Consider this advice before you decide to buy a block of land.

Buying a block of land is one of life’s big decisions. While the location of the estate you buy into is an important consideration, so too is the position of a block within it.

Location to amenities is key – you don’t want to be too far from facilities such as shops, parks, schools and public transport, but when it comes to infrastructure – freeways, for example – you also don’t want to be too close.

Where facilities are not yet in place, this means doing some research to find out where and when they will appear while being aware that not all promises come to fruition.

You should also consider the size and orientation of the block.

People who want to build a 200 to 230-square-metre house will typically look for a block of about 450 to 500 square metres with a minimum frontage of 10.5 metres if they want a two-car garage, says Rod Fehring, executive general manager, residential, at developer Australand. Required boundary setbacks also need to be taken into account.

When it comes to orientation, blocks with a north-south alignment and north-facing backyard are most in demand. “Blocks that are north-south-oriented but with the road on the north side need a more specialised design to push your private open space to the front of the house rather than the back or, alternately, a courtyard configuration,” says Mr Fehring.

Other advice includes avoiding a position too close to the entrance of the estate. “If you’re buying on one of those entry points, you’re going to have more traffic,” says Mike McCarthy, chief executive of the Barry Plant Group.

He agrees blocks in cul-de-sacs and courts tend to be a popular choice due to the sense of community they engender. But beware of ”headlighting”, when car lights sweep across windows, which can be a problem for properties located at the end of a court.

Locations near a park are sought after and blocks abutting them are in even more demand (expect to pay a premium of 20 to 25 per cent) as are blocks with a view and, to a lesser degree, those on the high side of a street on a slope (but beware that building on a slope can add significantly to the cost of a house).

Corner blocks are always the last to sell, says Mr Fehring, thanks to perceptions of increased expenses, compromised privacy and security and high traffic. However, a corner lot can be a good buy for someone looking for an investment as they can be more easily subdivided.

Once you’ve settled on a particular block, check out the neighbouring properties – are they well maintained and are there any privacy issues? If there is vacant land next door, check what buildings are proposed; an unusually large block, for example, might be a target for higher-density development.

As well as checking that the price of the block is in line with those of a similar size and position, would-be buyers should also seek independent professional advice before signing on the bottom line, says buyers’ advocate Peter Rogozik. “You don’t want any nasty, expensive surprises and there’s certainly a lot more opportunity for those who buy land,” he says. “Don’t rely on representations made by the developer or selling agent. Do your own due diligence.”

These include talking to the local council’s town planning department and an architect about what can be built on the site. Buyers should also consult a lawyer or solicitor to check the contract and vendor’s statement and see what controls – easements, covenants or overlays – affect the block and possibly the construction of a house.

A contract should always be made subject to a soil test, says Mr Rogozik. The cost of foundations can vary significantly depending on the type of soil involved. He also says it can be worth contacting utility companies to check the cost of service connections – you may pay more for a non-standard connection – as well as engaging a land surveyor to check the block’s dimensions are accurate.

“Don’t assume anything,” he says.

Meeting his needs to a tee

WHEN first home buyer Wayne Shaw went to buy a block in the latter half of 2010, he was looking for a lot in a family-oriented community that was close to the freeway and churches and schools but also provided a green retreat.

A 516-square-metre block in Australand’s Casiana Grove estate near Ranfurlie golf course in Cranbourne West met all his criteria, so he bought it in October 2010 for $232,000 and had a three-bedroom residence built on it for himself and fiancee Cindy Ewert.

”It’s located on a hill and it’s three houses down from the golf course and, if I stand outside on my decking, I can actually look at the city skyline as well,” the 29-year-old sales consultant says.

Among the other key factors that drove Mr Shaw’s choice was the frontage of the block. ”The house I was building with Simonds needed a 16-metre frontage and there were very few blocks of land which had a 16-metre frontage.”

Posted by Domain – The Age on 2nd September, 2012