When it comes time to build a new home, the first steps will be to find a lot that fits your needs, and a reliable contractor to help you evaluate the land for home construction. Finding the right lot can be a bit of a challenge in Fairfield County, particularly lower Fairfield County where a high percentage of the properties have been built out.

Buying Land

Towns like New Canaan, Greenwich, and Fairfield are highly populated, making it harder to find level lots that are suitable for building. The few available lots in these towns tend to have landscape that can make it challenging to build on, such as wetlands, ledge, and heavy slopes. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, however. And more rural towns like Weston, Wilton, and New Canaan will provide better options. Following are tips on finding and buying land suitable for building a new house.

Late fall is a good time of year to visit land in person. With the leaves mostly gone, the contours, (and the neighbors) are more clearly visible. But even then, walking across the property only tells you part of the story. Many of the details are on paper.

A trip to the appropriate Fairfield County, CT assessor’s office is a good place to start. Even the most helpful sellers don’t always have the detailed information that you’ll need. Start by asking for a copy of the plat description that shows its boundaries. The assessor can also tell you whether the taxes are up to date and give you a tax history. Look for flood zone boundaries and whether or not the property sits on protected wetlands. Easement information shows whether you’ll need permission from a neighbor to access the property, and it can also determine how much frontage you need between the house and any roads. If you’re working with a home builder at this stage, they can help guide you through the process.

Check With Zoning and Planning Commissions
Local CT restrictions can determine exactly what your contractor can build and where it can be built. The local planning commission can provide information about zoning restrictions. If the property isn’t zoned for residential construction, you’ll need to apply for a zoning change or exception.

If the property sits in a historic area of Westport, Greenwich, or nearby, the preservation society can tell you whether there are any limitations on the building size, materials, and even architectural styles that are permitted.

The local health department has information about water and sewer regulations, and the utility companies can provide information about what’s available. Some vacant land may already have utilities on site, but most parcels typically require new service. This means running new electrical, water, and gas lines to the building site.

Think About Financing Options
Most lenders view vacant land differently from property with an existing home. As a result, the financial side of buying and building will vary. Most buyers purchase the land and have separate construction financing. The loans merge and convert into a more traditional home mortgage once construction is complete.

The issue with undeveloped property is the risk as viewed by the lender. They assume it’s easier for a buyer to walk away from land that’s not improved. As a result, the required down payments can be as high as 50 percent.

Local, Fairfield County lenders are a great place to look, because they have a better awareness of land and land use in the area. Be ready to give them a statement on how you intend to use the land and when you plan to start building.

New home construction is a very different process from buying a previously built house. The right home builder can help ensure a smooth and successful construction process. They can also help guide you from the first steps. Finding property in Fairfield County may be one of the most challenging steps. Once that’s settled, you can watch your dream plans come to life.