If the market for already built homes has worn you out and you are now considering having a home built it is a great place to look! There are, however, a variety of things to consider that normally don’t cross your mind during a conventional home purchase. I want to go over each in detail so you have a good idea of what is involved and what to look for.
Well/Water: If looking at acreage you will need to consider the cost of a well. Some properties already have wells installed and often you can get basic information regarding the well on the Department of Ecology website which will normally include how deep the well was drilled and the GPM (gallons per minute) during an air test. There are also a lot of well logs that are not filed correctly or there are not enough identifying pieces to actually tie the well log to a specific property. Even with a well log you will want to get the well tested for both quantity and quality. Lenders usually will not lend on a property with a well that produces less than 2.5 GPM. But a good GPM to shoot for is 7+. The stronger the flow the less likely the well will run dry. The test will also let you know if there is a problem with the well pump which can be costly and beneficial to discover during the inspection period. Quality testing of water is extremely important to make sure there is no dangerous toxins or bacteria in the water. These tests together often run around $400-$450.
If there is no well on the property that is a big cost to consider when building. The property itself should be considerably cheaper than one with a well however, there is no real way to get a specific price to put in a well because there are a lot of variables. A good way to get an idea of the depth the proposed well will need to be, the type of rock being drilled through and the GPM is to look at surrounding wells on the Department of Ecology site. The next step would be to have a well drilling company come out to the site and look at the property. Usually they have a “Well Witcher” who can find water and the proper place to drill with an uncanny accuracy. Well drillers can give you a price per foot they will drill “x” amount of feet and cost of pump and then a price per foot for additional drilling if they have to drill deeper for water. Cost of wells can range all over the place from $5,000-$20,000+ so you will really want to do your research first.
In some areas the Hirst decision still limits where and how you can drill a well so that will be another piece of information to gather in order to make sure that it is even feasible to drill on the land that you are looking at.
Building on a city lot is quite different. There is a cost to connect to the water line and that cost is most commonly wrapped into the permit fees. You will want to call the city or town the lot is in and see what their water connect fees are.
Septic/Sewer: For a city lot the cost to connect to a sewer line is the same as water, wrapped into permits. But, you will want to make sure you call to get the price, so you know the specific prices before purchasing the lot. When I built my home the sewer fees were the most expensive ($6300) which made my total for permits, sewer and water hook up around $15,000 total.
It is very uncommon for a vacant piece of acreage to have a septic system already installed. The only time we really see that is when the owner of the land was getting ready to build and put the infrastructure in then for some reason was unable to build. Other than that, most likely if any work has been done for septic it will be a Perc Test. The Perc Test is performed by a septic installer and makes sure that the property will allow for a septic system and whether the property is sloped enough for gravity flow or not. This test will also show how many bedrooms a septic system will support. If a Perc Test has been complete you will want to really take a look at it and make sure you know the costs involved it if won’t support gravity flow AND make sure the number of bedrooms you want in a home are supported in the test. Otherwise you will want to have a new Perc Test done or clarify with the contractor who completed the first one. Installing a septic system in our area often runs somewhere in the ballpark of $8,000-$10,000.
Power: These costs vary depending on how far the power company will need to run the power lines to your proposed home site. If you are building closer to a road the cost will be less than building at the back end of your property. Additionally, this is a good time to find out what utilities are available. Does gas run out there? Or will you need to have a propane tank or stick with electric heat? By calling the power company that services that area most of your questions should be answered.
Due Diligence: Washington State is fortunately pretty buyer friendly! There are lots of contingencies that can be put in place to give you time to make sure the well and septic will work as you need them to. Additionally there is a time period called “feasibility contingency” that allows a specified amount of time for you to research and work with a builder to make sure building costs will fit in your budget, the lender will be able to loan on the land, that what you want to build there is possible based on County or City requirements and a myriad of other info so that you know that you are able to move forward on the property and that you will be able to build the home of your dreams!
We definitely pride ourselves on walking alongside our clients and working with them to figure out these questions and many more when looking to build. Feel free to reach out to us for any questions or clarification that you need!