Searching for the perfect land on which to build your dream home isn’t always an easy or quick process, so it’s understandable that once you’ve found it, you’d want to jump right into the construction process. But before you sign any papers, it’s crucial to conduct a land feasibility study. 

As the name suggests, a land feasibility study assesses the feasibility of building your desired home on that particular lot. This analysis considers the physical landscape and whether it will be able to accommodate the home you want, the financial aspects of doing so (to ensure the budget aligns with what you had in mind), and factors in local government regulations and zoning requirements. 

Investing a few hundred dollars on a land feasibility study before purchasing property can end up saving thousands of dollars down the road if you discover you can’t build your dream or have to adjust plans midway through construction to accommodate the land or local regulations. 

Read on for everything you need to know about land feasibility studies and why they’re necessary before buying a parcel of land. 

What is a land feasibility study?

A land feasibility study is the analysis of all features of a piece of land including potential challenges for building a home, and is used by homeowners to determine whether building is possible and/or ideal. It aims to reduce potential challenges with the property, provides alternatives if there are issues with the land (such as the topography), and ultimately provides you with the insight to make the best decision.

Feasibility studies can be negotiated into the contract before an offer is made to reduce the financial risk for the buyer or be conducted before a contract is even created. During an agreed upon period of time, the potential buyer can conduct whatever tests and analysis they want on the land to make sure it meets their needs and to confirm the land can hold the home they want. If the buyer isn’t satisfied with the results during or after the study, they can cancel the offer agreement and get any deposited money back.

READ: Land Prep 101: How to Prepare Land for New Construction

To gain a clearer understanding of the importance of a land feasibility study, consider the following questions:

  1. What makes the property difficult? Are there too many trees or old, dying trees? What about general overgrown foliage and shrubbery? Does the land have a wet spot or water flowing through it? What’s the property elevation if you live in a coastal area?
  2. What are the financial implications of these potential challenges? If the property slopes to one side, will you need to build your house a certain way? If the property sits below sea level, how will the house need to be built prevent flooding during inclement weather?
  3. What will the utility process be? Will it be easy to run plumbing and electric to the home or a hassle? Consider septic systems, water, electricity, and natural gas. 

Who conducts a feasibility study?

A feasibility study can be conducted by a knowledgeable architect or land consultant. However, some prospective buyers and landowners may opt to build a team to conduct their study,  in which case they might work with a surveyor to analyze the topography and sloping of the land; an engineer to look at the soil; an arborist to determine if the trees and vegetation can be removed; an attorney for legality concerns; a civil engineer for utility access and stormwater management; a zoning planner from the area to help with code and regulations; and an architect for drawing up feasible designs based on the property and all study findings. 

How long does a land feasibility study take? What does a land feasibility study cost?

Most land feasibility studies can be completed within 60-90 days, but the cost can vary depending on the size of the project. For a home build, the average cost is one percent (or less) of the overall project cost.

Regardless of cost, a land feasibility study is the best financial decision possible before purchasing property. The monetary consequences of not having a feasibility study done before building could be astronomical in comparison. 

What is analyzed in a land feasibility study?

Land feasibility studies are most often used by real estate developers, but homebuyers can expect a few key elements to be analyzed for their purposes:
  • Technical feasibility: Will the land be able to support the home you want to build? This element will look at the topography, vegetation around the property, and soil. For waterfront homes, this aspect would look at the elevation and the property’s potential for flooding. 
  • Environmental: Are there any constraints due to protected wildlife or land (such as protected wetlands or state property/parks)?
  • Cost: What will it cost to build your home on this land with or without the potential for challenges?
  • Local laws and zoning regulations: What are the local zoning rules, building permits, and other regulations you need to follow when building a home in the area? If you’re purchasing land in a neighborhood, what are the development’s (or Homeowner Association’s) rules for new homes?
Not all property is perfect. It’s not uncommon for potential buyers to be faced with patches of wetland, aggressively sloped land, or other unsavory characteristics. Using the results of the study and answers to the above questions, will give you a clear picture of potential problems with the property. The study includes an analysis of all potential construction constraints and if you partner with a reliable consultant or architect, they’ll also include alternatives or potential solutions to the identified constraints. 

One of the more common elements of a land feasibility study is a soil analysis, which falls under the technical feasibility criteria. A soil analysis helps potential property owners determine what kind of septic system will be required as well as the cost of that system.

READ: What is Soil Sampling & Why is it Important

Another common constraint is the grading of the land, which relates to elevation, slopes, wooded areas, and stormwater management. Managing these constraints will definitely impact your budget—another reason to complete the land feasibility study before you buy because buyers can negotiate the cost of land work into their contract. 

Zoning issues are a final common constraint property buyers face. These ordinances dictate how you can build on your property. Consult with the local zoning and planning department to figure out what permits you will need and their costs. 

What are the steps of a land feasibility study?

The process of a land feasibility study might vary for every situation, depending on the local guidelines, but homeowners can except the course of action to follow this general structure:

  1. Obtain a title report: This document provides insight into the legal and financial history of the property, including information like the property’s previous owners, any issues with the title in the form of liens or easements, problems with public records, and encroachments. If any major red flags appear in the title report, it’s not uncommon for a potential buyer to end the process here.
  2. Site visit: During this field trip, your land consultant or architect (or whoever you’ve recruited to conduct the feasibility study) will survey the land and collect information on elements like topography, soil, utility availability, drainage and flooding concerns, and zoning information, among other details.
  3. Site plan: Using the information gathered at the site visit, your consultant can create a plan for how the home could be built on the land given any constraints. This plan could also detail the costs associated with the construction process.
  4. Decide and schedule: If the feasibility study yields good results, then it’s time to put the gears in motion, complete the land purchase, gather the necessary permits, and start building.
Armed with the findings of the land feasibility study, you can make an offer on a piece of land with the confidence that not only will your dream home be possible, but it will also be possible within your budget. You can also rest easy knowing the home will be built on your land the best way possible to prevent any erosion or other natural damage. 

Think of a land feasibility study as the guide that stays your custom home is possible on the land you want, and here’s how the project will be completed, the steps to completion, the timeline, and the cost.

Ready to build the home of your dreams? Get started today.

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