Vacant Land

7 Things to consider when purchasing land for your new home or cottage

Dreaming of building a custom home or cottage? If you don’t have property to build on, here are seven things you’ll want to consider before you purchase land.

Key Takeaways

Dreaming of building a custom home or cottage? If you don’t have property to build on, here are seven things you’ll want to consider before you purchase land.

1. Location and Amenities

If you have been thinking about designing and build a new home or cottage, there’s a good chance you already have an idea of where you’d like to build. It may be a place you grew up, a place you visit on a regular basis, or a new place you discovered proactively looking for land.

The old real estate saying “location, location, location”, doesn’t just apply to the value of land, it also applies to the lifestyle you desire. If you desire an active and social lifestyle, you may prefer being close to town. However, if you desire the sounds of nature you may prefer a more rural location. Whether you want to be in-town or in the country you’ll want to consider access to amenities.

From grocery stores to schools and hospitals, you’ll want to consider how far you are from the amenities that you want or need on a regular basis.

2. Property Taxes

While you may have your heart set on a specific location, you’ll want to double check the property taxes. This is especially true if you are building a home or cottage to retire to and you have a fixed budget. You’ll want to account for an increase in property taxes over time. As we all know property taxes never seem to go down, only up.

The cost of property taxes may not dissuade you from one parcel of land over another, but it’s prudent to know what your taxes will be. With a little research you may pleasantly discover that the property a few lots down the road has a lower property tax rate. This isn’t uncommon if you are looking at land on the boarder of a municipality or township.

3. Accessibility

After you’ve narrowed your desired location down, you’ll want to make sure the land you are interested in is easily accessible. Don’t take for granted that you can just pull your car up in front of every parcel of land that’s for sale. 

While you’ll find the majority of lots for sale are easily accessible, some lots may be land locked. This means you can’t access the property without permission or a right of way to cross a neighbouring property. Some parcels of land may be difficult to access due to the terrain or features of the property.

Determining the accessibility of a property is simple - just visit the property in person or call the seller or listing agent to inquire.

4. Zoning and By-Laws

While there are many important things to consider, one of the most important considerations is the zoning. Zoning dictates what you can and cannot build on a specific parcel of land.

It’s important that you have a clear vision of what you want to build. It’s not enough to say “I want to build a home”. Do you want a detached garage, a detached workshop, a bunkie, a shed or two, how about a separate guest house for rental income? The zoning of the land you purchase will determine which of these structures you may or may not be permitted to build.

TIP: If you’re thinking of purchasing land for future development, and plan on parking a trailer on it or using it for camping in the meantime, double check the zoning and by-laws. Some municipalities and townships may not permit the parking of a trailer or camping on vacant land within certain zoning designations.

5. Utilities

If you’re not planning on building off-grid, you’ll need to make sure you have access to the utilities you require.

If you’d like to build near a developed community, there’s a good chance you’ll have water, sewer and electricity at your lot line or nearby. However, if you’re planning to build on the outskirts of town or a rural area, you’ll want to take your time and get the answers you need before you commit to a specific parcel of land.

If you don’t have municipal water or sewers, you’ll need a well and septic system. Call around to local well and septic system companies to see if they can provide you with any specific insights for the lot you are interested in and pricing.

While municipal water and sewage is easily replaced by a well and septic, power is a different story. If you’re not planning on running your home or cottage on alternative energy sources such as solar power, you’ll want to confirm that the local electric provider can affordably run power to the lot in question. 

TIP: If a property doesn’t have power at the lot line, locate the nearest utility pole. Each utility pole has a number on it. Make a note of the number and call the local power company with the pole number and the address of the land you are interested in purchasing. The utility company should be able to provide you with an estimate of how much it will cost to run power to the property.

6. Topography & Terrain

Is the topography and terrain suitable for the type of home or cottage you’d like to build? Just as important, is it suitable for the lifestyle you desire?

If you want to build a home with a walkout basement a sloped lot is favourable. However, if you want to build a slab on grade ranch bungalow a level lot is preferable.

Topography and terrain doesn’t just affect the type of home you can build, it can also affect your physical use of the land. If you enjoy hiking, a parcel of land with trails and hills may be your preference. But, if your mobility is limited you may prefer a lot that is level and easier to traverse.

7. Current state of the land

The current state of the property may affect your budget. Purchasing an empty flat lot is different than purchasing a lot that is hilly and completely covered in trees.

Does the parcel of land have an entrance off the main road? If not you’ll have to account for the cost of a culvert and driveway.

Does the building site have sandy soil or is it solid rock? This may play a factor in what type of house you can build and how you can build it.

If your building site is covered by trees and bushes, you’ll need to account for the cost of clearing your site. These are just a few of the items you’ll need to factor into the purchase price of the land and your overall budget.


There are lots of things to consider when purchasing vacant land for your home or cottage. The seven items we’ve discussed above are only a few of the things you may need to consider. Consult with professionals prior to completing your land purchase. Talk with real estate agents in the area, call the township or municipality, and make sure you have a lawyer that is familiar with vacant land sales.

When you’ve acquired land and are ready to begin your design and build journey, schedule a consultation with Spotlight Home and Lifestyle. As part of the process, we’ll meet you at your site to ensure your new home or cottage takes advantage of your properties features and reflects your lifestyle.