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By Scott in Richmond, VA on 11/4/2007


I'm in the early stages, but I have a very important question I'm not clear on.

Do you have to have your house plans before you find a lot? The reason I ask this is because some of the lots I have looked at would be limited as to the size of the house that could be put on them.

I am in Richmond, Va. and unless you want to go out in the country, lots can be small and hard to find.

I know it would involve more time and expense and I am curious if anyone else has done it this way. I assume I would have to do the two closing loan where you get the lot first and then build later.

I don't want to spend the money for house plans and then find out I can't build my house on the lot I want. From your experience is this a bad idea?

Thanks,

Scott


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By Justin in Chandler, AZ on 11/4/2007


Scott,

It depends on which is more important - the location or the house. For us it was the location. Once we found the lot we started looking for plans that could be built on that lot. Our lot only has a building envelope of 75 feet wide which has limited the plans that we have liked but we have made modifications on plans we liked and are almost finished with our "perfect" house plans.

We really wanted to be closer to town and in good schools so finding the right lot was our first priority.

I personally wouldn't spend any money buying house plans until the architect or designer was designing my home on my lot. Instead of buying a set of plans buy the floor plan books, get a software program like Punch Platinum, and play around with ideas and features you like.

You say it may be hard to find a lot and that the lots are odd sizes then I would certainly wait on paying any designer for stock plans. There are plenty of places to get good ideas of what you want in a home from this website, floor plan websites, and floor plan magazines from Home Depot that don't cost a whole lot but don't buy someone's drawings for $1,000 or more until you are certain you can use them on a lot that will be suitable for you.

. . . my 2 cents . . .


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By Terry in Phoenix / Oracle, AZ on 11/6/2007


In your case Scott, I would say you need to get the lot first. You state that you are looking in an area where lot size is limited and, I assume, within a town or city. Therefore, you need to have the lot and know what your legal setbacks from your lot lines are to determine what the buildable size of the lot is. This will determine the maximum shape and size of the house you can build.

If, instead, you were buying a large lot or one in a more rural area I would say that having the lot first is far less important. In cases like this you will almost certainly have sufficient room on the lot to build virtually any home you choose short of some gigantic mansion.

From personal example, the lot I am presently building on is a two acre parcel but it is cut by washes, is rough / uneven and has setbacks. I took the time before closing on it to go out with a transit and make a quick survey to make sure the house would fit as well as had the county flood zone official out to verify that a variance for floodplain setbacks could be gotten and what was involved in that.

A little foresight and thorough planning in picking your lot will prevent you later having an unexpected train wreck when your plans will not fit the lot you picked.


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By Matt in Highland, IL on 11/6/2007


We had to take into account our septic field requirements and slope as well which in turn made us choose the lot first then the house to go on it. Our lot slopes downhill to the right, so we choose to make a walkout on the right side of the house. Most plans do not account for basement walkouts or sloping lots. 

Our county also required a very large septic field for our lot because of soil conditions and other crazy factors. This could have impacted our house design if we had a smaller lot because we would have to leave room for the larger field. As someone else mentioned this could have impacts to your setback lines or easement requirements of the lot.

I think there are many conditions for certain lots where you would want to change things in your house design for that lot (maybe a view, or direction the house is facing, slope, etc.).

This possibly does not apply to you but it could apply to others is why I wanted to at least mention it.


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By Scott in Richmond, VA on 11/6/2007


Thank you for the replies.

I have run into a lot of the same issues you all mentioned, like drain field size, high costs of engineered septic systems, etc.

I would like to be doing more planning on the house while I am still looking for a lot, but I will do what I can and wait until I have the lot to do the rest.

Scott


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