The Vacation Home You’ve Always Wanted

Ensure Those Custom Home Dreams Become A Reality -- And Not A Nightmare

If you are planning to purchase a parcel of beautiful land and want to build a custom home, chances are you have taken great care to design a house that has everything you need. Be it extra rooms, a root cellar, an attic office, or something else, you've likely got your dream plans in your hands. However, before you get too starry-eyed, you need to ensure that land is suitable for building. If it's not, and you buy it, you'll be out both a house and your money. Geotechnical testing has to be done to keep those dream plans afloat and verify that this is the land you should buy.

Perc Test

If your dream home won't be connected to the water supply for a nearby city, you'll need a septic system installed. But the ground has to have good enough drainage to work with the tank and let the resulting treated water trickle out of the tank. If the soil won't absorb moisture well, that could be very bad for your septic system. Chances are your plans wouldn't be approved.

Geotechnical companies can do something called a perc test, short for percolation test. It tests, as you can guess, how the water from the tank might percolate through the soil. If the ground passes the test, you have a site for your septic tank. If it doesn't pass, you'd need to talk to county planners and permit officers to see if there are alternative sewage systems you could use. If not, you might want to look for other land. Your home won't be approved if you have no way to safely dispose of sewage.

Slope Stability

If any of the land has a slope, is under a slope, or is just above a slope, you have to get the soil stability tested. Earthquakes are a possibility in many areas as are mudslides in heavy rain. Building on the land will already destabilize the soil a bit (though good construction companies will account for restabilizing that in their plans, such as through adding retaining walls). You must ensure that the land is not already unstable. You can't build safely if the land could give way at any time.

Previous Contamination

Rural areas might not seem like they should be dealing with contamination, but they can be. There may have been agricultural pesticide runoff from nearby farms, or the land could have a history of illegal chemical dumping that was barely cleaned up. Get the soil tested -- not just the topsoil but further down as well -- to see if the soil is safe. These chemicals can also trickle down into water reserves underground, which is a concern if you're planning to have a well.

Much of the land available for building is still good. You shouldn't let these issues stop you from finding land. But you should pay attention to them and get a geotechnical crew out to test to ensure you can build. If everything checks out well, you have a real estate purchase contract to go sign.

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