Choosing a lot can almost be trickier than having your actual house designed. When you head out, here are some top things to keep in mind.


Trying to assess the neighborhood is the most obvious suggestion when choosing a lot, but there’s more to it than you think. Sure, you don’t want to buy a lot next to what is probably a drug den. But what about odd noises?

When my wife and I got our first apartment, we loved how there was a nearby busy intersection. The noise of the tires on pavement, especially after rain, was actually a big plus for us. What we failed to consider was an ambulance service half a mile away. Those sirens, four, five, six times a day, were definitely something we should have factored in.

Keep these things in mind:

  • Drive or even walk the area. Get a sense of your potential neighbors and the general traffic.
  • What’s the sound like? Lots of nearby traffic? Freak ambulance service?
  • Any sort of nearby sewage treatment or landfill? Even if it’s a few miles away, a change in the wind could bring a quick halt to any sort of outdoor party.
  • School district, and with that, school taxes.
  • Honestly, taxes in general.
  • Take a look at the streets around your lot. Imagine a car on those streets at night, do the headlights hit your windows?
  • Look into any nearby undeveloped lots. Maybe they’re building a tiny shack where a kindly grandmother hands out free ice cream. But maybe they’re building a factory that manufactures and tests chainsaws. You won’t know until you ask.
  • Type the address into Google Earth. Just look at what’s around.


Another no-brainer, but, again, more to this than there seems. You walk up to the lot and there’s gentle hills of perfectly green grass. “Where do I sign?” Am I right? But maybe also think of these:

  • Slope of the land. Some slope is great. Lots of slope can be, well, not so great. If you’re planning a walkout basement, then maybe this is what you want, but a steeply sloped yard can basically be worthless for regular yard activities. Ever try to grill at a 45 degree angle? Best to call 911 in advance.
  • Water. A lake or river or tiny little trickling stream can be a great plus to your lot, they might even be the deciding factor, but consider any areas that look like they collect standing water. Any areas of dead grass or (gasp!) outright mud. Places like that can stink, breed mosquitoes or damage nearby buildings.
  • Sun and anything that might get in the sun’s way. If you expect to do any gardening, use solar panels or hope to put off snow shoveling until after the sun’s melted most of it, you’ll want to pay careful attention to trees, nearby buildings, mountains (if they pertain to you), etc.


The history of the area is sort of a weird thing to consider. An old, established neighborhood will probably stay very similar to what it is when you buy your lot, which could be a good thing or a bad thing.


A new, growing neighborhood can expect to go through some growing pains as it attracts new people. This can mean new stores and restaurants that you might like, but it could also mean the whole thing goes in a direction you don’t really care for. Like those chainsaw testers I mentioned earlier.

  • Get an idea of what came before. What was your lot before you started looking at it? I’m not suggesting you may be purchasing an ancient, Native American burial ground, but it could have been some sort of business where environmental hazards could be an issue. Or maybe there used to be a restaurant there you didn’t like. I know I wouldn’t be able to live where there had once been an Applebee’s.
  • If the fledgling neighborhood you’re about to move into is trending, expect change. Change is good. It can bring good things. But maybe it brings a new school, with new taxes you didn’t expect.

Informed Design:

This part’s my favorite. Let’s say you’ve found a really interesting piece of land, with some really unique qualities. Now’s the time to bring in your designer and for the two of you to let the land inform the design of your house.


I’ve seen houses with rivers flowing, not around them, but through carefully designed arches that take it under and through the house. I’ve seen houses that cling to the natural arc of a hill, as if it grew there. Let your lot and your designer create a house for you that couldn’t exist anywhere else.

  • A designer will be able to see what unique qualities your lot has.
  • They’ll know what elements can be pushed to the limits.
  • They’ll know which of your crazy ideas aren’t possible or will make the house fall over.

Give us a call to set up a time to discuss your project and how we can help you through the process step-by-step.

Other Articles of Interest