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5 checks to make before buying land to build a house on

By The Lodge Real Estate Team on 2018-07-02


We all know the time-old property chant: “location, location, location”, but when it comes to choosing a section of land to build on, there’s a little more to it.

To help you evaluate the sections for sale in Hamilton, here’s a handy checklist with a few key points to consider:


1. Zoning and covenants

Before you purchase a section, check that it has the right zoning and covenants for the type of home you want to build.

The zone a section is located in can determine the type of building you can construct, from its design (i.e. bungalow, contemporary), to its height and size.

Covenants may also limit your new build to a specific look and style, and what materials and colours can be used for its external features. Covenants can also dictate placement of ancillary dwellings (sheds, granny flats), garages and fences. Some covenants can go as far as limiting the number of pets on the property, fence heights and the location of external washing lines.

You can find out what zones your preferred sections fall into here. Any restrictions that apply to a zone can be found on the Hamilton City Council’s Operative District Plan.


2. Slope

Building on a major slope often requires additional earthworks, retaining walls and piling. This can add thousands to the construction costs of your new home. Moreover, a steep site may require a highly customised design to ensure the final home is safe and functional.

When you evaluate a section consider:

  • The gradient of the slope—how steep is it?
  • The consistency of the slope—is it a smooth gradient, or does it rise/fall sharply?
  • Is it north or south facing?
  • Where will you place the house?
  • How will you orientate it to make use of the sun and/or views?

Tip: Builders are usually reluctant to put a fixed price on any earthworks required for a sloped site. Instead, they’ll usually provide an estimate instead. If this happens, ask the builder to overestimate with the intention to refund any leftover cash. This is better than underestimating and risking coming up short mid-way through your build.


Recommended reading: Top 20 FAQs on building a new home and how to find a good builder in Hamilton. 


3. Soil

As a prospective land buyer, it’s easy to overlook soil composition. However, your builders will not. The density, composition and attributes of a section’s soil can seriously impact the type and scope of a new home’s foundations . Sand and peat, for example, cannot support high bearing pressures, while expansive clay is known to expand when wet and contract when dry.

Soil contamination too can limit what you can do to on a section. Toxic materials such as heavy metals and pesticides are present in an estimated 20,000 sites in New Zealand. This can cause a variety of problems from health issues to building corrosion. Learn more about the acceptable levels here.


4. Services

Does the section have services (electricity, plumbing and water) already connected to the site? If not, you’ll need to factor in the cost and additional time to install these. If you’re looking to set up a lifestyle block, it is especially important. Getting power from the gate to the place where you need it on site can be very expensive, with some reports claiming costs of up to $30,000.

It’s also worth thinking about:

  • Plumbing—will you use a septic tank? What about your fresh water supply?
  • Driveway—does the section have road access, or will you need to build it before the construction crews arrive?

Tip: If you’re buying in a subdivision, check whether the developer has paid their levies to avoid any unexpected surprises.


5. Title

Before you buy any land or property, always do your due diligence. Part of this involves checking the title. This is particularly pertinent to subdivisions, which are often sold without a land title in place and it’s not unheard of to see new builds delayed due to the land title not being signed off.

Read more: Cross-lease fish hooks to watch for


A note on easements

Easements are part of a land title and are granted to allow homeowners use of another person's land or property for a particular purpose. For example, an easement may be given to allow a homeowner to lie fibre-optic cabling to his or her home over the edge of a neighbour’s property.

If you are buying land to build a house, check what easements it has and make sure you’re happy with them. If the section has no connected services, check that there are easements in place to make connecting them all the easier.

Important! Always get a lawyer to review the title and purchase contract of any section before you buy it.

Thinking about building new?

Check out our free guide on new build pitfalls to avoid so your next home goes up without a hitch!

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