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land or house plans

Land or House Plans First? Site Suitability for Your Dream Home

May 13, 2024

When it comes to building your dream home, you’ll face many choices. One of the first decisions you’ll encounter is whether to obtain the land OR finalize your floor plans first. This choice can have far-reaching implications for the entire construction process, as well as the final result.

Which should you do first– purchase your land, or finalize your floor plans? 

I firmly believe you should start with the land, for multiple reasons. In this blog, we’ll discuss all of the reasons that you should secure your plot of land first in the home-building process. We’ll walk you through how to make sure your land is the perfect place for you and your family.

Tailoring Your Home to Its Environment

The biggest reason you want to have your land bought before you start working on your plans is that it’s much easier to tailor your plans to your site.

The rationale is that your dream home’s design, layout, and foundation should be tailored to the unique characteristics and features of your chosen site. 

When you secure your land first, you can ensure that your floor plan seamlessly integrates with its surroundings. Here are some key considerations that highlight the importance of this approach:

Topography and Views

Natural light and fresh air are both wonderful for your physical, mental, and emotional health. If your land offers a breathtaking view from a particular direction, you can alter your floor plan to  include large windows, outdoor living spaces, and other elements that take full advantage of the scenery. 

Conversely, if your site has less-than-desirable views in certain directions, your home’s layout can be optimized to minimize those perspectives. For example, you can position your home to have fewer windows and outdoor spaces in a direction that faces an urban landscape.  

Slope and Terrain

If you want to build on a sloped property, you might need to think about including a basement level or a split-level design to accommodate the terrain’s contours. Additionally, you’ll want to get an expert opinion on what sort of foundation material you need depending on changes in soil consistency due to differing elevation. 

If you opt not to embrace the natural terrain, trying to drastically change your environment can cost a significant amount.

How much will excavation costs take away from your total budget? Are these costs worth it for you and your family to build where you want to build, or could you find another location you love that requires less work? 

Home plans can always be altered before building begins– attempting to alter the landscape is a different story. Find a plot of land with natural features you love, and make sure your budget allows for the incorporation of these features. 

Site Access

Depending on where you want to build, it might be hard for contractors to even reach the land! Before you find yourself set on certain plans for your dream home, you need to make sure the land you want to purchase is even reachable by excavators, topographers, and other professionals.

For example, we visited two different Bootstrap Builders in the mountains of North Carolina last summer. When trying to get our car up the driveway of one of the builds, our four-wheel-drive Honda Pilot started rolling backward! For this reason, I was shocked that the trucks could get up to those sites – but they did! 

While most professionals have the tools and equipment for these sorts of situations, you always want to double-check before you start your build. We’ll dive more into this in the next section. 

Environmental Factors

While the presence of trees, water features, or other natural elements on your land can provide breathtaking views and opportunities for exploration, you also need to consider how these features could potentially affect your home. Local climate conditions should shape your design choices to help you maximize energy efficiency and comfort.

For example, if you live in a particularly sunny area, you might consider utilizing solar panels as a cheaper, cleaner energy source. Additionally, if you live in a particularly sunny area, you can position your home so that your outdoor spaces face away from the sun on the hottest parts of the day, providing optimal shade and comfort during the daytime. 

Instead of simply “bearing with” the elements, you can use the natural landscape to your advantage, resulting in a living space that feels like a natural extension of the environment rather than an imposing structure.

determining site suitability for your home build

Determining Site Suitability: The Roles of Professionals

Another reason for choosing your land before choosing your plans is to ensure you can even build where you want to in the first place. Determining the suitability of a piece of land for construction is a crucial step that often requires the expertise of multiple professionals. Some of these professionals include: 

The Excavation Team: Dirt Work/Grading Contractors

Your excavation team will assess the land’s slope, soil conditions, and the feasibility of construction vehicle access. They can evaluate whether the site is suitable for the desired home footprint and provide recommendations on grading, excavation, and site preparation requirements. 

Their input is particularly valuable when working with sloped or uneven terrain, as they can identify potential challenges and offer solutions for creating a stable and accessible build site.

Land Surveyors and Topographers

Surveyors and topographers can provide detailed surveys and site maps of your landscape, which can be invaluable resources for the other professionals involved in evaluating site suitability. Accurate topographic data can help identify potential challenges or opportunities related to the land’s contours, elevations, and natural features, enabling more informed decision-making.

Structural Engineers

A structural engineer’s expertise is invaluable when evaluating the site’s suitability for different foundation types and load-bearing requirements. Based on the topography, soil composition, and other factors, they can advise on the most appropriate foundation solution, whether it’s a traditional basement, a slab, or a more specialized system like piers or retaining walls.

Your family’s safety is not something you want to take chances with. A structural engineer offers valuable insight into what you can do to keep your family safe in their home. 

Architects and Designers

If you’ve already finalized your house plans, your architect or designer can play a crucial role in assessing whether the proposed design is compatible with the site’s characteristics. They can not only identify potential conflicts or areas where modifications may be necessary, but they can also help you customize your design to seamlessly integrate with the unique aspects of your chosen site.

Know Your Plans, Too: The Chicken-and-Egg Dilemma

Despite everything we’ve already discussed, I encourage you to have at least some idea of your house plans before you buy land.

Having a vague idea of the floor plan you want can assist you determine the site’s suitability.

One strategy is to have a few potential floor plan options in mind. These plans should all be about the approximate square footage and layout you’re aiming for.

You can find a ton of floor plans on our website! Knowing the approximate size and layout would reveal if the house plan will fit with property lines and setbacks.

These plans should serve as a starting point. The final design and layout will likely need to be adjusted to fit with the land.

By providing these examples to the professionals evaluating the site, they can make more informed recommendations regarding the site’s suitability for a home of that scale.

It’s important to approach this process with flexibility and an open mind. While having a general idea of your desired home size can be helpful, you should be prepared to adapt and modify your plans as needed to achieve the best possible integration with the land.

Embrace the Features of Your Land

Ultimately, choosing your land before you take any other steps in the home-building process ensures optimal aesthetic appeal and structural integrity. This process allows you to plan ahead and make informed decisions involving your future dream home. You’ll also avoid disappointment and unexpected drawbacks. 

Don’t stress – you CAN make your dream home a reality

We understand that the homebuilding process can be stressful and overwhelming for families. That’s why Cody and I have developed the Bootstrap Builders Program! We’ve compiled all of the knowledge and expertise you need to successfully self-contract your own home– all while saving 25%! 

If you’re tired of people telling you that you CAN’T and you’re ready to build your own home, reach out today!

I’d love to chat with you and see if the Bootstrap Builders Program can help you get into your dream home sooner. 

Want to save BIG $ and maintain more control of your home build?

Owner-builders report an average savings of 35% compared to working with General Contractors. And even though it’s a big job, we have created a program that breaks it all down into bite-sized pieces. It’s something even those who know nothing about construction can follow and self-contract the build of your own home.

Our Bootstrap Builders Program has tons of educational resources to help you outsource the right professionals for the job. If you’ve been thinking about being an owner-builder on your dream home, this program is perfect for you!

  1. Shawn Harris says:

    Jessica, truly appreciate the blog. It truly is timely as we start to prepare looking for land.

    • Jessica Starr says:

      Fantastic! I’m so glad you are finding it helpful. Best of luck on your land hunt and let me know if I can help with the floor plans or saving money on the build when you get to that part!

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