Advice for buying a block of land
What are the factors you need to consider when looking for a block of land to build on?
How do you determine what a good block of land is? There are a number of factors you should consider. We’ll focus on how to identify and find the right block for you and your circumstances.
After you understand your needs you can use our checklist to help your decision making.
Location location location
The mantra of all real estate agents is “location, location, location”. Choosing your land is an obviously critical component when choosing the right location. Many of the factors we’ll cover are based on the location of the block. But first finding the right broad location that is right for you.
Take into consideration your work location and your kid’s schools. With school zoning so important the choice of a suburb is often not enough, you need to look to the street and street number level. Check the school zones if this is important to you.
Work out how far you are willing to travel or rather how long a time you are willing to travel between work and home. When you spend over 8 hours at work a day and need to add in commute time, it affects your outlook on life dramatically.
Think also about the time of day you spend at home and at work. If you work night shifts and tend to be at home during the day, your choice of location could be very different to someone who works during the day. The last thing a night shift worker wants is to live next to a school.
Sometimes being closer to a station or bus stop or major highway entry can save time and allow you to live in a suburb a bit further away. The time saved due to the proximity to a mode of transport can potentially save you some time and money.
Consider the proximity to facilities and shops. Think about your lifestyle. Is it important that you live near restaurants and cafes, or will one set of shops nearby be enough? If you are considering an estate some estates have facilities such as bike paths and open parkland. Other estates offer access to a public or community swimming pool.
The other critical area to take into consideration is family, friends and places of worship. Often young families benefit greatly by being near family to help with looking after the young ones of even just for moral support.
There are multitudes of other factors to take into consideration including safety, proximity to hospitals, health care workers, a community, beaches, rivers, mountains, trails, walking tracks or climate.
On a more detailed level, considerations of location include the street type and if it is a corner block. Do you prefer a block in or near a cul-de-sac? Do you want to have less neighbours but more people walking past? What about the location of the footpath? Sometimes there are streets where only one side gets the footpath. Do you want to be on the footpath side or not? Bus stops are great when they are closeby, but do you want to have a bus stop (and people waiting for buses) right outside your house?
Size and Shape
Often the size of the block will be constrained by your budget. Generally a larger size block for the same price is useful for future capital growth. Generally a house needs a minimum of 300 square metres to be able to build a decent sized house. The old standard “quarter acre block” would be 1000 square meters which is very rare. Suburban blocks in Australia are between 300 and 600 square meters.
The shape of the block is also important. Generally blocks are rectangular but at times may have a triangular shape or be what is considered a battle-axe block. A triangular shape block will constrain the house design you can choose when building. A battleaxe block is shaped like an axe where the handle is usually a driveway into the actual block. The usable space to build needs to be considered as the driveway and turnaround space will affect the house placement and size.
The other thing to consider is the frontage or how wide the block is at the street. A wider frontage will allow more options (generally) in terms of house designs. A block is considered narrow when it is less than 12 meters. For those who need garages or want to have side access to park a caravan or boat, seek out wider blocks which can accommodate a double (or more!) garage and side access.
A key factor for a block is the land orientation. Whilst in Australia a “north facing” block is advertised widely, you will want to orient your living areas to the optimal north location and these tend to be to the side or to the backyard. Generally in Australia, the street side of a house is dominated by a garage space rather than a living space. Find a block where the north is in the backyard or to the side of the block if your block is wide and won’t be shadowed by the neighbour’s house. If there is parking via a rear lane then a north facing front yard may work well.
The diagram from http://www.yourhome.gov.au helps determine what is a good and ideal site and the way to orient your home. The ideal blocks are the ones where north is to the side.
When thinking about the house that will be built on the land, you will want to try and and orient living to the north and avoid too many windows on the western side.
House design considerations
Have you fallen in love with a home design or drawn up your grand design and dream home? What happens if you have the house before you have the land? In some ways this is easier as you will have your criteria about the land already in mind. The house will determine the size of the block and the type of block you can purchase. Throw in orientation as described above and you should be able to find your land fairly quickly!
If you are like most people however, you will have a concept of a house and are willing to alter plans based on the size and shape of the land. Even then most people already know if they want a single story or double story home. Some housing estates will have predetermined if a block can have a single story or double story build. Some council areas will also have height limits and setbacks which could affect your house design options.
Costs to build
A major consideration is the cost. Not just the cost of the land but the cost to build. Sloping land will cost more to build on and incur additional site costs. The land should be checked for the type of soil. The stability of the soil will affect the costs including the possibility of geo-technical reports and extensive engineering drawings.
When buying land, you also need to consider the costs of connecting and maintaining services such as water, electricity, gas, telephone, sewerage and fire control.
The land costs is one component but most people have a limited budget and will need to consider the whole price to build a home and have it landscaped.
Other costs to consider when choosing a block are ongoing costs. Some estates have additional facilities and therefore could have Community fees or levies.
Aspect and Features
We mentioned orientation already but other aspects to consider for your block of land are if there are any views. And if you are overlooked. If you are going to be surrounded by other properties there are Environmental Plans which help prevent major overlooking in newer builds.
What views and what will you be looking at from your windows? Will you need to keep the windows and blinds closed due to noise or an eyesore? Will your bedrooms and living areas be overlooked by neighbours or schools or shops? Will the best view be from the garage or laundry? It’s hard to determine what a house on a block may look like when you look at a site plan or a community plan. Get to the land and have a look. Take a step ladder and peer around. Envisage houses surrounding ‘your’ block and what effect that has on your outlook and living.
Remember to check if the land is prone to flooding as this may affect the ability to get insurance and even obtaining finance. If you do have any special features such as a creek or dam you may need to check restrictions to building. Also any easements or rights of way may affect your dream home build!
Most of the considerations in this guide apply if you are buying a vacant block or an older house to rebuild in an established suburb or in a new land release or estate. There are some special considerations when buying in a new land release which we’ll cover in a future article. And there will be special considerations when buying an established older house for a knock down rebuild.
Use our checklist to help your decision on the best block of land for your circumstances.