For many people, the vision of building a custom home is very romantic. You can probably imagine yourself decorating a space you designed specifically for yourself and your family—adding little personal touches here and there, welcoming friends and family for warm, intimate dinners and outdoor parties. And all of that is well within your reach, but there are a few important steps to tackle.

First, you have to find the perfect piece of property. Unless you have a specific neighborhood or housing development already in mind, buying a vacant lot to build a house on can be easier said than done. But we’re experts at everything custom home here at Wausau Homes, so we have some useful tips to make the process of finding your perfect lot easier and more fun.

Check out our tried-and-true tips!

1. Be realistic about your needs.


Buying 50 acres in the middle of nowhere and building your own off-grid estate might sound really nice, especially if you’ve just had to gently ask your neighbor—for the fifth time—to reconsider his plan to start his landscaping tasks at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday. That being said, the conveniences that come with living in an urban or suburban area are hard to beat. As you look at listings and visit potential lots, think carefully about what you want from a piece of property. Is space your primary goal? What about a nice stretch of flat land where your kids can play? Are you willing to handle the maintenance that comes along with a heavily wooded lot? Do you eventually plan to fence your property? Will the size of the lot make fencing cost prohibitive? Also keep in mind that more land equals more maintenance. And if you work full-time and have family obligations, your free time is even more limited. Don’t set yourself up for frustration and stress by purchasing a piece of property that will only become a resource drain.

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2. Research utilities and access.

If you’re looking at lots outside of established neighborhoods and subdivisions, ask your real estate agent about any utilities already available and the ease (and cost!) of installing any utilities that aren’t already present. Depending on how remote the property is, you may need to consider a septic system, a well, and a generator. Make sure you understand the availability of internet access and cell service coverage. Satellite internet is certainly an option, but you may be dismayed at its speed and performance. Will you need main road access built? Consult county records or ordinances to determine any restrictions in terms of where you can build a house or how far from main roads any structures must be.

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3. Consult your builder.

UTo make sure everyone is on the same page, involve your builder in the lot finding process—especially once you’ve settled on a piece of property you love. Home builders, particularly those who have years of experience building custom homes, are well versed in which lots work well with which home types. An experienced builder will also be able to advise you on the best orientation for your new home on a given lot, or where you might encounter issues with grading or erosion control. Remember, for instance, that while mountain foothills make for stunning views, the uneven land means that you’ll need to budget for either a basement or significant grading work.

4. Have a plan for financing.

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Financing a new house is stressful enough. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by trying to figure out vacant property financing on your own. Do you buy the land first and then figure out how to build on it? Or do you need to be preapproved for a mortgage before you worry about land? What about down payments? The short answer is that there are several different ways you can finance property, and your process will be determined by your budget and financial situation. Rather than stress over the details, rely on a home financing expert. At Wausau Homes, our in-house Wausau Homes Finance Team has helped families navigate the process of purchasing a vacant lot and building the custom home of their dreams.

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