Article: Building a House on a Lot? Know What’s Involved Before Construction

Article: Building a House on a Lot? Know What’s Involved Before Construction

In the construction design industry, we see many clients who do not know much about the planning and permitting processes involved in building a house. I do not blame them — there is not much guidance to be found, and every city and state has its own unique regulations. Across the board, though, the process is the generally same with slight variances.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to understanding what’s involved before construction for people planning to build their own residential property on an empty lot.

Is your lot an approved building site?

To make sure that your lot is an approved building site, look at the assessor’s parcel map or tract map (for subdivisions) showing your lot. You can go to your city planning office and request access to public maps. To locate your assessor’s parcel number (APN), go to your county assessor’s website. All property records are open to the public.

Once you have located your lot on a parcel/tract map, pay attention to notes and comments regarding your property. Most of the time, the notes should be self-explanatory such as “subject to building site approval” or “not an approved site.” If you do not find a note, most likely your lot is an approved building site. Seek help of a planning official to avoid any confusion.

Where and what can you build?

Where and what you can build on your property is mostly governed by zoning setbacks, location of easements and zoning district guidelines. Therefore, you’ll need to find out which zoning district your lot falls under and talk to the office of planning and zoning to find out how the use of your property is regulated.

Senthil Puliyadi, a California-Licensed Engineer, says, “To build a home, you need to pay special attention to two major regulatory items, namely zoning or planning regulations and building codes. Zoning regulations dictate what type of house you can build; building codes control the details of actual construction itself.”

Once you are ready to purchase a lot and build a new home on it, it can be beneficial to hire a state-licensed land surveyor to identify the boundaries and any potential restrictions with your lot. For example, some lots have a right-of-way, allowing neighboring property owners to utilize a portion of your land to access their homes. A surveyor identifies these issues beforehand so that the planned location of your new home complies with regulations.

Finally, if you are planning to build any additional structures on your property, such as a pool or a trellis, now is the time to find out about placement restrictions of these additional structures from your local officials.