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Advice on Buying Land

Posted on Mar 6, 2012

Purchasing land for your future timber home is not as easy as choosing a beautiful location and signing a check; there are several factors that should be considered before you sign that dotted line. Jim Young, the COO of Riverbend Timber Framing, takes the time to answer a few questions and offers some insight into the process of buying your land.


Q: Please list 5 attributes that you look for in a good piece of land for building a timber home, and why these are important.

Jim Young:

1) Aesthetics –Wood homes have an emotional appeal and the building lot must complement and enhance the emotional impact. It’s a good idea for the owner to get the architect involved on the front end of the building project.

2) Proximity – Proximity of the building lot to the owner’s interests and/or activities is critical. I’ve had clients happy with their home but the location is inconveniently located far from the nearest town and day-to-day services like grocery stores and restaurants. On the other hand, the remoteness of the location may be the primary attraction. Buyers should also consider proximity to neighbors and other buildings or future buildings in the area.

3) Buildability – The building lot should be evaluated by a building professional for buildability before purchasing. Too often, owners are surprised by additional costs they were not aware of before purchasing – such as the cost of excavation, retaining walls, roads and utilities.

4) Re-sale –Re-sale is certainly a consideration but wood home buyers tend to have a broader vision in mind. This is their dream home or perhaps a family retreat. It is my impression that most timber home buyers intend to own their home indefinitely or this is the home they plan for their retirement. This being said, home buyers should still keep an eye on the re-sale value of the home and lot.

5) Amenities and Utilities – If the building lot is in a developed subdivision, more than likely it will come with more amenities and utilities such as water, power, sewer, cable, etc. Undeveloped lots come with considerably more expense when adding amenities and utilities.


Q: How important is the slope of the land?

Jim Young: It is possible to build on lots with very radical slopes. But, it’s expensive. It is worth the money to have a survey of the lot and to discuss the building ramifications with a building professional before purchasing the lot.


Q: What are your top 5 warning signs that it’s a bad piece of land that you should steer clear of?

Jim Young:

1)       Soggy soil or underground water can cause a tremendous amount of grief. If there is any question, have soils engineer look at the site.

2)       Be very cautious of unfulfilled promises by the developer. If the developer has not yet completed installation of road, utilities, etc., then you might want to consider how you will be covered in the event the developer defaults.

3)       Make sure the title is clear and you understand all easements and access requirements. It’s a good idea to talk with the local building jurisdiction and see about the requirements for building permit on that specific lot.

4)       Being aware of development activities around the lot are important. It would be heartbreaking to learn about a new sewer treatment facility going in next door after you have purchased the lot.

5)       Find out why the seller is selling. Make sure you get full disclosure.


By following these tips as well as seeking advice from architects and local authorities, you can ensure that your land is not only a good fit for your dream timber home, but that it will continue to serve your needs and interests later on.

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