Before You Buy Land Checklist: How to Avoid Mistakes and Choose the Right Block
It’s no secret that buying land can be challenging—and if you get it wrong it can derail your entire project. That’s why it is critical to complete your due diligence before you sign contracts and finalise the purchase.
From Council requirements to access to sevices, there are many important boxes to tick before you can be confident you’ve found the right block. So, to help you avoid the potential headaches and added costs of buying an unsuitable block, we’ve put together this handy before you buy land checklist.
Organise a pre-application meeting
When you find a block of land that you like, especially if it’s in a rural location, the first essential step is to gain some insight into whether Council will approve a permit to build on the site or not. You can do this by setting up a pre-application meeting where you can find out about zoning, overlays and any other factors that may affect your ability to build. If there are any doubts, you could purchase the land subject to a planning permit being granted. We’ve seen situations where a planning permit has been denied and it is truly devastating—so don’t be tempted to skip this step.
Have a solicitor review your title
Another precautionary check that is important, is to have a solicitor review the title to find out if there are any restrictive covenants to be aware of. For example, if there is a covenant that applies which restricts the house size, construction type or exterior features that can be used (such as cladding), it can significantly impact your plans.
Arrange your finance first
It’s a good idea to talk to your bank early so that your finance is ready when you are. Ideally, you’d like to obtain pre-approval for the land and house, however, if you have any doubts or delays, you may be able to purchase the land subject to finance.
Know your budget and expected costs
It sounds obvious, but make sure you are crystal clear about your overall budget and about all of the different costs that need to be factored in. Don’t make the mistake of buying a cheap block and neglecting to include the extra costs that you will incur to build there. For example, a sloping block often has a lower purchase price, but it can cost you many thousands of dollars to build your home there compared to a flat block. The same goes for a cheaper block located adjacent to the bush. It may cost less upfront, but the added expense of building your home in a high BAL area can eat up the cost savings on the land purchase fast.
Access to utilities and services
Before you buy any land, you need to find out if there are service connections available and where they are located. You can do this by contacting service providers, Council and Dial Before You Dig and asking where the closest water, gas, electricity, sewerage, telephone and NBN connections lie in relation to the property. This is important as the further they are away from your build site, the higher the cost of connection will be.
Find out the bushfire risk
If your land is situated in a bushfire prone area, it’s likely it will be subject to a Bushfire Overlay. If you’re unsure of the BAL rating, it’s a good idea to speak to a bushfire consultant and arrange a report to see what kind of conditions your build may be subject to. An investment of a few thousand dollars will not only give you peace of mind, if you discover the land is subject to a high BAL rating, it may save you a lot of time and money in the future.
Check the soil profile
It’s important to understand if there are any issues with the soil on your land before you commit, as it can have a major impact on your build and budget. Knowing if the site contains fill, along with the moisture levels, density and reactivity of the soil gives you and your designer valuable insight when it comes time to build. It’s well worth asking if the vendor has completed a soil test already as this could save you the trouble. If they have not and you have any doubts, be sure to get it tested before purchasing.
Size of the block
With block sizes getting smaller, if you’re purchasing a compact block it pays to carefully check there will be enough room to fit your new home, plus any essential services such as a septic system (if required). You’ll need to consider setbacks and building envelopes as well as the property boundaries, so getting advice from your builder is a smart move to be sure nothing is overlooked.
Know your boundaries
While some blocks are clear in their boundaries, if yours is not, a re-establishment survey may be required. When your boundary is clearly and accurately marked you avoid any issues or confusion later, so it is a worthwhile investment.
Adequate site access
When building a modular home, the access needs to be sufficient for transportation and crane access (if required), so this needs to be considered from the start. If the access is tight, can it be cleared to avoid issues? If you’re unsure, get in touch with our team for expert advice.
Suitability of existing services
If there are existing services on the block, you’ll need to check their condition to make sure they are okay to be re-used. For example, are the septic system and rainwater tank in good working order? How about the electrical connections? If they haven’t been used for a long time they may be damaged or compromised. It’s worthwhile knowing this upfront as replacements or new connections can eat up a large chunk of your budget.
Talk to the neighbours
Having a quick chat with your potential new neighbours is a simple and effective way to gain some insight into the neighbourhood and learn more about the land. Finding out from the locals what it’s like to live there is invaluable, as this is not information you can get from any planning report or person behind a desk. Discreetly ask about any local issues with soils, termites, noise, smells or other hazards. They will more than likely be happy to share their take on how surrounding properties and roads affect their lifestyle. One of our clients learned from a casual conversation with a neighbour that the building site they had selected was in fact an old dam site from years ago. Knowing this saved them a mountain of hassle and money in the long term and they were grateful they made the effort to knock on the door!
Due diligence now will save you later
While this seems like a long list, the effort you put in now will allow you to enjoy a less stressful building experience and avoid the potentially devastating effects that overlooking any of the key areas above can result in.
We’ve seen firsthand the devastation of buying the wrong block, and our team encourages you to talk to us about your block before you finalise the purchase. We’re always happy to offer advice and guidance on whether the land you are considering buying will be suitable for a modular home build. It’s far better to be educated and aware from the get-go than to encounter a nasty surprise or unexpected roadblock once your project is underway.
If you have a question, or are planning a new home project soon, contact our team or post a comment below for obligation-free, friendly advice!