Choosing the right lot is one of the very first steps in a successful new home construction project, and it’s even more challenging when the project is a new custom home. We’ve all heard the phrase “Location, Location, Location,” but it’s important to know this realtor’s battle cry is just as important when it applies to the home lot as it does to the neighborhood or community.
With new custom homes, deed restrictions almost always apply. The happy part of deed restrictions is they generally make aesthetic sense, and they exist to keep the neighborhood looking uniformly beautiful. Your builder and realtor will be well-informed about existing deed restrictions in the neighborhoods where you’re looking to buy or build.
While touring the neighborhood, you will get a good idea of the style, aesthetics and materials used on the homes, some of the elements of the lots, or home sites, may not be as easy to analyze. Make sure you recognize the size (in acres), its shape, existing and planned surrounding uses and any adjacent easements or no-build areas that could provide additional space for kids to play and a bump up in curb appeal.
Lot Size Does Matter
Families with a lot of kids and pets are likely to want a large lot with a big home. Conversely, older householders may want a smaller lot in order to reduce maintenance costs. Lots for new custom homes are generally larger to accommodate the larger, more upscale homes that sit upon them. In most luxury custom home neighborhoods, deed restrictions ensure uniformity and aesthetic balance in terms of exterior “look” (materials) how the home “relates” to its lot.
For example, building a tiny house on a huge multi-acre lot just wouldn’t happen in a Planned Unit Development or a new custom luxury home neighborhood. For example, the deed restriction for minimum home size for the New Albany Country Club communities is 2,800 square feet. The restriction helps to maintain the aesthetic quality and balance that exists in new luxury custom home neighborhoods.
What to Consider When Choosing a Home Site? One Luxury Custom Home Builder Weighs In
Consider some of the aesthetic decisions that buyers face when building a new home. In a home that’s already been built, potential buyers can see the way the light enters the structure while standing inside. Which rooms have great morning light, for example, which are dark for most of the day and which get the full force of the afternoon sun?
This spring, we spoke with Kaitlyn Garner, realtor and co-owner of Guzzo & Garner Custom Home Builders, Inc. to discuss some of the key points to consider when choosing the right lot for their new custom home site.
“One of the most important things to think about,” she agrees, “is how much sun and exposure you want your outdoor living area to have.”
Sun lovers seek homes with southern- or western-facing patio, pool and grill areas. Fans of the shade would rather cool their jets in an eastern- or northern- facing outdoor spaces.
Of course, new homebuyers can use their imagination and visualize by touring homes situated on lots that meet their own personal preferences.
Let the Sun Shine
Most buyers of new custom homes desire large windows and lots of light throughout the home. Family gathering rooms that are light, airy and sunlit are extremely popular with new custom homebuyers. Garner comments, “the most frequent complaint I get from prospective homebuyers is that their current home is too dark. They want large windows, lots of natural light.”
Protection from the Weather
Exposure to the sun can prematurely age a home. “Choosing materials is very important when considering which part of the home gets exposed to sun, wind and weather,” says Garner. Siding and door woodwork and exterior materials can be damaged by too much exposure to the sun and elements. For example, she says, “A southern-facing front door should be made from a wood that can handle heat and sun, or treated so that it retains its original look, even after exposure to the elements year after year.”
Of course, the area of the country and general climate are also important considerations. Certain types of products, such as ceramic Spanish tile roofing, have served builders in warmer climates for centuries because they are protective, do not draw heat into the structure and cool off quickly. Here in the Midwest, slate roofing is used for its beauty and durability.
Guzzo & Garner Custom Home Builders Can Help You Find Your Perfect Lot
There are other factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing the right lot that fits your family’s tastes and lifestyle. Garner says “Usually when we meet (a new homebuyer seeking a lot), the very first thing we want to know is: Where, what and how much?
The “where” for Garner, is usually within the two neighborhoods that G&G work most exclusively: Ebrington on the New Albany Country Club golf course, and Evans Farm in Orange Township-Delaware County. But “where” within each subdivision is subjective. “Most buyers want a view of the golf course, access to walking trails. And “preserved” areas around those homes can extend the look of lots to make them larger than they appear.”
Garner explains that the city of New Albany establishes preserved zones in order to keep views of community amenities such as lakes and golf courses clear for all to enjoy. These city-owned easements keep the views free from structures and trees. While not all neighborhoods have these no-build, no-plant areas, upscale neighborhoods in golf course and country club communities often do.
Garner adds, “Establishing a home adjacent to a larger preserved zone can extend the look of one’s yard considerably. And, it provides an extra open space for homeowners who desire as much space as possible for active children and pets to play.”
Another part of “where” is the surrounding land uses. Proximity to busy roadways and rapidly moving traffic is a deterrent for most homebuyers. If you are considering a lot that is near a potentially busy roadway or intersection, it’s important to visit the area at different times of the day and evening so as to gauge the level of traffic and noise.
Choosing a Lot for Your New Custom Home – “The What”
As a realtor and builder, Garner is used to discussing the potential uses with homebuyers. “The What” is “What are you planning to use the property for?” says Garner. “Kids, pool, pond, walking distance to community facilities? What is important to you, your tastes, preferences, lifestyle?
She adds, “The design of the home is a lot easier when you already have the lot. The size and shape of the lot can help determine the optimal home design.”
Talking with builders, architects, and realtors always helps homebuyers when choosing the right lot for their dream home. Garner says as new custom home builders for the Ebrington and Evans Farm communities, Guzzo and Garner normally get involved after the homebuyer has purchased land and owned it for a while. But G&G are sometimes asked to help clients with lot purchase, particularly when the buyer is looking for a home site in the country or a rural area. Garner says G&G will do the following due diligence for clients in order to prevent any surprises or delays further along in the building process:
- Soil testing to make sure there are no heavy metals, chemicals, buried solid waste or Brownfield profile on the site
- Checking zoning and allowable land uses
- Identifying deed restrictions (unlikely in rural settings)
Garner says some deed restrictions in the city of New Albany actually draw residents to certain types of homes. The very popular white brick of the Highgrove roundabout in Ebrington is only allowed on those homes facing the roundabout. This restriction has created strong demand for these homes, which experience higher traffic counts. Still, these homes are in high demand because they offer the coveted white brick exteriors.
Another deed restriction for all of the New Albany Country Club communities is landscaping. Generally, views of the garage door and driveway adjacent to the house are disrupted by tall evergreen Arbor vitae shrubs that shield this area and provide families with some privacy, says Garner.
Choosing The Right Lot for Your New Custom Home – The “How Much”
Price. This little detail can eliminate many potential choices for all but a privileged few. Knowing the range of prices in specific neighborhoods prior to visiting them will arm you with knowledge and the power when choosing the right lot and price point that suits you.
Garner estimates the lot prices in Ebrington, one of the New Albany Country Club communities, range from $150,000 to $500,000, with new custom home prices of $950,000 and higher. Lots at Evans Farm in Orange Township, Delaware County range from $50,000 to $80,000 and new custom home prices top off near $1M.
Guzzo & Garner’s luxury custom home at Evans Farm was featured in news reports on the Central Ohio Building Industry Association (BIA) Parade of Homes this summer. The home, located at 5731 Evans Farm Drive, sold for $998,500, the highest price point in the entire zip code to sell to date!
Whether you are seeking a little slice of heaven in a rural area or considering an estate lot in a luxury community such as Ebrington in New Albany or Evans Farm in Orange Township, consider your site as carefully as you will your home design. The two are interdependent and treating them as equally important will help you optimize your home building experience.