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Is Your Lot Buildable? – The Importance of Feasibility Studies

When purchasing a parcel of land or deciding to build on a lot you already own, you may have questions about setbacks, buildable areas, floodplain concerns, etc. The purpose of our Feasibility Study Reports is to answer these questions before you purchase a property or start on a new project. Our Feasibility Studies can be comprehensive covering the typical areas of concern for a normal tear down and rebuild project, or they can be specific focusing on one area of concern such as access for a potential multi-lot subdivision.

Feasibility Studies

Not all projects require a Feasibility Study; it depends on your risk tolerance and your knowledge or experience in land development. If you are a first-time homebuyer, it is a good idea to have a feasibility report containing a professional opinion summary letter with all the corresponding research and sketches to flip through and read. If you are a seasoned developer buying land next to property that was recently developed, it may be more obvious you can build on the lot without needing a Feasibility Study to confirm this assumption. However, keep in mind a Feasibility Study is not just answering the question if you can build on a parcel of land by-right. You could already know that answer is a yes, but still need the Feasibility Study to answer more specific questions such as how the shape of the lot will affect the shape of your house or if there will be enough room for a pool or patio between a proposed house and septic field.

Why You Should Get a Feasibility Study

Even if you are an experienced real estate developer, it is still helpful to have a Feasibility Study performed. As experienced and knowledgeable as you may be in real estate, having several professional civil engineers research this information will save you time compiling all of the typical due diligence research into one single report to scroll through on your smartphone or computer. It’s a time saver; our civil engineers work every day focused on land development design and may be able to find something you don’t have the time to search for because you are focused on the business end of making a deal happen. We also have the design software to sketch up your property to scale and show you what things look like conceptually in relation to the size of the property, calculate buildable area from setback distances, and show you what a certain tree canopy or stormwater percentage of the lot looks like. There’s a lot we can do, it just depends on your project goals for developing the land and building something new.

Especially during the due diligence phase of purchasing a property, you’ll want to have this information so you can make a well informed decision on purchasing a property. If necessary, you will have the timing opportunity to negotiate a better price if something is found that impacts the cost of developing the property.

Single-Family Home Tear Down & Rebuild

Even with land you already own, there are some answers you may want to know early before you start spending thousands on legal and professional fees when the project kicks off. The last thing you want is to find out in the middle of design, after you spent thousands on a topographic survey and design fees, that there will be an even more costly environmental process you need to go through before the construction drawing phase can be started. If these questions can be answered during the Feasibility Study Report stage, you’ll save thousands in legal and professional fees because you’ll be able to decide if the project is worth pursuing further; and if so, you can budget for it. If you decide to forgo the feasibility study and proceed without it, you will still find the answers to those questions, but at a later date when you’ve spent more money and it will be more of an unexpected surprise.

With all of that being said, a Feasibility Study is not perfect: it’s not insurance, it’s not a land survey, and it does not make any guarantees. It is merely a professional civil engineer(s) opinion based on the information available to us. A civil engineering opinion to give you data points to help you connect the dots in making a land development decision against other life or business factors you need to take into account.

Reports & Documents

There is only so much research documents we can find online through maps, the circuit court records, and documents you provide to us. It won’t cover everything since we are limited by time and budget constraints, but it will cover the typical research scope and look for areas of concern to decide if further research hours are required. This is just the preliminary/conceptual stage of a project to make general decisions before proceeding into starting a project off with a Topographic Survey.

These documents in the list below aren’t required to perform a Feasibility Study for land development, but they will help us to analyze the property better. Just like calculators and computer software, the output or results are only as good as the information we input. The more information we have available to us, the better answers we can give with more certainty.

Four documents that help make a successful Feasibility Study

1. A Title Search Report and Title Insurance.

Although we have access to search through the local county circuit court land records, we aren’t a Title Company. Therefore, we don’t always find everything on these land records. We typically search for the current property deed and original subdivision plat so we can draw in the property line sketch based on those record dimensions. We will read through the deed and look at the subdivision plat to see if anything is obviously noted about easements or encumbrances, but we can’t guarantee our sketch shows any or all easements without a Title Report. Your Title Company will be able to search your entire chain of title for these encumbrances and they can provide you with insurance on your property to protect you against any unknown easements or claims to the property. Unless you are purchasing a property in cash, your bank will order a Title Report by default to make sure the title to your property is owned in “Fee Simple” before lending you the money. In this case, you can ask your bank for a copy of the Title Report and forward it to us to review.

2. A current survey plat showing property lines and existing house location.

This helps us confirm the physical property lines match the recorded property line bearings and distances. Furthermore, this helps us when it comes time to prepare a proposal for our civil engineering services.

3. Preliminary Geotechnical Soil Boring Report.

This usually isn’t needed until the design phase, but can be helpful to contract with a Geotechnical Engineer for this soil testing during the due diligence of a property purchase. Some properties can unexpectedly have a high groundwater table, which can impact the cost of stormwater management and affect the feasibility of having a basement or height of the house. Our Feasibility Study includes looking at the county soil maps and will make note of the soil types, but this finding won’t be confirmed until the actual soil test by a Geotechnical Engineer.

4. Conceptual Footprint from your Architect or Builder.

We can figure this part out later, but if you already know the size of the house or building you want, this can be helpful for us to take into consideration during the feasibility study. Otherwise, we can wait for this information until the project starts and we finish the Topographic Survey.

If you are looking at purchasing a property, or thinking about starting a construction project on a property you already own, you may want to talk to us about a Feasibility Study. Please fill out the contact form on our website, and we will email or call you back to discuss if a Feasibility Study is needed. If you already know you need a Feasibility Study, we can give you a quote to get started.

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