Homebuyers often view purchasing vacant land as a simpler option than buying an established house. Buying a lot comes with the benefit of being able to build a home that suits your needs exactly.
However, it’s important to note that purchasing land poses its own unique issues and can cost you thousands of dollars if you don’t ensure your chosen plot is suitable to build on first.
When buying land, consider the following key points to determine whether that block of land you have your eye on will be a sound real estate investment:
- Have you checked the zoning? Governments use zoning to determine the type of physical building allowed on a piece of land, and how the building should be used. The zoning categories in Australia are commercial, industrial, residential and recreational.
If you were to purchase a property that was zoned industrial, you would not be permitted to build a physical structure that had a residential purpose. You would be in violation of zoning laws, and you may be asked to pull the structure down.
To have the land rezoned to residential requires an application to government, which is an expensive process in which there is no guarantee of success.
- What are the planning controls pertinent to your land? Planning controls are regulations imposed by local councils that can affect what type and size of house you can build.
Restrictions on your title can include covenants that can determine, for example, how big a home you can or must build on the land. As with zoning, applying to local council to amend planning controls is an expensive exercise and the rate of success isn’t high.
It’s important to check with the local council before purchasing the land to make sure you can build the type of house you want without any restrictions.
- Are the utilities connected? When purchasing an established house, your utilities are already connected to the block. Not so much with a block of land.
To have water, electricity, sewerage and telephone connected to your vacant block is extremely expensive. This expense will be determined by how far away you are from the nearest connected block. Trenches need to be dug to bring these services up from the nearest connected property.
- Have you had a soil test? It’s advisable to have your sales contract conditional upon the results of a soil test.
For example, if your block was a former landfill site, it may mean you’re going to need a foundation that’s specially engineered to ensure there’s no movement in your house due to the soil instability.
Make no mistake, your earthmoving and engineering costs are going to skyrocket if your soil test shows instability. It may also mean lengthy delays to your building schedule as local councils take longer to deliberate on your proposed plans due to their complicated nature.
It always pays to do your due diligence when purchasing a block of land. Failure to do so will most likely result in costly delays and house plan changes, or worse – not being allowed to build at all.