Stages of House Construction 1: Sourcing Suitable Land

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The first step in building your own home is finding a suitable block of land. In Australia, we do not refer to them as ‘pieces’ of land. They are known as ‘blocks’ or by lot numbers on the plan of subdivision.

For some of us, choosing a block of land is simple. We just want a rectangular block that can fit the house that we would like to build.

For others, the wish list may include one or more the following, which makes the search a little harder:

  • Water view
  • Greenery view
  • Corner block
  • Located in a quiet court
  • Near train station
  • Near shops
  • Near good schools
  • Good feng shui

3 Ways to Secure Suitable Land

There are a few ways to secure suitable land.

One way is to purchase a vacant block that is either ready to be built on straightaway (ie. ‘titled’).

Another way is to purchase a vacant block ‘off the plan’ which means that the land is not ready yet as the developer has not cleared the land, connected sewer pipes, water pipes, electricity cables, phone cables or built any roads.

Source: https://www.commercialpropertyguide.com.au/property/283777/sale/stapylton-qld-4207/development-land/

Another way is to purchase an old house with the intention of demolishing it and rebuilding a brand new house. This method is more common in established suburbs which are already built up and where there are no new land developments.

Choosing a Suitable Block of Land

Setbacks

When considering a block of land, it is important to bear in mind that there are building regulations relating to setbacks. Setbacks are essentially the distance between the boundary and the building.

There are regulations relating to front setbacks, side setbacks and rear setbacks, which can vary depending on your council, site overlays, height of your building, etc. In some instances, the minimum distance between the side boundary and a single storey house may is 1 m, while the distance between the front boundary and the front of the house may be 3 to 4 m.

If you already have a house design in mind, your builder or architect will be able to advise on the dimensions of the block of land required.

Victorian Building Regulations:
Side & rear set backs
Maximum street set backs
Minimum street set backs

Humourous look at set back rules: Understanding Victorian planning regulations

Easements

Another consideration when choosing a suitable block of land is whether there are easements on the block. Obviously a block of land without easements is more desirable but it is quite common for most blocks to have easements.

An easement is an area of land, or part of an allotment, reserved by law to allow provision of common state or municipal controlled infrastructure for a specific purpose, which may include:

  • drainage pipelines
  • municipal services
  • natural gas lines
  • power and telephone lines
  • water and sewage mains.
2-metre easement along the back boundary of this block of land

Easements need to remain free from obstruction, to allow access for infrastructure service providers. Works on areas covered by easements that may require approval include activities such as:

  • building or demolition
  • drainage, pipeline and ancillary works
  • excavation or removal of any matter from or deposit any matter on the land
  • construction or maintenance or removal of roads, tracks or fences on the land.

Soil Classification

This is a very important aspect of your land hunt. A poor soil classification can blow out your construction budget.

The various soil classifications are:

Class A: Mostly sand and rock sites, with little or no ground movement expected.

Class S: Slightly reactive clay sites where only slight ground movement from moisture changes expected.

Class M: Moderately reactive clay or silt sites which can experience moderate ground movement from moisture changes

Class H: Highly reactive clay sites which can experience high ground movement from moisture changes.

Class E: Extremely reactive sites d6which can experience extreme ground movement from moisture changes.

Class P: A problem site which can include soft soils, such as soft clay or silt, varying depths of Fill, loose sands, landslips, subsidence, collapsing soils, soils subject to erosion, reactive sites subject to abnormal moisture conditions, or sites which cannot be classified otherwise.

Generally, Class ‘A’ and ‘S’ only require a basic slab with footings. However, all other classes are likely to require the slab to be further reinforced. If you have P class soil, chances are, you will need piers into the ground which can increase costs by $20K.

Most volume builders’ standard costs are based on S or M class foundation. If the soil test shows a different classification, there will additional building costs to ensure that the slab is suitable for the soil.

If you are purchasing a resale block of land or titled land, it may be worth the expense of organising a soil test before committing yourself to the purchase. A soil test will not require anyone to be on site. Geotechnical engineers will use a special piece of equipment to drill down into the ground and extract soil. By determining what kind of soil is at various depths, they will be able to classify the site and determine the load bearing capacity of the soil.

How to Check Whether Your House will Fit on the Land

Before committing yourself to a block of land, the easiest (and free of charge) way is to walk into an office of a display home, and speak to the sales person who can help to check whether your preferred floor plan (obviously, this has to be their floor plan, so make sure you walk into the correct sales office!) will fit on the block that you have in mind.

The sales person will make a scaled drawing of the land and super-impose the scaled floor plan on it to check.

Useful Links

New Land Estates
Established Land
Your Home, a Government website

Let us know how you go with your search for land. We’d love to hear from you about your favourite estate or suburb! Best of luck with your land hunt!

Disclaimer: Links to various land developers & builders on this website are just for information/illustration purposes. ‘Life in Melbourne’ has no affiliations with any of these land developers & builders. We do not expressly recommend that you purchase from any of these land developers or engage these builders, and suggest that you perform your own research and due diligence.

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