One of the key things that sold us on our lot was the dimensions. Lots in our area (Winter Park, 32789) can vary quite a bit in size and you can see the larger homes built on several different sized lots. Here are a few things that we considered when looking for our lot:
Width – Some lots can be as narrow as 50ft. wide which can make building difficult once the side setbacks (distance between the property line and house) are accounted for per regulations. Regulations vary city to city so it’s important to check out your local building code. You can typically find your local building codes on your city or county building and permitting services website (Winter Park’s website here).
To give you an idea, our lot is 70ft. wide. Based on city regulations and the size of the house we are planning on building, we are required to have setbacks that are approximately 9-10ft on each side. This means our house can only be up to 50ft wide, which can work when you are building a house with a front load garage but is probably the narrowest you would want for your elevation and a functional floor plan. For reference, a 2 car garage is typically around 22ft wide and a foyer is around 6ft wide. If you only have 50ft of width of your elevation, more than half of it is already taken up by a garage and foyer.
Depth – The depth of the lot can also have a huge impact on the design of your house. Front setbacks are typically based on the average setbacks of your neighboring houses. This helps to create consistency on the street and while exceptions are possible after approval from a city building committee, they are not common. Rear setbacks are typically around 25ft from the back of the property line to the house. You can have a pool within that setback but even pools cannot be within 10ft from the rear property line. A depth of 120t. or greater would provide adequate space for a backyard along with enough room to create a workable floor plan.
Corner Lots – In many areas, building on a corner lot has additional constraints and can reduce the area you have to build. Some regulations require greater side set-backs on the side adjacent to the street while still maintaining the front, rear and other side set-backs. So for the same size lot above (70ft wide), you could have less than 50ft of width to build on a corner lot.
The seller’s realtor should be able to tell you the dimensions of the lot but if you want to get confirmation, you can find that information on your local property appraiser’s website.
Utilities – Another thing to consider about your lot are the utilities. For some people, natural gas is a must have. In Winter Park, some streets have piping for gas while others don’t. If you are set on having gas appliances or a gas fireplace and you don’t have a gas line on your street, your only options are to burying a tank (which we are doing) or pay to install a line from your house to the closest gas line. This can become costly as in some areas it can cost up to $30/ft to extend the line. Also, some areas are currently burying the power lines. This isn’t something that should affect your setbacks but if your city is moving towards this, you will likely be required to bury the power line from the nearest pole to your house as a part of new construction costs (~$3,000 in our area). In lots of newer developments, the power lines are typically already buried but this is something you will commonly encounter if you are buying a lot in an older established neighborhood.
Trees – The location of trees is one factor that can be a large deterrent for purchasing certain lots. Winter Park, like many other cities, is a “tree city”, which means they are working to save as many of the existing trees as possible. For particular species of trees, for every tree you remove, you will either have to pay into a tree fund or plant replacement trees, whose values and sizes are to be determined by a city committee that approves your request. Depending upon the size of the tree you are looking to remove, this could get expensive. Most cities will specify which trees are protected based upon what is invasive in the area and you should be able to find a full list on your city’s permitting website.
On our lot, we have a large tree that is right against the current house. We did not want to leave this tree in its current place because it would affect the build and could also have long term effects on your foundation as the tree roots grow or die. We went ahead and asked the city arborist to come out to inspect the tree. Luckily, the tree in question was a Camphor and is considered invasive in the area so there is no recourse for removing the tree.
Understanding the local building and permitting codes and how that will impact your setbacks and build area is key in selecting a lot. But once you understand this, the fun part of designing a floor plan and finding a builder begins!