Longing to call the Hudson Valley home:
The perfect property is waiting, how to make it yours!
By Richard Miller
There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind at this point, 2020 turned the Real Estate market in our Hudson Valley on its head. People who chose for years to live and raise their families closer to NYC opted to trade concrete and steel for apple trees and gravel paths crunching under their children’s feet. Summer homes became simply home as the acceleration of working remotely became a reality for so many who had been previously tethered to office environments that were suddenly no longer relevant, and they brought their friends and neighbors with them. What had been a relatively calm and consistent market became a competitive and fast-moving whirlwind, as people just like you sought a place to call home in a world that seemed to be changing by the minute. The resilience and can-do attitude of the people who comprise our communities, coupled with the region’s natural beauty and resources made the decision to turn what was in many people’s minds a refuge for a couple of weeks out of the year into a full time commitment to a better way of life an easy one. Step out onto the Walkway over the Hudson into a multi-hued sunrise after hiking the rail trail through pristine forest, and the innate rightness of that decision becomes self-evident.
But….what does this mean for you, now, as we embrace 2021? In the simplest, most realistic terms, it means that the market has become a little tighter, homes that were well priced and well maintained have been listed and subsequently sold, and your search for the perfect home for you and your family might have become a little more difficult. At this point, you may have either just started your search or have decided that you might want to build that perfect environment that you are having trouble finding in a pre-existing home. Most people who find themselves at this crossroads can feel that the variables involved in new construction are so numerous and complex that they are immediately more inclined to settle for a solution that although less satisfying, is less frightening: buying a pre-existing home that doesn’t quite meet their needs. It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a process to building a house, and there are experienced professionals right here in The Barbara Carter Team who are able to explain the process to you and assist you with every phase of that process should you decide that building is the better choice for you. The perfect property, a house specifically built to your current and future needs with fewer compromises having to be made. Since it all starts with the property, let’s take a look and dispel some of those concerns.
The first step? Associate yourself with an experienced Realtor. I know, you would expect a Realtor to say that, it’s like everything looking like a nail to a DIY dad with a new hammer. Except in this case it can save you a lot of time and effort and reveal properties to you that you might not otherwise have even known were available. Mark Twain once said “buy land, they aren’t making it anymore,” and people have embraced that concept since the inception of the United States. If you drive down any shaded lane in any town, the land you see is most likely owned by someone. Some of it has been marketed in the past and for whatever reason taken off the market. Some has been passed down within a family for generations and as long as the taxes have been paid, has simply sat undeveloped. Some, well, have had projects initiated on them that haven’t quite panned out. As optimized and useful as today’s internet search engines are, they can only provide you with the particulars of a piece of property that is either actively being marketed or has been marketed recently. Both are extremely limited views of the land that may be available in a given area, and there are properties available that are largely invisible to the general public. However, an experienced Real Estate salesperson, familiar with the communities they work in and armed with your specific requirements in a property, can work with you to greatly expand the number of prospective parcels for your consideration. Additionally, the salesperson likely has a list compiled of the availability of stock in the area you are looking in already, and can significantly reduce the amount of time it will take to locate that parcel. And they will know the history as well. An hour or two with an experienced Realtor coupled with an afternoon of driving down those shaded lanes can save you weeks, if not months of fruitless internet searching.
So what constitutes a piece of property that should interest a prospective buyer? There are several factors that make up that formula, and the simplest, most basic consideration right out of the gate is whether or not the lot is buildable, and how complicated that process would be. This is where the experience of your salesperson can literally save you not only headaches, but thousands of your hard earned dollars as well. A beautiful view on a property that you cannot place your house upon is a good spot for a picnic, but little else. Your first consideration will be the cost of the property itself, it should never exceed 20-30% of the overall value of the completed house to be considered a reasonable investment in the overall project. So, if the house you intend to build is expected to cost $350k, you should keep your budget for the property between $75 and $105k. This will prevent a serious misstep that some prospective home builders fall into, either building an expensive house on a poor lot that diminishes the final valuation of the completed home, or placing an inexpensive house on a great lot that diminishes the final valuation of the property itself. Both scenarios result in the homeowner not maximizing the overall value of the completed project. The house planned for the property should be similar enough in value and square footage to surrounding properties to maximize the value as well. Good fences do make good neighbors, and well maintained and appropriately sized houses in that neighborhood keep everyone’s investment value in their homes nice and high. I will get more into the financial aspects of the building process in the next post, but for now let’s look at the top 4 additional considerations that make a parcel a contender for becoming your parcel.
The following considerations can be addressed by your Realtor during your search very easily. DO NOT BE ALARMED! ?
Zoning: The Town/Village/Hamlet wherein the prospective parcel is located has regulations regarding what can be placed where, and there are well established processes for amending any of those regulations. Ensuring that the size of your parcel and it’s location are in keeping with your planned use of that parcel is extremely important. Can variances to zoning regulations be granted? Absolutely. But it is a time consuming and not guaranteed process that adds time and money to your process. Sticking with what is already permitted is definitely in your best interest.
Utilities: Very few people drive down those shady lanes looking at the service utilities that supply the needs of the houses alongside the road. During your search for your perfect parcel however, you will need to keep a keen eye out for those utilities. Or better yet, have your Realtor keep an eye out because their experience will allow for an immediate estimation of the probable costs associated with securing those utilities. Is there town waste available or will you need on site septic? Is there electric run to the site or will that need to be addressed? Natural Gas? Cable? All of those considerations contribute to your build costs and will need to be addressed before you commit.
Clearing/Prep: How clear is the parcel? Will there need to be extensive work done to make the site ready for the foundation and utilities or is it relatively free of impedances? Considerations regarding soil, bedrock, tree types, wetlands, wildlife and the like all need to be taken into consideration as well. A Realtor with building experience can answer the majority of these questions in about a 5 minute walk of the property. Nailing down the particulars to a certainty will take a little research, but is something that takes very little time and needs to be done to ensure you remain within your budget.
Time: There is a reason that word keeps popping up, it is the foundation that every aspect your project builds upon. Experienced help in managing the time constraints associated with every facet of a build yields dividends, not only in getting you into your dream home faster, but also in saving you money along the way. A modular build instead of traditional stick building can significantly compress overall build time, and may result in a home that is better constructed. All modular homes are built to the exacting engineering specifications of not only the State they are constructed in, but the State they are delivered to, and meet the building requirements of the Town they are placed in. The “site work” prep, excavation, utilities, etc. are all being undertaken and completed as your home is being constructed, further compressing the timeline. The benefits of modular construction are obvious, and The Barbara Carter Team is here to assist you through the process. Stick built homes are similar in process and we are more than happy to assist you in that endeavor if that is the path you prefer.
Thank you for taking the time to familiarize yourself with the basics of this process, please feel free to reach out to us here at The Barbara Carter Team anytime if you would like more information. Stay tuned for the next installment regarding the financial considerations in securing the property for your project, how land/lot loans work and construction loans as well. Have a nice day, and Stay Safe!