House And Land Packages – Are They A Good Idea?

You often see house and land packages advertised and they may have an attractive price . . . . . but are they a good idea?

Here are a few more things to think about:

  1. These sort of deals are popular with property investors who just want to get a new house built and get tenants in as quickly as possible. . . Wouldn’t you prefer to have the houses next door owned by occupiers who are going to be more likely to care about the appearance of the house and garden than a tenant who has little interest.
  2. It seems to me they are usually offered on the hard to sell and the least attractive blocks which is one reason why they are cheaper. Typical problems I have seen include:
        • On a major road
        • Poor orientation
        • Be an odd shape
        • Have access issues.
  3. They are often based on the smallest possible block that will fit the house. Often they will have the houses so close together they will look more like a terrace and the back yard will be minimal.

One of the Real Estate maximums is that the way to make money on a house is by buying the right house.

Make sure you don’t harm your chances of a good future sale by buying a bad House and Land Package.

Much more advice in the   anewhouse – Guide to Buying a Block   for only $2

For similar posts on buying land see the Blocks section

 

Country Or City

It’s not as simple as Country or City, there are a lot of areas in between.

In the country it can be sea change, tree change, a rural block, or in a small town.

In the city it can be inner suburb, existing outer suburb, or new subdivision.

To some extent it depends on your time of life.

Country Experiences

When we were younger we were happy living in a rural town.

Running kids to sport and going to social events etc was all fairly easy as everything was no more than 2 -3km from home.

I could cycle home for lunch in 10 minutes. We could even drive for 50km,or more, without seeing a traffic light.

A friend of mine lived out on a rural block because he said he knew what his teenage kids were up to because they relied on him for rides.

Even so he was still only or six minutes drive into town.

City Experiences

Since we passed 50 we see real advantages of living closer to the city.

Good public transport means we only need one car

As you get older the risk of having an illness needing a stay in a city hospital gets higher and how would we manage if living in the country.

We support a Melbourne based football team (the Mighty Saints) and try to get to most matches.

A 70km round trip from the suburbs is better than a 450 +km one which we did for a number of years.

Did you go for the country lifestyle?

See similar posts see Choosing a Block

 

7 Things To Think About Standing On A Block

So you have visited the Developers Office and been shown a site plan with some blocks for sale that are the Size, and Orientation, you want.

The next thing is to get a copy of the Title Plan and go and look at the blocks you think may be OK.

Here are some things to think about.

  • Find the Boundary Pegs Normally the actual boundary peg will be driven in so the top is at ground level, there is normally a tall peg next to it to help locate it. Once you have found the pegs you know the piece of land you are thinking about buying.
  • Manholes Sewers and Drains A lot of blocks have Easements for sewers and drains which will restrict how much of the site you can build on. (The Title Plan will show the Easements) If you can see a manhole you will also need to think about how this might limit what you can do in the garden.
  • Site Slope As little as a 1m slope from front to back can add $3-4,000 to your site cost. A 1m slope from one side to the other can add even more. The steeper the slopes the more the builder will charge for site costs.
  • Below or Above the Road Where there is a sloping development site some blocks will be above the road and others below. Sites above the road are less likely to flood and can be more private than ones below the road.
  • Effect of Building on Neighbouring Blocks. Shading and blocking views are common problems that can affect your proposed house and garden. If you are keen on building a solar pasive house you can minimise the effect if the block you choose is higher than the one to the north. Obviously if the surrounding blocks are already developed its easier to consider the effects.
  • Road Crossover Many blocks now come with a driveway crossover if this doesn’t suit your design it will cost quite a bit to get it changed.
  • Look Up One thing I didn’t notice on my first visit to my current block was the overhead power cables just outside the block. They aren’t big pylons or anything and the poles are some distance away so its just a single cable. It does however restrict the size of tree we can have in our garden.

 

You will be very lucky if you get a perfect block so you are probably going to compromise on some of the above points. Good Luck!

 

Also see Choosing Blocks

 

Choosing A Block

There are lots of things to consider when choosing a block.

My basic preference would be an East facing block on a court.

This gives the best orientation of the house and minimises passing traffic.

