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Custom Home Building Tip No. 2 Choose Your Home Site Carefully

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For the long-term enjoyment of your home, site selection is probably one of the most critical decisions you will make for your custom design-build home. When it comes to land, there are pitfalls that await you. If you’re unaware of them, the whole process can turn building your dream home into a nightmare.

Most home buyers have a pretty clear idea of the size and style of home they intend to build, but when it comes to choosing the proper site, things get a little tricky.

Once a few factors have been carefully researched, and you understand the major criteria for a suitable home site, as well as checking each one of them thoroughly, then you can make your new custom home a constant joy in your life.

The usual stages of site selection are:

·        choosing a locality and housing type

·        choosing a site, existing home or block

·        choosing, designing or altering a plan to fit your block.

Choosing a locality and housing type

Analyze your lifestyle — current and future

Often related directly to lifestyle, the decision to build a new home is often driven by inadequacies in an existing home. Building a new home offers more opportunities to change that lifestyle. Always maximize this opportunity by analyzing your current and future lifestyle needs.

Now that you’ve started to focus on a particular suburb or locality, take time to visit the local council to investigate planning controls that will govern your site, i.e. zoning, building restrictions etc.

To guide your choice, answer the following questions:

·        How does the location suit your lifestyle?

·        Can it continue to accommodate changes over time associated with your employment, financial position, health, recreational focus, family (new and empty nest), retirement and old age?

·        Where will the occupants of your home go to work or school, exercise, shop, socialize or get health care?

·        What is the true cost of the location?

·        What type of home do you need?

·        How big a site or house do you need?

·        Is there potential to expand the home without impacting on neighbors?

Work through this checklist starting at the preliminary stage of looking at your home options. A few weekends spent visiting other suburbs or travelling to other areas will help consolidate the process of decision making.

Choosing a site: Site evaluation

·        Planning controls can have a major influence over your design. Check with the local council for easements, setbacks and building restrictions.

·        Decide which climatic features need to be taken into account, in order of priority, and assess the impact these features will have on your planning.

·        Note the size, orientation and slope of the site.

·        Observe the potential for overshadowing, loss of privacy and noise from neighboring areas.

·        Identify vegetation that can be incorporated into open space, used for wind protection or used as part of the site drainage system. Make it a priority to retain native vegetation where possible.

·        Investigate the geology and topography of the site. Is there a threat of landslide, soil slip or creep?

·        Assess potential natural hazards such as bushfire risk and flooding.

·        Identify any natural site drainage patterns and determine how they can be maintained.

·        Evaluate the site for aspect, drainage, views and climate.

Efficient land use

·        Efficient planning and land use reduces embodied and operational energy costs for you and the entire community.

·        Site coverage (building footprint) should be optimized to increase the area available for landscaping, which allows more storm water to be absorbed on site and generally reduces site impact.

·        Balance the building footprint with other impacts such as building height.

·        Good solar access is desirable in all but tropical climates, but the size, orientation and slope of the block affect it. Note existing sun and shade patterns in relation to vegetation and adjoining buildings.

Considerations for remote and rural sites: Before you buy, consider service, access, fire and transport.


The cost and availability of power, gas, phone, water supply, wastewater treatment and garbage disposal are often overlooked when buying a rural or remote site. These services can cost as much as the house itself and cause budget overruns or project cancellation. In such instances, renewable energy based systems for power supply, rainwater harvesting, eco-friendly wastewater treatment and waterless toilets become extremely cost-effective solutions. Failure to allow an adequate budget for services often leads to shortcuts with water supply, wastewater treatment and energy supply — with serious lifestyle and environmental consequences.


The construction of access roads onto rural subdivisions can be extremely expensive if wet ground, steep slopes or watercourses are encountered. Maintenance of driveways can also be a considerable and ongoing financial burden.

Good road or driveway design and construction reduce erosion and sedimentation, minimize maintenance costs and guarantee all-weather access.


Fire risk is always an important consideration. A reliable water supply is essential.

Choosing, designing or altering a plan

Make a checklist of not negotiable and priority items and where to compromise.

Consider how your plan interacts with the site. A house can be almost any shape provided the living spaces are orientated and designed to maximize the benefits of solar access, cooling breezes, summer shading and wind protection.

A home designed to respond to site conditions can optimize lifestyle, improve energy efficiency and protect the quality of the natural environment.

Carefully consider the relationship between the floor plan and the site when building. Good indoor−outdoor relationships are a desirable aspect of lifestyle in all American climates.

Make sure your plan takes the site into account.


Size matters. In fact, choosing an appropriate size for your home is the most important step in controlling its economic and environmental cost. Each square foot may cost you more to build and every year costs more to light and heat. It makes good sense to think carefully about the space you need.

Poorly designed spaces are often difficult to furnish due to door, window or heater locations and traffic paths. Poor (or no) design is often compensated for by allowing additional space, which costs far more than the services of a professional designer and lacks that professionally designed touch.

Take into consideration how your existing or planned furniture will fit into each room. Do a scale drawing and experiment with furniture placements.

Consider combining smaller separate living spaces into one larger multi-purpose space with nooks and crannies for individual activities. It can give a greater feeling of space while reducing floor area.


Build your home for your needs — not for resale. Be confident that the home you like will be very saleable to people like you, if and when you sell it.

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