Most major projects require that many important factors be considered, calculated, and planned for before work ever commences. The more careful consideration and attention to detail, the greater the likelihood of successful results. However, when it comes to projects as major as construction—whether you are building a log or a conventional home —the planning can seem overwhelming. To make your journey a little smoother, we at Sierra Log & Timber have compiled a step-by-step checklist for you as you begin planning your new home. In this post, we’ll cover part 1. Check back soon for Part 2!
1. Consider cost and plan a budget – The first and most foundational step to planning any large-scale project is designing a realistic budget. When budgeting to build a home, it’s important to include both the cost of construction and the cost of developing the lot on which to build. Figure out how much you can afford to spend before you begin looking for lots to avoid falling for one outside your price range. Then, if needed, speak to your bank to arrange loans for lot purchase and house construction. On top of the typical costs of building a home, there are always bound to be unforeseen costs, so make sure to account for these as well in your original plan. We at Sierra Log and Timber are here to help you with your cost planning for both lot development and home building costs.
2. Zoning, setbacks and CC&R’s – Wherever you build, it’s important to be familiar with the zoning, setback regulations and the CC&R (covenate, concerns & restrictions) for your lot. Some neighborhoods, for instance, have protective covenants or design guidelines to be considered such as Architectural Review Boards that will oversee and approve what you build, while others impose setbacks—minimum distances required between lot lines and structures. The impact of these regulations will vary with the size of the lot, but are important to be aware of before purchasing.
Water – Will your water supply come from a city or community system or will you need to install a well? Tap fees for city or community systems can vary widely depending on the location of your plot, so do some research in advance, check into cost of water hook-up, and also the water meter price and availability. If, on the other hand, you’ll need to install a well, check into the cost of a drilling permit.
Electricity – How close is the nearest power source to the lot you’re considering or is there a power hook up at the lot. What type of fee will be required to connect to it? Since the time of installation can vary, make sure to ask the utility company how long it will take in advance since your building schedule may depend on their response. This is the time to consider solar “off-grid” systems if the cost of bring in the “grid” power is too expensive.
Sewer – Just as with water, you’ll need to discover if your lot will be able to connect to a community sewer system or whether you’ll need to install your own. Calculate an estimate of the cost by numbering each of the bedrooms, baths, sinks, etc. that your home will have. If a sewer system will not be available, your county jurisdiction will require you to have a percolation test preformed to discover how well the property can handle a septic system. Septic systems can be very expensive if they are required to be engineered.
Gas – Yet another category to plan into your budget, natural gas is often accessible for a tap fee. Where gas is not available, many people purchase propane as a substitute.
4. Topography and soils – While many people only consider the views that a lot can offer, it’s important to look at all factors that could impact construction. Study the topography of the lots you’re considering. What are some of its physical features? Does it contain lots of trees or rocks, steep slopes, or natural water sources such as creeks, ponds, rivers, etc.? Will you be able to construct the home you’re envisioning without flattening or excavating the entire plot? Is the soil prone to erosion where you would plan to build? In California, many counties will require a structural soils test so your engineer can design the appropriate foundation. Check with your county, there can be huge expenses relating to the test and the type of foundation required. These are all important questions that can be answered by a careful examination of each lot’s physical features.
5. Natural resource rights – Natural resources include water, minerals, timber and access rights, etc. Find out if the property you’re examining contains natural resources held by any third parties. This issue can be more complicated than you might anticipate, so consider doing a little research before making any purchases. If, for instance, an outside company holds the mineral rights to the land you purchase it could mean they have the right to drill for oil. Although extreme, this is a possibility you anticipate and plan for.
6. Taxes – Many states impose different tax rates on residential and non-residential land, which could negatively impact a decision to purchase land and then delay construction. Make sure to be familiar with the relative tax rates and plan your budget accordingly.
Check back soon for Part 2 of this guide! Ready to build? Contact our California log home package and design experts at Sierra Log & Timber for a consultation.