…a house is not a home until you love where you live…

Evaluating an Odd-Shaped Piece of Land Before You Buy it

It’s practically the American Dream embodied: to find a piece of land that you love and build your dream home on it.

If you have the resources, the patience and the right architecture team, how could you go wrong? Well, we’ll tell you.

While purchasing raw land might seem like a straightforward process, there are dozens of things lurking beneath the surface or hiding just around the corner of the next hurricane season that could go very wrong.

Just because a piece of land is a steal does not mean you should buy it. You need to do a heavy amount of research and investigation, especially if the land is uniquely shaped and could pose potential problems for design and construction.

Here’s what to be aware of when evaluating land before you buy it.

Size and shape

You’re going to need to consult with a lot of experts when evaluating land but  the first place to start is with a team of architecture and design experts that have been around the block and are familiar with the area. If you’re looking at land that has could cause construction constraints talk with the experts before you go any further. It’s one thing to build a unique home on a unique property to suit your needs. Custom design and nuanced features can add real value to your home. But if the land is going to make your dream home (or any livable home) difficult, if not impossible to build, then it’s probably best to continue the search.


It’s important to know how the land is zoned to determine if the home you’re planning on building is even possible. Additionally, if you look deeper in the zoning of the surrounding lots and find that they could be zoned for warehouses or busy industry districts, it might not be the quiet respite you were hoping for. In Miami, we also have to consider flood zones as we look to build new throughout the city (more on that in a bit).

Building setback requirements

Checking your building setbacks can be a big determiner in how much room there will actually be to build. Building setback requirements are common but it’s not something people often think of when looking at land.

Usage restrictions

Know the usage restrictions of the land before you start making plans. Most of the time usage restrictions are in place to protect property values and insure a master plan to a region’s use of space. But if you come across usage restrictions that hamper your vision for your home design, you won’t want to move forward with purchasing the land.

Flood zone or wetlands

If your plot of land is located within a flood zone this is a red flag. Although, not an insurmountable one. You’ll want to know about flood potential well before you make any final decisions – and it will need to be incorporated into the design of your home. And if you do still decide it’s a good investment and you’re willing to design around it, know that insuring homes on a flood plain can be more costly.

True story. We once worked with a family who wanted to renovate their home on a unique lot. The reno would have saved them hundreds of thousands compared to a complete demo and rebuild (which would have been $1.5 million!). But after doing our due diligence and filing for the proper permits, we found that this particular piece of land and the codes it had to adhere to would only allow for $90K worth of renovations. Needless to say, this was not a fun piece of information to give to this family, but it pays to have your land thoroughly scouted and researched before you start making big plans.

We don’t want this to happen to you! Call us in to help you evaluate your land before you invest in a money pit.