Our Charlotte Build: Buying Land
If you guys missed the news that I posted about earlier, I’m moving to Charlotte! After making that big decision and prepping for a cross country move, the next logical thought we had was, “So…where do we want to live?” Did we want to buy something move-in ready, build a new house, or renovate an older house? We didn’t really know which direction we wanted to go and didn’t know what areas/neighborhoods to focus on either. Neither one of us had lived in Charlotte before and had only visited the city a few times before deciding to make it our new home. If you couldn’t guess based on today’s post title, we ultimately ended up buying land and we’re getting ready to start building a new house. I’m going to be sharing the whole building process with you guys, but first, I’m diving into how we landed on our decision, and everything that went into picking and buying land!
(Our lot – from end to end)
Trying to figure out the whole process on our own, with me being over 2,000 miles away and Josh working around the country, just wasn’t going to happen. I felt like I was a real estate search pro, favoriting lots and houses that were for sale on websites like Zillow, and Realtor.com, but without being familiar with the area it was kind of like fumbling around in the dark a little bit. So I reached out to Katie Olejniczak at the Redbud Group in Charlotte to help us out.
I planned a long weekend to fly to Charlotte and met with her over sandwiches. Katie set me up with a few different cities/neighborhoods to check out based on our lifestyle and the major points we were looking for. I was looking for something in a neighborhood outside of the major downtown area, but still close enough to drive into for events or date nights. I also wanted something quiet, and wanted a gated neighborhood. Josh was looking for some space and wanted a property that wasn’t super close to the neighbors, but was close to a freeway and easily accessible. Katie was able to pin point the best areas that appealed to both of us and wasted no time in setting up showings to look at existing homes, new construction, and vacant land.
First off, I can’t suggest working with a real estate agent more, especially if you’re moving across the country and are not familiar with the area. Throughout the process, she listened to our likes and dislikes and took the initiative to show us things we might not have initially considered. If you’re going to work with a realtor, find one that puts your best interests first and listens to you. There’s nothing more frustrating than working with someone who doesn’t have a clear vision of what you’re looking for. From the start, Katie treated us like clients first and friends second.
(Me and Katie at a Charlotte Knights Baseball game on a future trip)
At the time, Josh was just getting into the thick of baseball season, so MANY facetime calls took place where I walked him through a handful of houses so he could get a feel for the spaces. At the end of the trip, we didn’t really find anything we loved and realized that we’d have to invest quite a bit more of our budget into updating the existing homes we were looking at to become something we’d be happy with, and even then, we were still giving up some of the things we had on our “wants” list. We had talked about the process of building, but didn’t really focus on it until we realized that we could get more of our “wants” by building a house, than we could by buying one that was move-in ready. After a few days of house hunting, we settled more on the idea of buying land and building.
The day before I was scheduled to go home, I still hadn’t found a spot that I was super excited about. Everything was nice, but didn’t feel right. Until Katie took me to see one particular neighborhood. As soon as I drove through the entrance and spotted the land, I just knew it was THE SPOT. This was it. This was where we needed to build our house.
(Josh standing on our lot the first time he saw it in person!)
But buying land was totally new to both of us. I had previously built my Utah house, but the land was part of a package deal with my builder, so I didn’t have to go through the process of purchasing the land first and then finding a builder. We relied on Katie a lot throughout the purchasing process, and let me tell you, it was a doozy. Granted, our situation was an interesting one, and a lot of unexpected things happened that are so not typical in a normal land purchase. We originally put in an offer on one lot, only to have issues with a bad bank and ultimately having the sellers pull out of the sale at the very last second, which was devastating, especially after going through all of the work, time, and financial aspects of the process. BUT, in the end, we found a different lot in the same neighborhood, had a very smooth closing, and love our new lot SO much more. They always say that things work our for a reason, and it’s so true. Our new lot ended up being so much better than the first one we looked at, both cosmetically and based on the items on our wishlist.
If you haven’t purchased land before, there are a few different things to take into consideration, which I had NO CLUE about. When purchasing land, and using bank financing, you still have to jump through a lot of hoops to get to closing day. Lot loans typically require more money as a down payment since the bank doesn’t have a home to consider as collateral.
(Different lot views)
Banks may also require you to pay for a survey of the lot you’re considering. Boundaries, zoning, and land-use restrictions are all things they’ll look at and consider. And if it’s not required by your bank, your builder will need one to plot the footprint of your new home. The seller may have completed one, but if not, that expense will have to come out of your pocket.
Just like a home purchase, a bank will require you to pay for an appraisal of the land. If the appraisal comes back lower than your offer price, you’ll be responsible to come up with the difference.
Look into the land requirements in your area. Some locations don’t provide hook ups to city utilities, so you’ll be on the hook for additional costs to have wells, septic tanks, and the additional tests and fees associated with them, installed on your property. In addition to the basic utilities, consider additional fees that could be required to prepare your lot for a future build. Things like clearing a heavily wooded lot, removing boulders, or working with land that isn’t flat will all incur additional hits to your overall budget.
Also, make sure to check for issues in your area, like flood plains, earthquake fault lines, or other things that could be an issue down the road or cause you to pay a premium for your future home owners insurance.
(Lake access down the street from our lot)
If time is of the essence, buying land and building a custom home might not be the best route for you. Building a custom home takes A LOT longer than normal. There’s more prep and research that goes into the land portion of the build, and then you have to actually plan and build a house! So far, our journey has taken 5 months and we haven’t even started the “building” portion yet. So be prepared to hurry up and wait, which is really hard to do when you’re so excited. 😉
Overall, we’re thrilled to be able to build a custom home that will be exactly what we want, even though the process of buying land and getting to the finish line is a lot more complicated and takes a lot more time in the end. We know it’s totally going to be worth it and we can’t wait to share more of the process with you guys as we go!
Check out a video of our new neighborhood and lot below!