One of the most important decisions you will have to make after deciding to build a custom home is where to build. You have the opportunity to build in almost any St. Louis community you desire. Finding land on which to build your home can take time, but knowing what makes a good lot can save you a lot of time. That is why we have put together a Q&A with expert Kim Hibbs, owner of Hibbs Homes, to help you in your search for land.
What tips can you give about location (specific to St. Louis)?
The best piece of advice is to make sure your search includes existing homes to be sold for infill development. Many people look for land lots only, and most infill is actually built on sites where homes are demolished first.
What should buyers consider about the cost of purchasing land?
They have to make sure their percentage to the final construction cost is somewhere between 20%-25%. You can sometimes go a bit higher with infill construction, but be careful. They also need to take into account any special site improvement work that might be needed on the land that will drive construction costs – tree clearing, steep grades that will require special engineering and site work, septic versus sewer, well versus public water, length of driveway, etc.
What features of the lot will affect your construction process, and what should buyers look for to keep costs low process smooth?
Level, flat, not too narrow, and not too many trees and utilities at the site.
Quality of life features: what should buyers consider in terms of life after their house is built? Proximity to certain things, etc?
A person really should consider school districts, proximity to shopping, restaurants, etc. Do you want to be close to mass transit? What about able to walk or ride a bike to work or entertainment? All of these concerns need to be factored into the decision on where to buy.
Zoning law considerations?
Usually, this isn’t a big concern unless you are trying to split a lot. Sometimes you have to be concerned about the size of a structure. For example, Kirkwood has very strict guidelines on the overall size of the home in relation to the size of the lot.
Always get a copy of the neighborhood and municipality architectural guidelines. They will often dictate the size, look, and exterior finishes of a home. If they are too strict, they can drive construction costs much higher than some budgets.
What to consider regarding utilities? How will this affect the build?
Having all utilities at the site is best, and that is common with infill construction. New land lots sometimes require first-time connection fees. Septic and sewer will also drive construction costs.