Finding land to build on is arguably one of the most frustrating parts of the home building process due to the lack of available land in the marketplace. More and more, the industry model favors production builders who buy large tracts of land and develop entire subdivisions at once. These builder-developers function as neighborhood monopolies and typically do not allow you to purchase a lot and build a house of your own design. Instead they force you to choose one of their limited stock plans or go look for land somewhere else. Why local governments and planning commissions have allowed this detrimental practice to proliferate is mindboggling. However, these concerns have been addressed in a related article entitled An Appeal to Local Governments In Determining Land Use.
Fortunately, plenty of options do exist for land seekers in urban and rural environments alike. If a traditional subdivision environment is what you want, a good suggestion is to find a development just beginning to open. Builder-developers will sometimes sell off lots early in the subdivision lifecycle to help build initial critical mass in the neighborhood, whereas they will be very reluctant to do so later in the maturity cycle. Knowing this, do your homework and find desirable subdivisions that have just opened or will soon be opening for construction. Then ask. If you are not sure what is currently under development, visit the city offices and inquire of them.
Certain real estate agents specialize in land purchases. During the critical phase of land selection, an agent’s network of connections and knowledge of the market will be invaluable. They can help match your preferences with properties best able to meet your needs. The number one rule of real estate is location, and for good reason (see related article on Site Selection). A real estate agent is able to navigate through the inventory of available properties and help negotiate on your behalf.
Have you ever seen vacant land somewhere, and been interested? Visit the county offices, find out who is the owner of record, and tactfully approach them with a proposal. For that matter, the city and county offices within your desired jurisdiction provide a wealth of information and should be utilized in the land search process. Don’t hesitate to ask them what they know is available or who would be willing to sell. Contact a member of your local planning commission. They are often the first to learn of potential new developments being pursued within their jurisdictions.
Place a land wanted ad on the Internet. Make it known you are looking for buildable land. Outline the size, location, topography, and other requirements you may have. If you are careful not to be too limiting in your initial requirements, you will be surprised how much interest this can generate.
In each of these methods, be clear on your intent. Sellers are much more likely to transact with you if they trust you are looking to settle down and be part of the community. If you come across as a speculator looking for a short term gain, you will be met with a lot of rejection.
The effort is worth it. Remember your end goal is to build a custom home perfectly embracing your lifestyle. The home will be an extension of who you are and what is important to you. Indeed, the home will be an Expressive Home. As more and more consumers begin following this path, industry players will recognize the shift in demand. In turn, future buyers will have more options upon which to build, and neighborhoods will have greater beauty and variety.