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How to select the right piece of land for your home

Jul 13, 2021

7 min read

    Construction

Most of the time your guts got it right for you but do you think it is enough in choosing the right lot? In this blog, we've provided some tips to make sure you got the best lot for your future home.

This is a photo of the lot at 2888 Union Street Clearwater, Florida, constructed by Parasol Properties.

They say there is a home landscape locked within every soul. It is a geographic-specific bit of land and water that fully represents you. Also, your family and all the people that reside there. This place is built into your sub-conscience from your memories and influences. It’s where you return to your most profound dreams and is at the center of your mind’s eye scenery that appears when you visualize your home.

Most of us can readily identify such a location. Our primary focus towards apparent factors like convenience, safety, lifestyle, and cost. We can quickly narrow down our search. Finding that safe neighborhood, nearby work or schools, and close to the amenities we enjoy at the right price can be a treasure hunt. But that still leaves us with “what next?” questions. If you found the areas you want to live in, you’ll need to find a home that you can conform to or locate a piece of land to stake claim over.

There are enough realtors out there willing to showcase the existing homes on the market, so I won’t discuss that. And I won’t go into neighborhood assessments or walk scores since there are readily available websites that do that already. More importantly, I want to talk to you about lot selection and guide you through our process as a custom home builder.

Solar Access and Shade

As a top-down approach, let me first mention the sun. The sun will provide light, generate heat, and provide shade. In central Florida, the sun rises south of due East during the winter to a maximum of 38 degrees from the horizon at noon and sets South of due West. In summer, the sun rises north of due East at 86 degrees at noon and sets North of due West. While the exact numbers may be used for solar panel installers, these values will also be needed to determine energy efficiency. Such as how many windows should be in the home or what position a home should sit in to avoid excessive cooling bills.

Not to mention understanding the sun's position for comfort. For example, having a dining table on the West side of the home without long enough awnings will cause you to leave the windows blinds and drapes closed most of the time. At dinner times, the light will blind the family members who may, unfortunately, be facing the windows. To translate, your lot position should also dictate the home positioning on the lot, alter design choices of the exterior, and location of individual rooms on the interior.

Weather

The other above-ground item to consider is the weather. While we try to avoid hurricane damage, your home will undergo two strong forces: wind and rain. If your residential lot is vast and your home sits in the center of this, it will be attacked from all sides. The better the view of the water, a park, or other open areas, the stronger defenses you’re home will need to be built against that driving rain and wind pressure.

If your home is an infill or built between two other homes, you’ll have some protection in numbers. Aside from other structures, you can also use landscaping to help mitigate issues such as high fencing or a line of trees at the perimeter. While trees act as a deflector of the prevailing winds, you will also need to be aware of the damage of broken limbs or falling trees. Ultimately you want to be mindful of the direction of where environmental factors come in from.

Soils

We mention trees above, but we should also point out the type of soil on a piece of land that will impact site selection. The more organic content of the land, such as trees and bushes, the more the soils will retain moisture for water management and healthier landscapes. Peaty soils are entirely unsupportive. At the other end of the spectrum, bedrock is excellent for supporting foundations. In between, there are three different main soil types.

Soils are composed of sands, silts, and clay. Sandy soils allow for quick drainage and compaction. Sandy soils allow for speedier construction and concrete work because of the faster drying times and minimally site impacted when it rains. Having a desert may not be the best curb appeal. On the other hand, Silty soils have finer grains than sandy soils that promote water retention and air circulation. However, because it tends to retain moisture, silty soil is cold and drains poorly. Clay soil does an excellent job of holding onto both moisture and nutrients. However, clay is cohesive, which means it expands and exerts pressure when it is wet, significantly impacting foundations. Understanding your soils and the impacts it makes on construction will prevent drainage issues and improve foundational stability.

Slope

The grade or slope of the land also impacts site selection. First, having a flat piece of property is like having a plain white sheet to paint on. It’s simple for designing and easy for estimating costs associated with excavation and backfill. There always still needs to be some drainage to allow water to run away from the home that is mandated to avoid water issues. Having more towering slopes will open up the canvas to perform additional landscaping, swales, and retaining walls that will be unique to your future home.

We’ve seen many houses that convert retaining walls into raised planters or a private garden spot to overlook your backyard. Also, Southward facing slopes can collect a lot more heat on their surface, a potentially useful and potentially harmful item to pay attention to. Selecting a lot with a gradient can provide a secluded interest or create a commanding view.

Drainage and Water

Under the surface, you have to think about water. Our greatest enemy for homes is moisture infiltrating the home and causing damage to both drywall and spawning harmful molds and mildew. The threat of water damage from a high water table may be continuous or deceptively transient, depending on the soil type and underground geology.

If you’re by a river or stream, find out where the flood plain is. Determine if your property is beyond its reach. If it isn’t, you’ll need to build in flood mitigation techniques in basements or crawlspaces. Having a sump pump is mandatory, but also installing barriers will help you avoid these issues. Many low-lying areas in Florida have groundwater very close to the surface. As a result, instead of building down for square footage, we build up instead.

Ultimately, you want to focus on planning on how to utilize your real estate. How can you employ the land’s natural characteristics to enhance, protect, and support what you want to build?

Other Important Considerations

Privacy

Not only visual privacy but also privacy from noise, smells, and light pollution.

Community

A home clustered near friends, family, and neighbors for mutual support, safety, and companionship.

Easements and Restrictions

Owning the title of your lot doesn’t mean you own all the rights to it and can do whatever you please. It’s common for the city or a utility company to access a corridor above for power lines. As well as below ground to lay cable, pipes, and place roadways. Also, city regulations and homeowner association bylaws may have restrictions on the placement and design of your home.

Views

While you can manage short views by landscaping your site, as mentioned above, you can’t do much about the long views.

History

What was the land used for before? Was it always residential, or was it used for manufacturing or industrial? Do you need to test soils for toxins? Or is this a historical building with restrictions on what you can do and restore?

This article was last updated on Dec 8, 2021

    Construction

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