As a commercial builder, you probably break ground on new projects all the time. From warehouses to office buildings, to apartment complexes, and more, you’ve likely done your fair share of site preparation. However, you’ve also probably noticed that some groundbreaking is much more complicated than others.
While you don’t always have a say in where your clients choose to build their properties, there are lots of things to consider. What makes one lot a better fit for a project than another?
From cost to soil quality, to location, and more, we’re breaking down how you can determine which lot is the best fit for your project. Using this information, you’ll be able to help guide your clients towards choosing the right lot from the beginning.
The first key aspect of determining the best lot for a project lies in the budget. It’s essential to consider the cost of the lot but also the cost of the land preparation, building materials, and construction itself. If your client chooses a lot that’s far out of budget, then it’s doomed from the start. Annual taxes and project timeline for the lot are also crucial for budget consideration.
Think About Location
Sometimes the best-priced lots are priced that way because their location is subpar. It’s critical to assess the site. If you’re building a building that needs to be accessed by customers, then it needs to be in an area that customers can easily access. If it’s a project where only employees need access, you’ll still want to consider their drive time and ease of arriving at the lot’s location before signing the dotted line.
Consider Legal Restrictions
Be sure to check on zoning laws, usage restrictions, and the municipality plans for the lot’s location. Ensure the lot isn’t unknowingly located inside of an HOA district, or otherwise subject to some stringent rules. The worst thing would be to purchase and break ground only to realize that the original plans aren’t possible.
Investigate the Topography
If you haven’t seen the plot, it’s imperative to investigate the features of the land. Are there hills, or valleys, or cliffs in the area? If the lot isn’t close enough to go and take a peek, you can always peruse Google earth to get an idea of the general land topography.
Think About the Weather
Is the lot in a flood zone? Is it in an area that gets hit by particularly rough weather? It’s crucial to know the weather conditions before you start building. While inclement weather might be a downer, it could also reduce the cost of a lot significantly. So, it’s necessary to weigh the pros and cons of the weather. If it’s located in a flood zone, the lower price probably isn’t worth the extra you’ll pay in insurance. However, if it’s in an area that gets a rough storm now and again, it might be worth investing in better building materials like ICF blocks, and taking the reduced upfront cost.
Run a Percolation Test
A percolation test, or a perc test, is particularly important if your lot is in a rural area. This test assesses the land’s ability to drain water through the soil. This test determines whether or not you can put a septic system on the property. If the lot is unable to connect to the municipal water lines and doesn’t pass this percolation test, it probably isn’t land you wan
While we’re talking about water, it’s good to know what public utilities the lot has access to. Again, this is going to be more important in rural areas. However, you’ll want to know if you’re going to have the ability to connect to municipal water lines. Additionally, take a look at the lot’s access to roads and public transportation. Is the lot accessible, or is it landlocked?
Survey the Soil and Run the Environmental Tests
While you might want to skip this step, don’t do it. Environmental tests are done to ensure that the soil at the lot is not contaminated. This report is also where you’ll discover any poor soil conditions that might hurt the building process or the structural integrity of the future building. Completing these tests often results in a report called REC’s, and they’ll address any potential environmental concerns. It’s crucial to do these tests to avoid any construction issues. Additionally, if there are any environmental hazards, like toxic soil contamination, the property owner could be responsible for it if it’s discovered later, even if they weren’t responsible for it.
Consider the Work that Needs to Be Done
After assessing topography, soil condition, budget, zoning laws, and more, you have to assess the amount of work that needs to be done to the lot before starting the build. If it’s a hilly area, it doesn’t matter if you get the right level, have the best team, and build the perfect building, the land will have to be excavated and graded first. To truly help your clients, it’s vital to look at the project holistically, from beginning to end and get a full scope of the entire project, not just your part as the builder.
The Best Lot for Your Project
Using the tips above, you’ll be able to adequately guide your clients towards the best lots for their projects. Remember, choosing the best lot is not all about cost or construction.
The perfect commercial project starts with selecting the right lot from the beginning. Determining which lot is best often requires some in-depth analysis of environmental factors, zoning laws, topography, and more.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve efficiency, and increase property value.