Two Important Things To Consider When Picking Out A Plot Of Land

8 February 2016
 Categories: Real Estate, Articles

If you want to build your own house, then you will need to purchase a block or plot of land that is appropriate for a residential building. While you can buy a property outright, you can likely get a much cheaper one through an auction. People who choose to auction properties are generally motivated to sell, so prices often match this motivation. However, before you go to a land auction, you should do a little research to make sure that the property is a good choice for you. A great deal of information is typically provided for properties that are being auctioned, so look for some of the following things.

A Good Soil Type

Different properties can have vastly different soil compositions, and the composition can determine whether or not the property has to be prepared substantially before a home can be built on it. To determine the soil composition, you will need to ask for the results of a soil sample test. If the test shows that the soil is comprised mostly out of clay, then the soil will be considered reactive.

Reactive soil means that it responds or changes according to the amount of water that comes into contact with the soil. Clay is reactive because it swells when wet and shrinks when dry. This can cause a foundation to move as well, so think about avoiding a property that contains a great deal of clay. It is best to find a property that has a soil content rich in sand, silt, and rock.

If you do decide that your perfect property is one with reactive soil, then keep in mind that your foundation will need to be reinforced depending on how reactive the soil is. If the site is considered highly or extremely reactive, then the placement of concrete beams will likely be needed underneath the concrete slab. Less reactive sites may only require concrete footings or steel reinforcement within the concrete. Typically, classifications are assigned to indicate how reactive the soil is. Ask about this classification and understand that an H1, H2, and E classification will mean that the site is extremely reactive. Substantial costs will need to go into ensuring that your house will not shift, so weigh these costs against the cost of the property during the land auction. 

Proper Elevation

The elevations of the land site is another important thing that should be considered. This is especially important to make sure that the plot of land is not at risk of flooding or becoming a wet site where expensive drainage systems need to be installed. Ideally, you will want there to be quite a bit of soil above the water table so that flooding does not occur.

You should understand that the water table rises and falls during the different seasons. It is highest during the early spring when snow starts to melt and the water seeps into the ground. It is lowest during the dry summer months. The difference between the low water table point and the high one is called the zone of intermittent saturation. The zone of intermittent saturation can vary greatly from one area to the next. This means that you will need to investigate the water table level as well as the intermittent saturation level to make sure that flooding is not a concern, even if it is a problem only for a few months out of the year.

You can start your investigation by looking at water table data that has already been compiled. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) compiles this data. If data indicates that the water table in the area where you intend on building is normal, below normal, or well below normal, then the site is probably dry enough for building even if water table fluctuations are taken into account. However, if data shows above normal or high water table data, then you should ask the property seller or auction business if a water table assessment has been completed directly on the property. If so, then ask about the month that the assessment was completed. If the assessment was completed in the summer or fall and the water table was considered high during this time, then flooding will be likely during wetter times of the year. You may want to stay away from this property and opt for one with a lower water table.