Buying a lot, building a house, what do I need to know?!

Oh4Tahoe

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Joined
Aug 13, 2023
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117
Location
Mesa, AZ
We are in the process of acquiring a lot to build on, we have a pretty good understanding of all the ins and outs of this process. But, I wouldn’t call myself an expert by any means .

For those of you that have built a house or built a shop on unimproved property.

What are so helpful things to know?

What are things you learned?

What are things you wish you knew ?

Thanks!
 
Total pain in the ass from my experience. I wouldn't recommend it.

Make sure you're close to a fire hydrant. Utilities can be a nightmare. Triple what you think it should cost.

This is all in CA so it may be different. I would buy a property that has what I want versus building.
 
I've been looking at properties seriously for the last year or so and here's a couple things that come to mind off the top of my head...

Drive out there, walk around, check it out. Especially WHILE it's raining / snowing, etc. It's always different in person then it is in pictures. The land will speak to you and you'll know if it's right or not. Also note neighbors while driving the area.

Check the drainage. Location, amount, etc.

Foundation and type of soil and depth of water or types of soil can play a big role in your building foundation.

Can you drill a well or will you need tanks or can you tap into city water?

How many trees / vegetation will you have to clear to build your foundation, driveway, etc. Will it need to be leveled or graded anywhere and how much or how little?

How much sun does the property get and is it ideal for how you want your structures to face? South facing is good for snow/ice melt, etc.

Permits. Permits. Permits. Know the county you're buying in.
 
I planned on doing that here in Moorpark. I bought a quarter of an acre, had the lot surveyed and soil samples done. Decided I didn't want to deal with everything so I sold it after a couple years, took the profit and bought a house. Wayyy happier now.
 
I've been looking at properties seriously for the last year or so and here's a couple things that come to mind off the top of my head...

Drive out there, walk around, check it out. Especially WHILE it's raining / snowing, etc. It's always different in person then it is in pictures. The land will speak to you and you'll know if it's right or not. Also note neighbors while driving the area.

Check the drainage. Location, amount, etc.

Foundation and type of soil and depth of water or types of soil can play a big role in your building foundation.

Can you drill a well or will you need tanks or can you tap into city water?

How many trees / vegetation will you have to clear to build your foundation, driveway, etc. Will it need to be leveled or graded anywhere and how much or how little?

How much sun does the property get and is it ideal for how you want your structures to face? South facing is good for snow/ice melt, etc.

Permits. Permits. Permits. Know the county you're buying in.
GREAT info!!!!!!!!!!
 
I built my house a few years back in Los Angeles County and would 100% do it again. I had a great architect that new the county rules so nothing was a surprise. County fees were pricey but all laid out upfront so no surprise. The fire dept approval took just over one year which was annoying. I found a laborer with a lot of friends that could do the stuff I didn't want to do but did the bulk of the work myself. I put my life on hold for 9 months and missed a lot of friends' bachelor parties and weddings but had the family around helping every opportunity and met a ton of curious neighbors.

@84projectFORD recently had a house built north of Phoenix and may have more applicable knowledge for you
 
I work in Civil Engineering and Land Surveying.

When you find a place you like, put it in escrow with a contingent Due Diligence period. Get a title report, pull the local zoning ordinance, and go to (or have your builder go to) the city/county engineering/planning/building department. Those three actions alone will tell you most of what you need to know about what you can/can't do and how much permitting will cost.

If there's something that you can't live with, move on to the next.
 
I bought on a house on some land with the grand idea to build out the dream shop.... 5 years deep and no plans to build a shop to date.

IF I wasn't cheap at the time I SHOULD HAVE purchased a house with a shop. Time, money, life gets in the way of a lot of dreams. Easier to buy the dream these days and then make it your own IMOP.
 
I havent done a ground up build but i am finishing a full remodel on my house currently.

I did not go through the whole permit process so i dont know how long that would have added to the timeline. But things add up fast and take longer than expected. I didnt have any major delays but its taken alot longer than i originally anticipated to get to this stage and i have spent more than i originally planned. I am generaling the project myself and hiring trades as needed. It has been pretty easy as far as a management standpoint goes but its always difficult dealing with different contractors and constant follow up to make sure deadlines are being met.

Its been totally worth the journey and i saved a ton of money running the project myself and purchasing the shittiest house on the block has paid off.
 
I havent done a ground up build but i am finishing a full remodel on my house currently.

I did not go through the whole permit process so i dont know how long that would have added to the timeline. But things add up fast and take longer than expected. I didnt have any major delays but its taken alot longer than i originally anticipated to get to this stage and i have spent more than i originally planned. I am generaling the project myself and hiring trades as needed. It has been pretty easy as far as a management standpoint goes but its always difficult dealing with different contractors and constant follow up to make sure deadlines are being met.

Its been totally worth the journey and i saved a ton of money running the project myself and purchasing the shittiest house on the block has paid off.
I’ve thought about doing it this way, I used to spend my days managing contractors on capital manufacturing equipment installations , but with my busy days I just don’t know how much time I have to oversee it all
 
if you do not have good solid construction experience in your past, get a friend who does!
i did all my rebuilding after the fire and was amazed at the incompetence of the county
with over a decade of building all kinds of structures it was easy on my end
 

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I used a general contractor and off we went. Wouldn’t use him again. What oisses me off is lack of honesty about what’s going on. I like transparency and these fuck sticks think they can hide shit.

I personally don’t know much about building a home but did a lot for my shop build, while I had a company build it, I was a large part of it starting with dirt work. I do know county has a restriction on well digging at the moment if you are building in maricopa county so look into that (if you are not on city). If you only have county ordinances, building is much easier than dealing with city too.

Knowing what I know now, I’d build another house from ground up but I’d us a general contractor again and interview the fuck out of them.
 
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