Here are some of the things, besides price, that I think about when I look at a block:

  • Will it fit the house I want to build? Remember that there will most likely be a 5m setback at the front and you will probably need at least 2m from the back fence to avoid building on the drains and sewers.
  • Does it have room for a caravan, or a boat.
  • Which way does it face?
  • Will there be enough room for a garden at the side? I don’t want the side windows on the sunny side looking out onto a fence 1m away!
  • Will it be overlooked or shaded by a 2 storey house next door?
  • Does it have a view?. . . . if it has is there a danger that the view will be blocked in the future?
  • Will it be noisy due to a busy road or railway?
  • Will children be able to play safely outside?
  • It convenient for shops, schools and public transport?
  • Is it above the level of the road (preferred) or below it?
  • Will it need additional excavation to get a flat site for the house?
  • Is there any danger of flooding? (I used to work in drainage so have seen a lot of houses flooded and am very careful about this).
  • Are the adjoining houses going to be Owner Occupier or Rented Out?

In order to make a choice within a reasonable time scale most people will have to compromise.

For example our last new house is West facing at the end of a court, it has a good view westwards, but gets lots of passing foot traffic. It’s a very wide block, 25m+, but below the street level at the front.

For much more advice why not get a copy of THE GUIDE TO BUYING A BLOCK for only $4

 

Protect Your Block From Dumping

A regular problem with vacant new house blocks is they are used as a convenient dumping ground for other builders.


It’s much cheaper to dump on a nearby site than haul the material to a tip and pay tip fees.

If you are are really unlucky the material may be contaminated (for example asbestos waste). . . . which may mean you have to pay for testing and additional tip fees to dispose of it.

Fence the Site

The best advice I can give is to make your site seem loved by erecting a fence,  mowing any grass and/or keeping weeds under control.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive fence, something like a 1.2 m high dog mesh supported by steel star pickets at 4-5m intervals will be fine, and should only cost around $5-6/m.

If you have got quite a few posts to put in it can be worth hiring, borrowing , or buying a post driver.

Light fencing like this is not foolproof, but it makes things a little more difficult for the dumper. This means they are more likely to look for a block where nobody seems to be taking an interest.

 

See Guide to Buying a Block for more advice.

 

Retaining Walls – Besser Blocks

If  you want a rendered surface on your retaining wall one of the best ways of achieving this is by using ‘Besser Blocks’.

These are hollow concrete blocks which are designed to incorporate steel reinforcement within the block.

A few  issues when building these walls are:

  • Don’t skimp on the foundation. Even a 600mm high wall will need a concrete foundation 600mm wide by 250mm deep.
  • Make sure that the cement grout is well packed around the steel reinforcement.
  • Buy some of the yellow safety caps you see here to put over  the reinforcement bars and ‘Keep Yourself Safe.
  • Don’t backfill behind the wall for at least a week


As well as free standing retaining walls Besser Blocks are also used as basement walls and to provide structural strength for external walls when building against a slope.

This photograph shows a typical example where the Besser Block wall will provide the external wall of a garage. ( You can also see the builders plastic which will form part of the ‘tanking’ to keep damp from passing through the wall)

 

See Retaining Walls for other  solutions to slopes

How Adverse Possession Can Affect Buying A Block

Did  you know its still possible to take over ownership of someone else’s private land?

This makes it important to check the Land Title Plan dimensions against the actual site dimensions of your new house block for the following reasons:

  • If the actual dimensions are bigger it doesn’t mean the seller owns the ‘extra’ land unless they can demonstrate adverse possession.
  • If the land is smaller a neighbour may have ‘acquired’  ownership by adverse possession.

Either way you could be in for a considerable amount of legal costs to get the ownership of the land sorted out.

Adverse Possession

Adverse Possession is when someone becomes the owner of land through continued exclusive use of that land.

Limitation Period

Before land can be obtained by adverse possession there has to be continued use use of the land for an extended period. That period is different for the various states as follows:

  • Victoria, 15 years
  • South Australia, 15 years
  • New South Wales, 12 years
  • Western Australia, 12 years
  • Tasmania, 12 years
  • Queensland, 12 years

Crown (Government) Land

With the exception of New South Wales and Tasmania you cannot claim Crown Land. In those two states a longer (30 year) limitation period applies.

The reasons are that it is harder for a government to keep an eye on its lands, and it is assumed that the government hold possessions for the public good, despite any apparent neglect.

How Adverse Possession Claims Work

Adverse possession means not mere occupation but also actual physical possession in an open and peaceful manner, without consent of the original owner.

Any form of permission ( a licence, a lease, or an agreement to use the land), and the claim of adverse possession will fail because it will be clear that the owner gave consent for use with no intention to pass over ownership.

Proof to the Titles Office in your State that the land has been  occupied for the entire period of time is required.  

