Before you can design your home, you need to know how much space you
will have on which to build. You need to choose a lot. There are many
things you need to consider before purchasing a lot. I'll cover as many
as I can think of.
Location, location, location
If you have lived for some time in the vicinity of where you want to
build, you might think that you know all you need to about the location.
Let me suggest, however, that you might not. I recommend seeking the
wise counsel of an experienced real estate agent. Obviously, if you are
new to an area, you will definitely want the help of an agent. A real
estate agent can help you find out:
- The property taxes for the lot
- The price of the lot if a builder owns it
- The quality of the schools
- The average sales price of homes in the neighborhood
- Homeowners association dues and covenants
Front entry versus rear entry
Whether or not your house will have rear entry from an alley or front
entry from the street affects its architectural design. There are
advantages to both types.
Front entry advantages:
- More neighborhood friendly. You see your neighbors more.
- Safer at night.
- Can have prettier, but more expensive, garage doors.
- Larger back yard.
- No alley to drive down.
Rear entry advantages:
- Prettier and larger front yard.
- More privacy when trying to transport dead bodies.
- Ability to park cars or boats in driveway without looking
sloppy (check with homeowners association).
- Safer for kids to play in the front yard.
- Less likely to back your car out of the driveway and crash
into a parked car on the street.
I have always had rear entry garages, but frankly I prefer front
In which direction does your lot face? In Dallas, this is an
important question because our summers are very hot. The hottest part of
the day is the late afternoon while the sun is setting in the west.
During the day, the sun does not pass directly overhead while going from
the east to the west. It actually passes by in the south part of the
sky. For this reason, the sides of your house that get the most sun and
heat are the west and south.
If you would like maximize shade in your backyard in the late
afternoon and early evening, you will want your back yard to face east
Windows on the west and south sides of your home will need window
coverings and as much overhang as possible to minimize heat transfer. Carefully consider shade trees.
If you want certain rooms to have windows with no window coverings, then you need to pick your lot carefully and do a good job with porches and landscaping. Think about where the sun will be in the mornings and evenings. You don't want to be blinded in your family room every morning or evening by the sun. Which direction your home will face will be crucial.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
As with any decision in the custom home building process, choosing a lot is not very easy. You are picking the location of your home for the next 1-20 years. Whatever you do, don't build your dream home in a location that you are going to hate in two years. You don't want to spend six months to two years building a home and then decide to move because you don't like the location.
On the other hand, don't get analysis paralysis and find yourself unable to make a decision. At some point you will have to pull the trigger if you are ever going to build your home.
Sometime after you move in, the second-guessing will begin because every time you live in a new home, you will think of things that you would change next time. Ask yourself this question: If my home were perfect, would my life really be that much better? Spend more time enjoying your family and friends, and less time fretting over housing.
What is the lot near? Here are some common nuisances:
- Railroad tracks. Find out when the train goes by and stand in your
yard to listen to noise.
- Airports. This one is obvious, and yet I regularly hear people
complaining in the news about the noise from a nearby airport.
- Large thoroughfares can be noisy. You'll get to listen to cars
honking and the background noise.
- Overhead power lines, water towers, and water treatment facilities
can be an eyesore.
- Does the house face an alley or street? Will you walk out the front door and look down an alley?
- Park or school. You'll get to listen to soccer and baseball games
often. Drive by at night. Will the park lights bother you?
- Mall, office building or large church. These can be convenient for
you, but they can also mean high traffic volume.
Here are some things that people do like:
- Park or school. Some people like to be within walking distance of
a playground. Our first home was within one mile of an elementary
school, a park, and a public swimming pool.
- Mall, restaurants, your office, or church. Short commutes are
great. I particularly enjoy having a mall nearby because I like to go
to movies and eat out.
- Your favorite grocery store. My wife would kill to have a Whole
Foods Market within five minutes of our home.
Come tell us about your experiences building or remodeling a home in our Discussion Forums.
This is also the best place to get your questions answered.