We are about a year into building on raw land ourselves. We are in the Midwest, and things seem to vary *so much* depending on your location, like the zoning rules for your county, the price of installing different systems, etc. But here are some things we've picked up along the way.
The first list here are questions you might want to ask of your local zoning board before you purchase a property you are interested in. You'd be surprised how much is regulated on "your" property.
1. What septic systems are allowed in the county if there is no sewer hookup? (If only a traditional leach-line system is permitted, this could deem some parcels “unbuildable.”)
2. If there is sewer, water and/or electric hookup at the street, am I required to tap into them for new residences? (helpful to know if you want to be off-grid)
3. If a sewer line is run down the street in the future, am I required to tap in. If so, who pays for tapping in?
4. Am I allowed to have solar panels on my roof?
5. Am I allowed to have a windmill on my property? If so, what are its limitations, if any (such as height, number, distance from neighboring properties, etc.)?
6. What is the smallest dwelling I am allowed to build? (our minimum size for a residence is 950 square feet)
7. Do you have any options for temporary dwellings while I am building my main house? If so, how long can I stay in the temporary dwelling? What do I have to have hooked up in my temporary dwelling (septic, water, or electric)?
8. Am I allowed to camp on my property? If so, for how many days each year? (We are only allowed to camp or stay on our property 14 days/year without a septic system.)
9. How many separate residences are allowed on my property? (We are only allowed one residential structure per deeded parcel.)
10. If I want to sell part of my property down the road, how much road frontage or acreage will each parcel need? (Note that if you are only allowed one residence per parcel, this could be a way for you to put 2 residences on, if you deed both parcels to yourself -- but you have to have enough road frontage for each parcel.)
11. What kind of livestock can I raise on my property?
12. Can I hunt on my property, and if so, am I required to abide by the usual state limits if I'm on my own property?
We were very surprised that our quite rural county had so many specific rules & ordinances for “our” land. But, if we’d known the answers to these questions, it could have saved us the disappointment of realizing our original plans of having a small cabin bed & breakfast on the property would never be permitted.
We have looked into options of temporary housing both on & off the property & we ultimately decided putting any money into temporary housing could be better used on our permanent house.
Here's what we've paid or been quoted for the lot improvements so far:
Septic tank with 3 leach lines -- $6500 (we found an elevated spot on the property so that we wouldn't have to pay for a pump)
Driveway (gravel) -- $1000/per 100 linear feet, this is a 20-foot wide driveway
Pull-off, including culverts -- $1500 for 20 linear feet, this was 30 feet wide at the road
Fast-growing pine trees to line the side against our neighbor's cornfield & to provide a windbreak -- $5/tree plus shipping
Electric hookup -- $100 to opt-in to the co-op. If we plan to go with an all-electric furnace, this will be our only cost. They estimate your usage over 3 years & if you don't meet a certain amount ($4000?), you pay that amount upfront.
Water hookup -- we will probably build a double cistern for rain collection but we'll have city water as a backup when it goes dry in July & August. The water hookup at the street will be $1000.
We're looking at log cabin kits in the $50,000 range. We'll start small & then build on as we have money. We would like to be as mortgage-free as possible. We'd also like to be off-grid eventually, but we'll probably start with the cheapr on-grid options, then retrofit later.
Finally, I once shared a 2-family home with my best friend before we both had families. She took one unit & I took the other. We actually had my uncle (an attorney) draw up a contractual agreement & it made our living arrangements SO much easier to have everythng agreed on upfront. He told us, "Pretend like you absolutely hate each other & then draw up in your agreement anything that you think the other person should or shouldn't be allowed to do."
Putting it that way was kind of silly to us (an attorney's way of looking at things, I guess), but there were times we argued & there were times we disagreed & although we were both very fair people, we didn't have to worry about most things because they had been agreed on upfront.
Like, we had to give each other a year's notice of our desire to sell the property. (My friend ended up buying it from me & still has it as a rental.) We weren't allowed to take out any equity loans on the property without the other's permission. If we rented out our portion, the other had to agree to the proposed tenants. Stuff like that.
We had the same arrangement you all will. I paid in cash & she carried the mortgage for her half. It worked out great for us!
Good luck on your search. We have had so much fun so far!
alivia, mama to sunshine dd (2003), snuggly dd (2009), & bonus baby (due 06/2010), homesteader, homeschooler, writer, lifelong learner