What Is a Buildable Lot?


A potential building site may or may not be properly classified as a buildable lot. Each state, county and city has its own definition of the term. For many, a buildable site is one in which every level of government has granted permission for construction to begin. Permissible building is not always cost effective building. Real estate agents may describe a piece of land as buildable without knowledge of the feasibility of infrastructure placement.

Proper Definition of a Buildable Lot

  • A buildable lot is a piece of land on which construction is cost effective and feasible. All feasibility studies have been completed, all utilities are available and all municipal, county and state permits have been granted. To discern whether or not a lot is buildable, you must complete an extensive research process. Government employees will not do the research work. This is up to the landowner. Questions must be asked and answered several times, and the answers provided in writing whenever possible.

Beginning the Research Process

  • Inquire at the office of the county land assessor regarding the legal status of the property. After informing this official about the location of the property, his office will provide you with a map of the property along with the land's legal description. Any easements should be duly recorded on the site map provided. Is the site zoned for what will be built there? What would be required to change the zoning? A reliable builder/contractor should be able to advise you if there are any issues that would inhibit the building process, such as a flood plain location, steep gradation or land containing too many trees.

Legal Considerations

  • Enlist a title company or real estate lawyer to search for any pre-existing liens against the property or for any reasons the site may not be accessible geographically or legally. Building materials may have to cross a neighboring property and permission must be given by the neighbor to cross her land.

Next Steps

  • The city and/or county planning departments must be consulted to determine what will be needed to make the site buildable. Will the site require a septic system or can the structure be connected into the public sewer system? Design applications may need to be acquired and completed before a septic system can be approved. How much will it cost to bring electrical power, potable water and telephone service to the site? Are cable television or gas lines available?

Environmental Concerns

  • The property may contain wetlands or waterlands that may require environmental assessment before building may legally proceed. There may also be issues related to storm water control or geotechnical considerations that must be addressed. Many subdivisions have neighborhood building restrictions on design and the materials that may be used. If there are any covenants, conditions or restrictions with which you do not wish to adhere, consider the site not buildable.

The Bottom Line

  • If all your questions and concerns have been satisfactorily addressed, you may consider the lot buildable and proceed with the purchase of the land. A purchase made without research may prove to be exceedingly troublesome, annoying and costly.

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