Build Own Home Part 7

What To Visually Check At The Property

Go to the lot and visually check for the following items. If there is a neighbor next to the property, notice and/or find out what services they have.


Do you see any overhead or underground electrical lines?


Do you see a fire hydrant near the property?


Do you see a sewer manhole cover in the street or on the property? [To be politically correct, you may want to call it a “maintenance cover.”]

Gas service

Do you notice a gas meter on the neighbor’s home?

Water drainage problems

A little creek may turn into a raging river during a good rainstorm. A storm sewer at the property could be dumping rainwater on the lot. Do you see signs of erosion?

If you have doubts about the water drainage, wait until there is a good rain. You must know where the water goes on the property during a rain.

Flood plain and tributary setbacks

If you’re in a low-lying area that has a potential for flooding, the property could be in a flood plain. Is there swampy land on the property? If there is a creek on the property their could be restrictions on how close you can build to the creek to control any sediment runoff.


Wetlands are areas that are periodically or permanently inundated by surface or ground water and support vegetation adapted for life in saturated soil. Wetlands include swamps, marshes, bogs and similar areas. A significant natural resource, wetlands serve important functions relating to fish and wildlife; food chain production; habitat; nesting; spawning; rearing and resting sites for aquatic and land species; protection of other areas from wave action and erosion; storage areas for storm and flood waters; natural recharge areas where ground and surface water are interconnected; and natural water filtration and purification functions.

Although individual alterations of wetlands may constitute a minor change, the cumulative effect of numerous changes often results in major damage to wetland resources. The review of applications for alteration of wetlands will include consideration of whether the proposed activity is dependent upon being located in an aquatic environment.

The type of plants on the property could qualify it as a wetland. If so, you could be prevented from building on the property. Any doubts, check it out with the Engineers. Later in this lesson, I’ll show you how to contact them.

Utility and private right-of-ways

You can normally cross a right-of-way with a driveway. You can use them as a play area. You may even be able to have a garden on them but you normally cannot build any structure on a right-of-way. Many right-of-ways are not even visible to the eye. A survey of the property will normally show any and all right-of-ways on a property. See if the property owner has a survey of the property.

A private right a way is where someone may have the legal right to have a drive across the property to access some adjoining land. Private right-of-ways are normally recorded at the courthouse and will show up during a title search.

Grading problems

If the land has a slope of 15% or more, this could cause you to spend additional money grading the land in order to prepare the site for building a home.

Rock problems

The rock could require you to spend a large sum of money to have a basement or to run a water or sewer line – money you may not have in your budget! If you suspect rock, but you do not see any on the surface, check with the neighbors.

Soil problems

If the soil doesn’t look normal for your area, check it out with a soil engineer.

What To Check In The Neighborhood

While you are at the property, check with a few neighbors for any problems in the following areas:

Neighborhood problems

Upon checking with a neighbor, you may find there are rowdy neighbors or bullies living in the neighborhood that create a problem for everyone.

Homeowner’s Association

Find out whether the Homeowner’s Association – is active, strong, or has problems. Also inquire what the annual association dues are and if membership is mandatory.

Traffic problems

Traffic problems may not even be apparent until certain times during the day.


Find out how good the schools are rated in the area.

Noise problems

I remember a lot that I was considering buying and my gut feeling told me to go back and take one last look. While I was there, a military jet flew over at treetop level. It turned out this lot was in the flight path for a nearby Air Force base. I could have discovered this by simply talking to the neighbors.

Odor problems

This is something that you would not even be aware of until there was a shift in the wind.



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