What To Do After The Contract To Purchase Is Accepted
Build Own Home Part 10
1. Utility line right-of-ways
Contact the company that owns the pipeline or power line crossing the property and find out what you can or cannot do on their easement. Some companies, will fly these right-of-ways almost daily by plane or helicopter. If you start disturbing the ground on this right-of-way without their knowledge they’ll shut the job down.
2. Percolation test
If you do not have access to a sewer line you will probably have a septic tank. If you have a septic tank you will perform, in conjunction with the health department, what we call a percolation, or “perk test”. Health departments will allow you, the owner, to do this perk test. Because of my busy schedule, we normally hire the surveyor to do it. The health department will provide you with instructions on how to do the perk test – it’s simple. If you fail this perk test, it could mean you cannot have a septic tank. Make sure you’ve completed the perk test and the property is approved for a septic tank. If the property fails a perk test, many people think it is “unbuildable” for a home because they are of the opinion you cannot have a septic tank – not so! There are other alternatives; for example, you could use what is called an aerobic treatment unit. This system is more expensive than the conventional septic tank but it would enable you to build on what some would consider an unbuildable lot. Be sure to check with your health department because the aerobic system may or may not be approved for your area.
3. Soil test
There are many parts of the country where the ground is very unstable for a foundation. In those areas where the ground may not look “just right,” you may be required to do soil testing and/or engineering to properly install a foundation for a home. If you fear any problems with the soil, we recommend you call a “soil engineer”. A soil engineer can test the soil and tell you whether or not it is stable enough to support your home. If it’s not stable, the soil engineer can tell you what can be done to make it stable. You may also need a “structural engineer” to design the foundation for any unstable ground. You can find these engineers in the Yellow Pages under Engineer – Geothermal and Engineer – Structural. The construction of a home is basically the same throughout the country. The foundation is what changes quite a bit from one location to another because of the soil. If you install the foundation correctly, the chances of anything major happening to your home, from a structural standpoint, are very slim. You do not want a foundation problem. So check your soil and seek professional advise if the ground doesn’t test well or does not look “just” right.
Wetlands can be a real and serious problem. The Engineers have mapped many wetland areas and can give you the pamphlets to help you determine if your property contains any wetlands. What’s confusing are those areas that look high and dry that are designated wetlands. If you unknowingly build in these areas, they can shut down the construction of your home because it’s illegal to disturb a wetland environment. If you have any doubts, check and find out if there could a problem.
5. Flood plain
Most cities and counties will not let you build in an area designated as a Flood Plain. In some flood plain areas you may be allowed to add fill dirt to raise the elevation of the home above the flood mark. However, in many flood areas, you may not be allowed to do this, because if there’s not adequate drainage, you would accentuate the problem, if there were a flood. It’s like placing a rock in a glass of water; you will raise the level of the water. If the owner was correct, he could possibly do the necessary paperwork to have his property removed from the designated flood area. For us it didn’t matter – it was a dead deal. You can see these designated flood areas by acquiring copies of flood insurance rate maps. It’s not unusual for part of a parcel to be in a flood plain. The problem arises when any part of the structure of the home is within the designated flood plain area. If the home is in the flood plain area, your lenders will require you to purchase flood insurance. Many lenders will not even make a loan on a home where part of the structure is in the flood plain.
6. Tributary setbacks
If there is a creek or stream on the property, even if it’s not in a designated flood plain area, there could be restrictions on how close you can build to that creek or stream. These restrictions are federally mandated to minimize sediment runoff into a particular creek or stream. Check this out with you city or county building department.
7. Hydrology Study
Some homes are so expensive; like a commercial job and hire an engineer to perform a “hydrology study.” The hydrology study will indicate if there is going to be a water runoff problem, after the home is constructed. If there is a problem, this engineer will design a solution to the problem. The type of engineer to do this is a “civil engineer.” If you ever have a problem with water drainage and you need to correct it, contact a civil engineer. You’ll find them in the Yellow Pages under Engineer – Civil. Some areas of the country may require a hydrology study on every home.
8. Hazardous waste and buried trash
I’m beginning to see more and more builders required to furnish a certified document stating that there is no buried trash or hazardous waste on the property. There are engineering firms in any given area that can do this testing and supply these documents if you need them.
9. Rock test
Even if you don’t see any surface rock, if you have serious doubts about rock, you can hire firms to check for rock. Contact a soil engineer to find out whom to use. They can bore or dig test holes in the ground to tell you how far below the surface the rock exists. This way you’ll know if you are going to have a problems installing a driveway, basement, swimming pool, sewer line or septic tank.
After you have the property under contract to purchase, we recommend that you go ahead and get a current (no more than 6 months old) survey by a licensed land surveyor. The survey is going to clear up a lot of potential problems. For example, the survey will show any easements on the property that you may not see with the eye. The survey will also show any areas of the property that are in a flood plain.
11. Topography map
The topography map or “topo” will show the contour of the land. If your property is relatively flat, you may not need to spend money for a topo. The surveyor is who we hire to do the topo. Like the survey, to get the best price you will need to shop around.