One question potential new homeowners ask most frequently is how to find the right lot. What should I be looking for? What size should the lot be? Does it have to be flat or can you build on a slope? And what orientation is best? Our response is that your particular needs will be unique to you, and because we design and build custom homes we are likely to be able to accommodate them. But there are some general guidelines that we have drawn up for your consideration, and we would love to share them with you.
You've heard the mantra before. The three things that matter in property are: location, location, location. There is something appealing in this simple truth, but there is more to a building site than just location. So what other parameters should you bear in mind?
When possible we try to orient houses for maximum solar gain, which is particularly beneficial in the winter season. For this reason land with southern and western exposure seem ideal. Open space in these directions provides you with bright and sunny spots in a home. Orienting the living areas to take advantage of this usually leads to having the access road or driveway to the north or east. The combination benefits your privacy since your backyard will be facing away from the street. While this is perhaps the ideal setup, it is not always possible to achieve, especially if you're looking at a lot with a view. Over the years we have dealt with quite a few lots that are facing to the north or east and have designed perfectly beautiful and energy efficient homes on them. The southern/western aspects are simply more preferable if you have a choice in the matter. (And don't worry about overheating in those sunny spots during the summer! We address that too with our smart solar design approach.)
Low hanging power lines, narrow or winding access roads, and weak bridges can cause headaches for modular home builders, so these sorts of things should be taken into consideration when choosing a lot. And how busy is your street? On the days we bring in the modules and cranes we may block traffic. If your street is a main thoroughfare we may need to apply to your municipality for a permit to close one lane. This is not necessarily a reason to reject a lot, but something to consider as it will need to be addressed. (The noise from a busy road might be more of a drawback to take into account, but there are multiple strategies we can employ to mitigate sound intrusion in the home.)
Climate and Wind
It is always nice to have some trees in the vicinity of the house. They help break the wind and cast some desirable shade, as well as improve privacy. If you are thinking of building on the coast, know that ocean front homes in particular are exposed to a lot of aggressive, salt-containing air which can cause corrosion. (Luckily our German windows provide great wind tightness and durability so we have you covered on that front) In addition, many waterfront lots are subject to raised first floor levels due to FEMA regulations and storm codes. There are similar factors to be taken into account when you build in particularly hot or cold regions or in areas with seismic conditions, but rest assured that we will address all of these issues during our custom engineering process.
Does size matter? It might, but it's not the most important factor. Some people prefer smaller lots as they need less maintenance, while others prefer large parcels to enjoy the openness of a generous yard. We can build beautiful homes on small sites, and as long as the size of home you are planning to put up can be achieved within the setbacks (governed by your local building regulations) you're good to go. Something as small as a quarter of an acre can work well, as does a 10 acre lot, so in reality size is more a matter of personal preference.
Sloping or flat site, what is better?
This is a frequent question. Sloping sites can be stunning but they can also create additional costs, because you might have to deal with retaining walls, raised decks, stairs and potentially the need for a lot of fill dirt. But they also offer possibilities for walk-out basements, which is definitely a plus. You also might have less excavation work. Bear in mind that the first floor will most likely be the second floor on the lower end of the site. See illustration below.
Conversely, flat lots are usually easier to deal with. Access is easy and landscaping can be much more cost efficient. There might be more excavation compared to a sloping site but the cost difference is not huge.
Tear down versus virgin lot
Also a frequent question, and the answer is quite simple: It doesn't really matter. Virgin lots can be hard to find depending on the area, and a high percentage of our projects involve the demolition of an existing building. There is an additional cost for the demo, but on the other hand you might be able to reuse the utility lines, wells or septic systems, which is a cost savings. This all depends on the individual circumstances of the particular lot.