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Q&A: What Should I Look for When Shopping for Land?

 Photo: Adobe Stock ©yanikap


My husband and I have decided to build a timber home. I thought the first thing we should do is start looking at layouts, but I recently learned that it’s important to know exactly where we will build before we start that process. We know we want to live close to a ski area that also has views of a lake, but other than looking for property near our interests, what should we consider as we shop for land?


Without a doubt, looking at floor plan designs for a custom timber or log home is one of the most exciting phases of the planning process, but before you fall in love with a layout, it is absolutely vital to know the lay of your land first. Not only will a influence the design (will you build on the slopes or closer to the shoreline?), its proximity to infrastructure — or lack thereof — could have a profound impact on your plans and your budget.

There are pros and cons to building in a developed area versus buying raw land. A development or resort will give you easy access to roads and public utilities; but odds are you will be close to your neighbors and have views of their houses. Undeveloped land often affords peaceful nature vistas and plenty of elbowroom; but the trade off is that you’ll be responsible for supplying your own water, septic, power and maybe even roads.
Before committing to raw land, be sure it can pass a percolation (“perc”) test, which will establish how well the soil will drain and support a septic system.  You should also inquire about the feasibility and price to tap into public waterworks, or whether it would be more cost effective to dig a well.

As for electricity, get an estimate to bring electrical lines to your property (installing your own solar array may actually be a cheaper option long term). Also, consider the parcel’s proximity to the nearest road and how long (and expensive) your road/driveway will be.

Investigating all these aspects for each piece of ground you’re interested in will require an investment of time on your part. Of course, if you choose to build in a development, these decisions will be made for you, but at a price — both in terms of actual dollars and sacrificing control. For some, this hassle-free approach is well worth the added cost.

Learn more about buying land from Timber Home Living:

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