Questions to Ask Before You Buy Land to Build a Custom Home

Are you thinking about building a custom home on a foothills property or a piece of rural land in Northern Colorado?

If you’re a first-time land buyer, then you may have a lot of questions – and that’s a really good thing! But what are the right questions to ask before you buy a piece of land to build?

Start by asking yourself some lifestyle questions. Will the property be a weekend retreat or a full-time residence? Are you ready to retire and want something low-maintenance, or do you want to grow a big garden? Are you an empty-nester eager to downsize, or do you need a larger home with an in-law suite to take care of aging parents?

Once you clarify your goals for the property, then work with an experienced agent and a professional contractor like HighCraft Builders to identify land that’s the best fit for you and your future home.

After you narrow down the type of land you’re looking for, the following list of questions is a good place to start as you evaluate a property’s potential for your new home.

  1. Has the property been surveyed? Where are the property lines? Can someone else build in front of me and block my view?
  2. Where do my closest neighbors live?
  3. Are there any utility improvements on the property?
  4. Are there any water features (rivers, lakes, natural springs) on the property, and does the land have good drainage?
  5. What are the property taxes each year?
  6. How do I access the property? Do I have to drive through a neighbor’s land? Do I have a deeded easement?
  7. Is there an HOA and do the covenants restrict the type of home I wish to build?
  8. Will I receive mineral and water rights as part of the sale? Are those important to you?
  9. Are there any easements (conservation, utility) on the property?
  10. How is the property zoned? (commercial, residential, agricultural)
  11. Are there any pending government assessments or actions that would affect this property?
  12. How will I heat and power my home, and what kind of energy will work on the parcel?
HighCraft designed, and is currently building, a custom barn home in the foothills west of Fort Collins. The home’s orientation was intentional to optimize passive solar.

Some final thoughts about hidden costs when buying land.
Are there any existing improvements? If not, then prepare to install them if you wish to build a home and live there full-time. A rural property for sale that has a water well and septic system already in place may seem more expensive at first, but it may actually be less expensive in the long run than an unimproved property priced $30,000 less.

Be wary of a price that seems too good to be true, because it probably is. Cheap land can mean poor soil, a steep grade, or both. Either problem scenario makes your home build more difficult, increasing overall costs. Expandable soil can multiply the cost of your foundation threefold and can increase a septic installation from $20,000 to $40,000. There’s a reason why the phrase “steep and cheap” land was coined. A steep grade might result in having to hire large earth movers, resulting in expensive excavation costs.

If you don’t have cell phone service in a foothills location, which is often the case, you may have to run a telephone line. Will you run those lines above ground, or bury them underground to protect your view? Those costs vary dramatically.

Is the property in a highly remote location? Will large trucks be able to haul building supplies up the existing road? Do you need to create a driveway? These challenges are not necessarily insurmountable, but they add to the complexity and cost of your project, especially in the mountains and foothills of Colorado.

HighCraft can help.
HighCraft has strong working relationships with Northern Colorado municipalities and Larimer County planning departments. We understand their master plans, zoning and ordinances, and can help you navigate their review processes.

We love a challenge. Scouting rural land deals, and pulling off near-impossible buildouts, are some of our favorite things to do. If you need help finding an amazing rural or foothills property in Northern Colorado, we can point you in the right direction.

And before you build, we encourage you to read our blog about custom home stereotypes. Custom homes come in all shapes and sizes, and HighCraft can build one that’s just right for you.

Please don’t hesitate to ask HighCraft to join you and your Realtor to tour and evaluate a piece of land. We love to do it, and it won’t cost you anything but your time.