying a resale.

(1) You'll need an experienced loan officer and lender that understands and finances new construction.

(2) You'll need at least 4 copies of blueprints. You can buy house plans then make some adjustments to them, or hire an architect to draw them.

(3) You'll need a building lot. How many acres will depend on what you're going to do with the land. Nothing but build a house, garage, and maybe a pool, farm it, raise livestock, train horses, etc?

(4) Zoning and location. Where do you want to live that works for commuting, and your lifestyle?

(5) You should find an agent familiar with all phases of buying land and building.

(6) You'll need an experienced builder. Are you going to stick build, or have a modular delivered?

(7) Once you've zeroed in on workable locations, you will have to start looking at and evaluating lots.

(8) You'll have to get familiar with reading survey plats, and verifying information at your county building and health departments.

(9) You'll need to understand wells and drain fields, and conventional and alternative septic systems.

(10) You'll need to research Access, ingress and egress easements, utility easements, flood plains, building setbacks, deed restrictions, building height limits, maximum ground coverage, road maintenance agreements, etc.

 Many of items 1-10 will have varying prices which can affect building costs by several thousand dollars. For example, conventional septic systems with gravity fall can costs $6-$10,000.00. An alternative system that requires more engineering and a pump chamber can cost $40 - $60,000.00, plus requires an annual maintenance contract.  So you need to know the maximum amount you can spend ahead of time.

 There are additional factors that need to be analyzed, but 1-10 above can give you a good feel of what to expect. This 3.7 acre lot in Lovettsville is listed for $156,000.00, has an approved 4 BDR conventional drain field site, 360 degree mountain views, no HOA or covenants, is 40% open and 60% wooded. The knoll in center of the photo consists of 1 acre and offers several locations to build a home. The drain field site in just down hill on edge of woods so you have gravity fall and no pump needed. This view is looking over Lovettsville Rd at bottom of hill, and Leesburg is to the right and Point of Rocks is to the left. Call me if interested. We also have a 2.7 acre lot next to this one that is ready to build and listed for $141,000.00. Both of these lots are convenient to Towns, Hospitals, 3 public boat launches, hiking-biking-horseback riding trails on the C&O Canal Towpath, numerous Civil War sites and parks, Sugarloaf Mountain, several wineries, two MARC commuter train stations to DC. ( One at Point of Rocks and one at Brunswick), etc.

lovettsville lots

Jeff Pearl

Remax Distinctive


Homes | Land | Farms | Historic


Comments (22)

Shahar Hillel
Augusta Financial Inc. - Stevenson Ranch, CA
Mortgage Consultant, Loan Officer.

Jeff Pearl,

Thank you, important data for buying land.

Jan 16, 2017 03:40 PM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Jeff Pearl These are excellent concerns when buying land and building.

Jan 16, 2017 04:28 PM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Jeff Pearl,  Excellent blog and one that we all need more education on.  Make it a great evening.


Jan 16, 2017 04:30 PM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Jeff- Being able to buy and build what you want can be attractive but you point out excellent concerns that buyers need to be aware of. 

Jan 17, 2017 09:47 AM
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

                               Thank you Jeff Pearl 

Jan 21, 2017 06:39 PM
Kevin J. May
Florida Supreme Realty - Hobe Sound, FL
Serving the Treasure & Paradise Coasts of Florida

There's so much more that meets the eye when deciding whether or not to build. You've opened them a bit wider with this post Jeff. Here via Kathy!

Jan 22, 2017 04:39 AM
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
Helping your Montana dreams take root

Yes, purchasing land and building a house is a different process than purchasing and already built home. Interesting information!

Jan 22, 2017 04:50 AM
Noel Mayer
Upper Montclair Weichert Realtors - Montclair, NJ


Thank you sharing this information. 

I bookmarked your blog to reference later.

Learning more each day

Jan 22, 2017 05:44 AM
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker - Retired

Good morning Jeff. Many subsurface considerations that many never think of! Call Jeff! Enjoy your day!

Jan 22, 2017 05:56 AM
Jeff Pearl

Thanks Wayne!

Jan 22, 2017 08:48 AM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Many buyers don't realize all the hidden costs involved. In my area of Sedona, I have seen some projects go for years!

Jan 22, 2017 11:02 AM
Jeff Pearl

Exactly. that's why we start and finished cost of project, then work backwards.

Jan 22, 2017 11:52 AM
Chris Ann Cleland
Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA - Bristow, VA
Associate Broker, Bristow, VA

Whenever someone wants to buy land to build, I always refer them to an associate I know who knows this stuff inside and out.  We may have the licensed ability to do it, but that doesn't mean we should if we have no clue what we are doing.  Obviously, you do.

Jan 22, 2017 01:44 PM
Jeff Pearl

That's a good plan. I have noticed many agents just don't like new construction. There are some risks involved.

Jan 22, 2017 01:58 PM
Beth Bromund
Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Rochester, MI
REALTOR (248) 651-3500

Wow, there's a lot to think about to make building on one's own land come to fruition.  I would refer to a specialist who has experience in such matters, and hope to learn from that agent.

Jan 22, 2017 02:27 PM
Sam Shueh
(408) 425-1601 - San Jose, CA
mba, cdpe, reopro, pe

Lately I have to deal with septic field stuff again.  I do not want to identify the septic field again.... Ugh.

Jan 22, 2017 04:41 PM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Jeff

This is a pretty comprehensive list of things to consider. In the early phase checking on the lot itself - easements, permitted usage, access to utilities, lot lines - is essential to avoid any surprises. I had a lot buyer find a number of issues when his attorney did a review of the easements, and the lot survey yielded a big problem with an encroaching fence.


Jan 23, 2017 07:35 AM
Jeff Pearl

Jeff, I've heard more than one story from homeowners who said they didn't know there was an easement across their property when they bought it. One was for overhead transmission lines. The lines are only about 30' off to the right of their house. They will probably never be able to sell unless they either move the house, or build another house on the lot which is 10 acres.

Jan 23, 2017 08:57 AM
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Realty Center - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Great post!  I can see why Kathy chose to high light it this week!

Jan 23, 2017 07:56 AM
Gayle Rich-Boxman Fishhawk Lake Real Estate
John L Scott Market Center - Birkenfeld, OR
"Your Local Expert!" 503-755-2905

Jeff, right now vacant lots are ALL that people are looking at recently! We are in a lake community and have HOAs, but they aren't the "Gestapo". This gives me some fodder for a future post, thank you! 

Jan 23, 2017 08:29 AM
Jeff Pearl

Gayle, I think we're going to see a little increase in people buying land and building in 2017. I hope so anyway!

Jan 23, 2017 08:58 AM
Shirley Coomer
Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living - Phoenix, AZ
Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az

Thank-you for a great list to share with buyers thinking about building.  Even when one buys a new build from a developer in a new subdivision they are often overwhelmed at the involvement needed.  Buying a lot and building is not for the faint of heart!

Jan 24, 2017 06:15 AM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

Excellent information on buying land. I've done it and it can be very intimidating. Lucky for us we had a very experienced builder we trusted.

Jan 24, 2017 12:50 PM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Great list of things to be aware of.  Do you also have to do any kind of historic/archeoligical survey in your area before building?

Jan 24, 2017 11:16 PM
Jeff Pearl

Historic, archeological, and endangered species studies are usually done before lots are created.

Jan 25, 2017 03:09 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, EXP - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

All important things to be prepared for Jeff, it really pays to have an agent to help with these who knows this unique niche.

Feb 13, 2017 09:46 PM