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Purchasing Land for Building your New Home

Purchasing Land for Building your New Home

Looking to Buy the Perfect Lot?  – Follow these tips and avoid the lot from ‘hell’!

Unless you already own a lot or land on which to build your dream home you will be looking for a lot that meets your requirements as to location, size and budget. Please remember these two important words:

CAVEAT EMPTOR!  (Buyer Beware!)

The Greater Charleston area and our beautiful South Carolina Lowcountry surroundings have become a magnet for folks from across the USA seeking to relocate either for employment, to retire, or simply to enjoy a vacation home.  For many, having a new custom home built from the ground up is the ultimate dream which CMSSC can turn into reality.  Aside from having a very clear understanding of your available budget and a Lender approval for a construction loan if not paying full cash, your first step is to find a lot on which to have your home built.  Many folks will be coming in from cities and from metropolitan areas that have easy access to Public water and sewer services.  While access to those Public Utilities is widely available in many parts of the Charleston area, the moment your lot search is focused on the semi-rural and rural areas including our less developed Barrier Islands… Isle of Palms, Johns Island, Wadmalaw Island and even parts of James Island, you will likely be faced with a need to install a septic tank and/or a well for water.

Never ever assume that the lot or land you are considering will be suitable for a septic tank unless the State of South Carolina;s Department of Health and the Environment (SC DHEC) have conducted site tests and have issued what is called a “Perc Site Certificate”.  If the Seller of the lot or the land cannot provide a current SC DHEC Perc Certificate and is unwilling to have such a test carried out, your Offer to Purchase must be contingent on a satisfactory SC DHEC site test. The cost is $150 per test and we have the necessary Request Forms if needed.  There are three possible outcomes resulting from a SC DHEC Perc Test. An approval that will enable a standard septic tank and drain field installation which would cost around $4,500….OR, if the soil conditions lack sufficient porosity then an approval for what is called a hybrid septic system which will likely cost around $12,000 – $14,000…OR, in a worst case situation a need for a fully engineered waste system costing upwards of $20,000.

If there is no availability of Public water that can serve your proposed lot, there will be a need for well to be drilled on the property. Again, you will require a SC DHEC well permit ($150), Cost of a water well depends on the depth required to reach water of acceptable quality. An average installation inclusive of a water treatment system will be around $5,000.

If your proposed lot has access to Public sewer and water services then you will be required to pay the supplying Authority a ”tap fee”. Cost of those tap fees will vary depending on the Authority but assume about $3,700 for sewer and around $3,500 for water. In addition to the “tap fee” you will also need to factor in the cost of installing the waste line and the waterline from the street “tap” to the proposed location of your new home.

Those costs are dependent on the number of feet of the run which might be as little as100 linear feet if a small lot or, if you have a 1-acre or larger lot, the distance from street “tap” to your house location could be 500’ or greater. Figure around $14 per linear foot run for a water line and $15 per linear foot for a sewer line.

That “beautifully wooded lot” you have fallen in love with….aside from the actual cost of buying the lot and consideration of the above points, you are now looking at the costs associated with the removal of a sufficient number of those trees to make room for your house, garage, driveway as well as providing adequate access to heavy construction-related equipment and contractor’s vehicles.

The State of South Carolina loves it’s trees! As a matter of Policy, the Charleston and Tri-County Planning and Zoning Authorities deem any healthy tree with a trunk diameter at breast height of 24” or greater as being protected. Excluded from protection are pine and gum trees. Grand oak trees, magnolia, ash, cypress, birch and sycamore are examples of protected trees for which Removal Permits are required.  We have access to Licensed Arborists and Surveyors who’s professional advice can be requested.

Maybe your proposed lot is “packed full” of pine and gum trees”. If mainly pine and the lot is 5-acres of large one of our local logging companies may come in and remove the pines if the count is large enough and pay you for the felled timber. However, you will still have to pay for the removal of stumps and root systems. Less than 5-acres and it will be you that pays the bill for felling and removal of the stumps!

Associated with any required tree and over-growth removal, lot grading, leveling, need for back-fill and site drainage. We can give you a pretty accurate idea of what your site clearance and preparation costs will be. A lot that is already cleared or substantially cleared might only require $2,500 or so in additional costs. However a fully wooded location might need anywhere from $10,000 – $25,000+ in clearance and prep costs.

As protective as our State is with regard to trees, so too is the protection of our famed Wetlands. The closer is the lot to tidal creeks, estuaries and rivers the greater the possibility that part of the proposed lot comprises an area that could be a designated wetland  which, by Law, cannot be disturbed unless exceptional circumstances prevail. This why the services of a Surveyor is so important.

Many lots in lower laying areas will be in a FEMA designated flood-zone. A good indicator being the neighboring presence of homes built on concrete block or timber beam 10’ – 12’ high elevated foundations. While these homes benefit from providing ”under-house” vehicle parking space, just bear in mind that the cost of the foundation, decks and stairways will add to the cost of constructing your new home.

Regardless of flood zoning there will always be a need to obtain a Civil Engineer’s Soil Report (average $2,400) which enables a Licensed Structural Engineer to design the Foundation Plan (average $2,200) from which we can establish an actual cost to build the foundation structure for your new home.


The CMSSC team is ready, willing and able to assist you navigate the entire process starting with identifying lots that are within areas in which you want to have your new home built. How can we help you?

Call Bob Corrigan at 843-364-5413 or email richard@cmssc.com

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