By Larry Gilland

We are wrapping up our February series on scouting out a plot of land for a new house. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, then follow the links or scroll down. Part 2 specifically began discussing the topic of Setting, which continues here.

Area amenities: Amenities is a term used to describe those aspects of an area which make that area enjoyable to live in. The best way to find out about the amenities of the area you're interested in is to talk to the people who already live there. Ask them why they chose to buy their property. You will be overwhelmed with a wealth of information, good and bad. If you can talk to the people who own the properly/home adjacent to the property you are interested in, you will find out specifics about the property you are considering buying. It’s amazing how much history will come with the purchase of a piece of property. Some things you may wish to ask about are:

1) Which companies provide the services and have the best reputation and prices for;
• Water/well drilling/maintenance
• Sewage/septic system maintenance
• Garbage pick-up
• Electricity
• Phone service
• Mail/newspaper delivery
• Fire & Police protection: the distance from your property to these services will affect your house insurance costs
• Road/street maintenance
• Medical facilities
• T.V. Cable
• Security Monitoring

2) What are the start-up/hook-up costs for the services?

3) Office locations/convenience

4) Ask about special construction problems experienced in the area such as high levels of ground water or flooding. These situations can be dealt with and should pose no problem if the homeowner, architect, and building contractor are made aware of them. Depending on what you find out, your next steps will become quite clear. Getting a copy of the Final Subdivision Public Report from the seller or from the realtor will yield a great amount of information about the land. If the state does not require such a document or one has not been filed, you will need to satisfy yourself by making your own report. It should include such topics as:

• Title report
• Easements
• Uses and Zoning
• Shopping facilities
• Restrictions
• Interests of being conveyed
• Mineral rights
• Geographic conditions
• Purchase money handling
• Conditions of sale
• Tax estimates
• Water/water rights
• Fire protection
• Electricity
• Gas/propane/butane
• Phone
• Sewage disposal
• Street/road maintenance
• Public transportation
• Schools Special Assessments

The list could go on as each individual has various areas of concern. The point is to satisfy yourself and your requirements. Ask the same questions to numerous people… like answers will verify each other. Never depend on one person's opinions or statements and don't let any question go unanswered. Other things which may be of special interest to you are:

• 1. Shopping areas
• 2. Churches and social organizations: attending a service/meeting and speaking with the members will provide useful information
• 3. Recreation and entertainment
• 4. Local government/area politics
• 5. Educational facilities
• 6. Library

Other sources of area information you may find helpful are the local Chambers of Commerce and the area phone book.

Affordability: Choosing the location determined by climate, lifestyle, home design preference, possibility of resale, the view and all the setting factors, as well as the desired amenities, becomes secondary priority for most of us when we begin to consider the actual cost of the property we are looking to buy.

Compromises will occur.

To satisfy all the quantities and qualities you desire for a homesite location will mean paying top dollar. A homeowner must be prepared to pay that price or be willing to give up some of the items he has dreamed of. Swamp land is cheap, but a bit of heaven will cost plenty. This "desire versus affordability" dilemma will constantly be with you throughout the custom home process. It is best to be prepared for it from the beginning. A homeowner can make compromises and still be satisfied with the end product when all the options are made available to him. There are so many products on the market place at a high degree of competitive pricing that no one should be unhappy with compromise. We'll be talking about many options as we progress through the building process.

Whether or not the property is affordable to you will be a decision that you must work out for yourself. A banker, accountant, or investment consultant can help you determine what you can afford as well as the best vehicle for financing the purchase.

Determine the area's cost-of-living and how the change will affect your spending dollar. Check on what the property taxes and sales taxes are for the area. Have the taxes increased appreciably over the last 5 years?

If you've done your homework and investigated the area surrounding the property and you’ve satisfied yourself that this is the property you want, then you have accomplished one of hardest jobs in the custom home process.