Blocks of land literally come in all sizes. There are house blocks in new residential subdivisions that have all the services ready to be connected, from water and electricity to fibre-to-the-home Internet.
There are blocks where the owner of a very large house block in an established community has sub-divided. There are small acreages, generally on the outskirts of rural towns with some amenities like electricity and garbage collection. There are farm properties – from small to large to enormous – possibly with the only service being the telephone. You can even consider buying a block of land that has a low-value house on it which you demolish.
Blocks of land come in all shapes. There are square and rectangular blocks, corner blocks, battle-axe blocks and blocks with no street frontage and a long driveway for access. There are flat blocks, steep blocks, sloped blocks, blocks with cliffs, blocks set down from the road and blocks set above the road. There are low-lying blocks and blocks with waterways nearby. There are blocks that face north-south or east-west, blocks that are in the lee of a hill and ones that fully face the weather. There are timbered blocks, blocks close to bushland, rocky blocks and blocks subject to erosion or with unstable soil.
Each shape and size will present challenges for the design of your home. If the block you are looking at is rectangular, flat, with full street frontage, in a flood-free area away from bushland and without trees, with access to all services in a new or existing residential sub-division, and with stable soil without rocks then congratulations. If you also have a view then, as they say, you’ve struck pay-dirt.
If the block you are looking at has some of the other features mentioned above then you’ll need to carefully evaluate how they will impact the design and cost of construction.
Some factors worth noting are:
• Soil: You should consider having a soil test performed by a qualified engineer before you buy land. The cost of building your house’s foundations can ultimately depend on the type of soil that it’s built on. The type of soil that your property is situated on can incur extra costs for earthworks and land retention, so have the soil classified according to the Australian standard
• Slope: The degree of incline must also be considered since steeper land is likely to be more costly to build upon. Be aware of blocks that lie beneath the level of the road as they might present a problem with water runoff in stormy weather.
• Utilities: Contact utility companies to check the cost of connecting your block of land to water, gas and electricity if the service connections are not included.
• Orientation: Land with a north-facing alignment and a backyard can reduce your energy bills. This is because north-facing rooms are able to maximise the amount of sunlight received during winter and minimise sunlight exposure during the warmer months. This will mean your future house is naturally warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, saving you money on heating and cooling costs.
• Trees: There may be restrictions on removing trees that could prove expensive.
Don’t forget location
Choosing land close to services such as shops, parks and schools can save you travel time, but be aware of issues like noise pollution. A better location might not offer your ideal piece of land or desired price, but can be worth it if you are able to walk or cycle to shops, schools and public transport, making life easier and healthier.
As important as proximity to services are, there are some location issues it is important to be very aware of as they may impact your ability to obtain finance and insurance, restrict the type and design of house you can build, and increase construction costs.
Check whether the area is prone to natural disasters such as floods, bushfires or cyclones.
Low-lying areas situated near rivers tend to have a high risk of flooding in Australia. Before buying land, contact the local council to find out if the land is in a flood zone. Geoscience Australia also provides information about past floods and flood-prone areas. Flood prone areas may also place restrictions on the type of house you can build. Extra costs may be incurred to build an elevated house and put in special foundations to meet the building standards for flood-prone areas.
If your land is situated near a heavily timbered area or one with a history of previous bushfires, the risk of a bushfire occurring can be greater. To find out if your land is in a bushfire prone area, contact your local council and ask to view your local bushfire-prone land map. In bushfire prone areas bushfire construction codes may have to be complied with, adding to cost.
Land use will also be limited by council or state government planning controls. Things to look for include required setback from boundaries, shadow rules, height restrictions, open space requirements, and minimum block size (if you want to consider future sub-division opportunities). Building design may also be impacted by heritage area requirements.
Buying a block of land to suit your needs can be an exciting yet anxious time so make sure you complete your due diligence by engaging the right team to expose your land’s potential flaws before purchasing.