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How to Find Land

Finding that perfect site to build your dream home may seem to be a challenging task.  At Zumpano Design and Construction, we keep a current list of sites available in selected target markets that we think are “shovel ready”.


The first step is solely the discretion of the client.  What area do you want to live in?  Most homeowners allow distance to work or boundaries of school districts to be the determining factor.  In some cases a desire to be on the water or in the woods can be the primary driver.  The size of the land you’d like to live on will often determine how far you’ll be from an urban/suburban area.  Typically, larger parcels are in rural areas.


Once those decisions have been made, here’s a list of what we think are important factors to consider.  We can assist our clients in the evaluation of the following site characteristics.  Keep in mind these are just the practical features. There are a number of considerations ---- sunlight patterns, views, naturally fitting into a site’s contours --- that we think is a combination of art and science, and at Zumpano Design and Construction, that’s one of our strengths.  Here are the practical considerations.


  • Zoning and Setbacks: Be certain the land is zoned for your purpose.  If you want a sprawling ranch, you need to be certain it will fit within the boundaries imposed by zoning laws.  We will do an analysis to be certain your home will fit in the areas permitted to build on.


  • Subdivision Regulations: Your new home will need to meet the requirements of a subdivision.  Frequently these will determine a minimum size of a house, outbuildings and exterior materials.  These regulations can protect you or limit you, depending on your specific usage needs.  If you want to park an RV outside or raise goats, you will be limited in your choice of subdivisions.


  • Natural Drainage and Wetlands: Knowing how the water wants to flow through your property is critical to the success of a new home upon that property.  This can begin with an analysis and water conditions that can be far away from the property.  Today, there are numerous heavily regulated wetland designations that will limit the use of your site.  Some townships have riparian regulations that limit the use and placement along creeks and waterways.  But even a “high and dry” site needs the correct and thoughtful placement of a house upon it to ensure proper drainage.


  • Boundary Survey: When you walk a site, you usually have a “feel” for where the boundaries are --- a telephone pole, and old fence, or a tree line.  But we’ve been fooled by this many times.  A registered surveyor can quickly determine exactly where the pins are, and accurately determine the limits of a property.  Often we’ll just do the pins.  A boundary survey is more expensive, and can be useful to have, after the property is purchased.


  • Sewer and water: The availability of sewer and water systems are highly desired are usually included in the cost of the lot, but there are tap in fees that can vary within every jurisdiction.  One site may include a tap in fee and another a short distance away can be $12,000 to tap in, so know these fees up front.


  • Septic systems: Newer systems are more flexible in terms of their positioning, but the location of a septic system is very regulated, and it may effect the location of your home, or future plans for a pool or outbuildings.  We most often perform soil tests and acquire the septic permit before the lot is purchased.  A septic system can add from $12,500 to $25,000 to the cost of the property.  Many of them can be well performing systems for decades of use.  There are beautiful lots in existing subdivisions that are very limited due to septic requirements, so get a professional’s assistance to determine this.


  • Wells: Northeastern Ohio typically has an adequate availability of water to service a residence, and adequate pressure for all needs.  That statement is true for about 80% of the lots on the open market. But occasionally an area can be devoid of water or the supply is so low that storage tanks are required. The water from the well can be such low quality in terms of smell or particulates that a series of treatments are required to make the water palatable to you.  You may need to be an active participant in the treatment of these systems.  Know if the water quality of an area is problematic before you purchase the land by talking to a professional.


  • Natural Gas: Most, but not all, roads are serviced by natural gas.  That can mean expensive extensions of the service by Dominion or Columbia Gas or the requirement to use electric or geothermal heating, both of which add considerable building costs.


  • Soil Testing: Most sites have adequate soil bearing capacity to support a new home.  But Ohioans have been clearing and building for over two hundred years, and certain areas may be filled with unusable or organic soil where you want to build.  In certain locales rock is present and expensive to move. Knowing the history of an area is important, but some cases require test digging or drilling to know what’s hidden below the surface.


  • Steep Slope Regulations: We’ve placed a number of dream homes on beautiful ravines, but only after careful consideration of how the weight of that dream home is being transferred to the hillside.  Today, most counties now have restrictions on how close to a hillside you’ll be allowed to build.


  • Specific requirements: We once built for a client that wanted a 100 foot high ham radio antenna, and another time for a client that wanted an eight car garage.  Some hobbies will limit where you can build, so let your design professional know this up front.


  • Easements upon the land: A title search will reveal specific easements that may restrict the use of the property and affect where you want to build. Blanket mineral rights are not uncommon and rarely affect the site, but there are multiple transmission lines that traverse our area that often restrict house positioning or future uses.  Know what these are before you buy.


At Zumpano Design and Construction, we lead and assist our clients in determining the assets and limitations of a specific site, and create custom homes to take advantage of these assets.  Call us at 330.607.5700 to help you determine if the site you’re considering is the right site for you.

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