HOW ON EARTH DO YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT EARTH TO BUILD ON?

It can’t just be about budget and school catchment. Yes, those things are important, but there are many more factors to consider. Choosing the right block of land for your custom designed and built home (whether it be for your forever home, for-the-moment home, or an investment home) is just as important, if not more important than deciding on the floor plan and finishes. In fact, one of our own project engineers is MONTHS into the process of finding land to build on because he’s acutely aware of all the risks involved in getting it wrong at step one…

There’s no shortage of Brisbane land stock – comb the papers, real estate sections and property websites, note the billboards on your drive to work – there’s plenty of land out there. But good land that’s not going to cost you more in the long run by having to overcompensate for its shortcomings? Rare, and thus price competitive.

So, aside from the usual conveyancing checks – covenants, bushfire threats, zoning, planned developments, local council restrictions – style, fencing etc, what else should you be on the lookout for when choosing a block of land? Here are six considerations that are equally important to the usual:

Accessibility: How did you view the land when you visited? Did you have to walk up a steep incline? Or down, metres into the ‘wilderness’? What’s the turning circle like and is there on-street parking? Will carpenters be able to park out the front of the block to access their tools (in their ute)? This is important, because the carpentry team is not the only group who’ll be frequenting your site – think cement truck for concreting, glaziers, plumbers, electricians etc. The more coordination required (think continuous shifting and ‘rotating’ of vehicles) to get immediate access to the site, the longer the build, and the longer you’ll have to pay holding costs without any home to show for it.

On-street parking is important, as you will likely need to play ‘musical chairs’ with your trades.

Slope: Of the block itself – filling in and excavation will add additional costs. Whilst a home on a hill might look incredibly impressive, watch a few Grand Designs episodes and you’ll see it’s not for the shallow of pocket. At the very least, for retaining walls – concreting will typically cost a minimum of $400/linear metre and block masonry – $600/linear metre. And, will the slope actually accommodate the style of house you want?

A dream level block – for simple and swift access.

Run of water: If the block is flat – fantastic – but where is it (the block) positioned relative to the neighbours? When it rains, where will water run, how is it managed currently? What’s going to happen with overflow? If you’re fortunate enough to get a rainy day – go look at that block and see what’s happening. Similarly – will the neighbours steal sunlight? Will you have to build higher to expose certain rooms to natural light?

Trees: Beautiful, essential, absolute assets but existing trees can significantly impact the size and position of your building envelope. You shouldn’t assume ‘uninterrupted’ views.

A number of established trees, as deemed by council, may need to be accommodated in your building plans.

Soil testing: You need to do this before submitting your offer, or at least make it conditional on the results. Soil tests will reveal how the land will react over time to various factors – i.e. move, expand, contract and if it retains any harmful chemicals or toxins. If the soil is highly reactive – this will add more expense as your subfloor will need to compensate for this. Further to a geotechnical report – if the land had an older home prior to demolition – get an additional test – one that tests for asbestos.

Visit on the weekends: See/hear/smell (yes really) what goes on in the neighbourhood outside of working hours and/or when the sales agent schedules their viewings. Are the activities compatible with your family’s priorities?

To be somewhat philosophical – foundations are important to the success of mostly everything in life – relationships, education, skills, and also – home building. Make sure you spend the time to get it right.