Buying Land in Northern Virginia How To Wrap Your Head Around It

Buying Land in Northern Virginia: How To Wrap Your Head Around It

If you’re buying land in Northern Virginia with the vision of crafting your family’s dream home, your first step should be a careful assessment of the feasibility and cost to design and build on that land.

Many people buying land in Northern Virginia are attracted to undeveloped but extremely beautiful areas. If you’re in the market for land, it’s a good idea to consult with a local experienced builder who has strong expertise in turning untouched land into a buildable lot. A lot that at first glance appears easily buildable can just as easily prove not to be. Many new homeowners are surprised to learn how much additional site work may be needed to make their lot buildable. Working with a builder who understands the area will make your land search process more straightforward and less costly.

Land & Land Development

Land in Northern Virginia typically accounts for 25% to 50% of the overall price of your home, making it the single largest line item in your construction budget. At Foley, we recommend that homebuyers work with a design/build firm like ours to put together an entire budget before purchasing their land. Doing so lets you avoid the heartbreak of realizing that, while you may have found the lot of your dreams, the money isn’t there to build your dream home.

Experience tells us that land development is the least understood area of the entire design/build process. Usually the second largest line item in your budget, just about everything that doesn’t involve the actual home is considered land development:

  • Excavation and tree clearing
  • Septic fields, sewer and water
  • Bringing in and connecting utilities
  • Driveways and landscaping
  • Permits and engineering

It’s extremely important to have a realistic estimate of what your land development costs are going to be before buying that ideal lot. Even when buying a “developed” lot, you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t included in the lot price.

The Cost of Land Development

No two pieces of land are the same, so you will need to do your homework for each lot you are considering; though something you can count on consistently appearing are hidden and surprising costs. Land development costs vary considerably depending on soil conditions, development plans, and local fees and permits.

Land development costs are often underestimated, so in addition to the purchase price of the land itself, make sure your land development budget accounts for:

  • Cost of the land plus brokerage fees
  • Local permits and tap fees
  • Reviews and inspections
  • Land clearing and curb cuts
  • Any possible impact fees
  • Utilities, including electrical, natural gas, phone, cable and internet. An electrical transformer may also be needed. Also consider trenching costs for underground utilities and meter installations.
  • Surveys and inspections
  • Water well drilling, casing, etc., including possible water treatment.
  • Soil testing and clearing costs
  • Rough and finish grading, including soil, sand, crushed stone or gravel
  • Any blasting, excavation or backfill costs
  • Site drainage as needed
  • Landscaping, driveway and other paving, including sidewalks and patios

There are many steps to the land development process. If you’re buying land in Northern Virginia, we will work with you to evaluate the site’s potential, estimate costs, and help you determine if it’s feasible to build on. If you’d like to learn more, download our free Ebook that explains everything you need to know about building a custom home in Northern Virginia.