Here’s some expert tips that will help you choose a great site for your new house!
The orientation of your land can affect the energy efficiency and comfort of your new home. Rectangular blocks with a longer side facing north are optimal as they allow you to have lots of north facing windows.
In Tasmania’s cool climate it is important to choose a block with good solar access. This means you want to be able to face living area windows north and have some space between your north facing windows and any obstructions to the north (like a big two-story house!).
Read more about choosing an optimal orientation in my post on Energy Efficient House Design
Choosing a block of land that’s overlooked by neighbouring properties can make it difficult to design private living spaces. Sometimes adequate privacy can be achieved with a design that faces away from neighbours but this can compromise the energy efficiency of your home, particularly if you are forced to face living areas to the south or west.
Tasmanian councils have planning requirements that reduce overlooking. This prevents future builds from having windows close to the boundary that look into your property. These requirements do not completely eliminate overlooking issues though, so it is still important to also consider how new build may affect your property in the future
The slope of a block of land can affect the build cost of your new home and the house design that will suit your block. Blocks with a steep slope may be better suited to light weight framed construction which requires little earthworks and retaining. If you intend on building a single level home with flat yards and a concrete floor slab, then choosing a block with less slope can reduce your build costs.
Some slope on a block can be desirable as it allows you to create an interesting design, potentially with split levels or terraced yards. Blocks with a slope also often have views looking out from an elevated position.
The size of your new block of land can restrict the size and layout of your new house. This also restricts your yard size and space for other features such as a pool or shed.
If you already have a house design in mind you should check this will fit your site. On rectangular shaped sites simply checking the width and depth compared to your house designs overall dimensions should give you a good indication of how well it will fit. For more complicated shaped sites it may be better to create a scaled sketch or engage a building designer to do this for you.
Setbacks and Site Restrictions
In addition to checking the size of your new block it is also important to check what restrictions are placed on your block by the developer or your local council. Local council restrictions, also called planning schemes provide minimum boundary setbacks, maximum site coverage allowances and restrictions on overlooking and overshadowing. Your council can make exemptions to these schemes through a planning approval, if you can show that your design does not negatively affect your neighbours or the development. However, complying with all planning schemes can make the approval process easier and fast-track your build.
To find out what council planning codes apply to your site visit: www.iplan.tas.gov.au Here you can check your sites zoning in the interactive map. Then, look up the relevant planning schemes which will apply to your site.
Some sites have easements which are parts of your land with extra restrictions. These restrictions often prevent you from building on that part of the land, so it is important to check if there are easements and if they will affect your house design. Easements are normally used to protect stormwater and sewer pipes.
Easements can reduce the value of a block of land. If you can fit a design on the site using the easement as a driveway or landscaping this can be a good way to get a cheaper block of land.
Soil types and Site Hazards
The type of soil on a site affects the type and size of footings that need to be used. Sites with reactive clay soils or unstable soils will need larger more expensive footings. Using light weight construction can reduce the footing sizes but on particularly bad sites they can still be very expensive.
Having a soil test done to determine the soil type can be a good idea but does mean spending money on a site you may not end up purchasing. Another option could be to make an offer subject to the seller getting a soil test done and that soil test being a good soil type.
Other hazards such as flood, land slide or bushfire prone land can also add significantly to the build cost of your new home. Some of these hazards can be checked for with the local council or by a consultant who can provide a site assessment.