Evidence will be, that as a minimum, at least one of the following has occurred for the whole of the limitation period :

  • A secure fence has been in place without challenge ;
  • ‘Keep Out, Private Land’ signs have been erected without challenge;
  • Payment of rates and taxes.

The information in this post is of a general nature and you should not try to deal with adverse possession issues without involving a lawyer.

 

For more Information why not look at: anewhouse Guide to Buying a Block

 

 

 

Can You Subdivide?

I would advise calling into the Council Planning Department and discussing your block as early as possible. I have always found them very helpful.

To be better informed here are 4 things to think about before talking to the planner:

State and Local Planning Zones, Schedules , Overlays,  Rules, and Guidelines.

What State and Local Planning Scheme Zone,  Schedules  Overlays and Rules apply to your Block?

Has the council got any Guidelines on:

    • Neighbourhood Character
    • Heritage
    • Strategic Planning

This information can usually be obtained from the Internet, as there should be links on your Council’s website.

The Block Size

Generally the minimum block size most councils like to see is around 300m2. Planners may be flexible depending on the Building Envelope.

I don’t hold too much trust in Real Estate Agents statements so I would either check the Title Plan (follow the link to see an Explanation of Title Plans) or even get a tape measure out.

Building Envelope

This the actual area within your title boundaries that it is legally, and physically possible, to build on.

This can be affected by a wide range of factors described in this post: Building Envelope

Additionally with many block subdivisions there are shared driveways  which usually becomes a separate  common area rather than being  included in the block areas.

This means that you will probably need the original block to considerably more than 600 m2 to get two acceptable blocks.

Precedent

A similar subdivisions in the area, which establishes a precedent, can improve your chances of an approval. It is therefore well worth having a walk around the area looking at what has already been built.

If you want to see what’s behind the fences I find Google Maps is a useful tool although it can be a year or two out of date. Another website is Nearmap.com, which generally have more up to date maps than Google,  but you will have to pay to view them.

Even though you may decide to use a Surveyor or Planning Consultant to prepare your application, your research will give you a better  understanding of what is likely to be successful.

 

For More information see Subdivision Process

Another useful post is Subdivision Costs

 

Setbacks

When you are buying a block one of the issues that controls what you can put on a block is the Setbacks of the main structure.

Setbacks vary from council to council and can also vary between neighbourhoods in a council area.

To give you an idea here are typical Setbacks:

Street Setbacks

  • From the front title boundary the minimum setback is typically 5.0m, which is enough to park a car on the driveway.
  • In low density suburbs larger front setbacks may be required.
  • For older inner city suburbs the allowable front setback may be much less.(to match existing properties).
  • Side setbacks for corner blocks are generally less than the front setback, with 2.0m being typical.
  • Some councils will also have maximum setbacks,such as 1/3rd the total block length.

The following structures are usually permitted to project into setbacks:

  • Porches, verandahs and pergolas, with a maximum height of 3.6m.
  • Eaves, fascia, gutters, sunblinds, shade sails, and screens.
  • Decks, steps, or landings less than 800mm in height.

Side and Rear Setbacks to Adjoining Properties

Typical setbacks are:

  • Side 2.0m, plus 0.6m for every metre of height over 3.6m.
  • Rear 3.0m, plus 0.6m for every metre of height over 3.6m.

In addition to the encroachments mentioned above encroachments are also usually allowed for;  masonry chimney backs,  flues, pipes, fuel tanks, water tanks, and heating & cooling equipment.

 

Don’t want any setback?….see Building on Boundaries

 

Building Envelope

If you need to fit a large House onto a small block one of the issues you will have to deal with is ‘The Building Envelope”.

What this means is the actual area within your title boundaries that is legally and physically possible to build on.

The building envelope can be affected (reduced) by:

  • The size and positioning of Easements.
  • Required Setbacks from roads.
  • Restrictive Covenants.
  • Setbacks from adjoining blocks.
  • Ability to Build on Boundary.
  • Significant trees.
  • Existing buildings/structures that can’t /  won’t be removed.
  • Neighbourhood amenities.
  • Location of driveway crossovers.
  • Requirement for vehicles to leave the site travelling forward if the block is on a main road.
  • Nature strip assets such as Fire Hydrants.

So when you are looking at buying a block don’t think you can automatically build on all……. or even 75% of the block.

All councils will have different requirements and may even have varying requirements for different neighbourhoods.

It can be worthwhile talking to the council about permissible Building Envelopes, particularly if you want to  build on more than 50% of the block or are on a corner block.

 

See Blocks for more things to think about when buying a block.