June 7, 2018

4 Tips When Buying Your Dream Home Property

You want to build your dream home, but don’t have the property to do so. Here are four tips when buying your dream home lot.

Written by: Gary Upper, JayMarc’s Development & Permit Coordinator. Gary has been in the new home construction industry for 39 years.

 1. Oil Tanks and Asbestos.

Chances are you will be purchasing a lot with an old house on it that needs to be torn down. Even though you will not care about the condition of the old home there are a couple of things to look for:

First, many older homes have old oil tanks either above ground or more likely buried underground. Some converted to gas years ago, but the tanks are still there. Assume that oil tanks eventually leak and that there may be leaked oil in the ground that will need to be cleaned up. This can be a serious issue costing tens of thousands of dollars to clean up during construction. There are services available that can test for the existence of a tank and contamination as part of your due diligence on the lot. It is highly recommended to do so.

Second, before a home can be demolished, any friable asbestos must be removed by a licensed contractor. There are contractors who test for the location of asbestos and others who do the removal. Typically, this is a $2,000 to $10,000 process. We often use NVL Labs for our asbestos report.

2. Review the Title Report.

The first thing to do is obtain your preliminary title commitment to see everything that has legally and officially been recorded against the lot. This will include any easements that you may not be aware of, neighborhood covenants that may pose some restrictions on what you can build and any underlying debt instruments that the current owner will need to pay off at closing.

3. Survey the Property.

This is a must! A topographic survey is required as part of your building permit application and also is critical in planning how your new home will fit on the lot. Typically, an architect will require a topo before starting the design of your new house. We often use Terrane for our land surveys.

Example of a Topographic Survey

4. Get to Know the Rules.

Visit the local jurisdiction and determine the zoning and utility rules that you will need to follow to design and build your home. These things vary from city to city, so it is important to find out what will apply to your specific lot. Most cities are helpful in this way and will be glad to talk to you about your specific lot. These days there are regulations that pertain to allowable building size, building height, lot coverage and tree removal that can all have an impact on your design.

Here are good places to start for cities we build in most often:

Bellevue, WA

Clyde Hill, WA

Mercer Island, WA

If you have any more questions about purchasing property, please email our team at

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