“We would like to build a home in the Hudson Valley but we don’t know where to start…” Probably 8 out of 10 calls to our office begin with something like this. Most continue saying they started looking to buy a modern home in the Hudson Valley but found nothing that they like or that works for their family. I get it. We too fell in love with the area and had the same experience; I know there are plenty of gorgeous modern homes in the area, but most of those were designed and built as custom homes.
Ok, please bear with me. Today’s post is a rather long one, but from speaking about the subject with a few of our clients I understand this is the “scariest part” about building a home in the Hudson Valley.
Building a Modern Home in the Hudson Valley
We realize that the prospect of building a new home can be extremely daunting to most people who don’t understand what it entails, and we strive on this blog to help make it less so. When adding the variable of searching for the right property, there are so many unknowns and questions that I think unfortunately many people never get past the initial idea. Hopefully this post will answer a few questions and help to give you more knowledge of that process.
There are a lot of things to consider when looking for land in the Hudson Valley. The easy and fun considerations are things like views, water features, location, size, orientation to the sun…etc. But causes of most hesitation are things like Board of Health approval, septic systems, zoning approvals, watershed restrictions, viewshed (yes, this is a thing in some areas) restrictions, wetlands…
No problem. We just need to determine what questions to ask, what local experts to bring onto the team, and what kind of timeline to expect.
Looking for Land
We have been working with one client since June to find the perfect parcel for them to build their home in the Hudson Valley. I’m excited to say that we are already – 3 months later – very close to closing on it.
Our first step was to set up a phone call to talk through the process of working with an architect and all involved in designing and building a home. And then their next question, “How do we go about finding the property? Is this something you could help us with?” Definitely.
Finding property is not typically part of an architect’s services, but having gone through the same questions and hurdles myself when I was looking for land in the Hudson Valley, I know it’s not a simple undertaking. We always work with a local realtor who knows much more than I do about listings and location, but I also understand that if you want an architect to work with you to design your home you probably want her to be on board with and excited about your site. We like to be part of the team as early as possible and are happy to be involved in this pre-design phase.
First questions to answer:
What is your budget for land?
Are there specific features you’re looking for? (views, water features, acreage…)
What are location considerations?
We put together some available land listings that looked interesting online and we met the next weekend to walk properties. We visited 3 quite different parcels so we all could get a better sense of what they liked and didn’t like. They found a couple more properties online in the area to visit and made a day of it. Not a bad way to spend a day “hiking” around the Hudson Valley!
Before I send a list of properties along to clients I do some basic due diligence. Are there wetlands on the property? Who/what are the neighbors? Location and proximity to towns/large roads/infrastructure/noise? (Some of these answers can be found online. Some come from knowing the area as well as we do since we’ve been up here designing and building homes since 2011.) From densely wooded sites to open fields with views, it seems like every property in the Hudson Valley is beautiful. We just have to find the one that’s right for you.
Next questions for you to consider:
One property with stunning views is listed for $120,000, and another with seasonal views is listed at $80,000. Views/location or budget? Visiting multiple properties will give you a much better sense for how you will answer that question and you’ll start to understand what a property is “worth” to you.
What is your timeline? Depending on the property and the location, obtaining approvals to build can take anywhere from 1-12 months…or longer. The Board of Health approval usually takes the longest. You are required to have a septic system on your site to build a home since town sanitary systems do not exist in most areas, and this must be approved by the Health Department. Then again, sometimes planning board approvals are required which could take 6-8 months. All approvals and the time they take vary from to town and it seems, the more popular the town, the longer the approval process takes. Sometimes properties will have the BoH approval already in place which can definitely help speed up the process. These properties usually cost more than ones without approval in place – and now you know why.
Get out there and walk properties!
After getting out there and seeing what was available we were able to have a more specific discussion on location and land qualities. We compiled a list of about 6 more properties – including one they liked best from the first visit- and met up again to walk more land. One was great, a couple were definitely not, and one was spectacular. We moved forward asking questions to our realtor for a couple parcels and ultimately decided on the spectacular one. This property is an example of one that comes with a lot of questions… Having said that, as long as we know what and who to ask, we are all set.
For this parcel I have spoken with our realtor many many times for answers from the current owners and their realtor about driveways and prior septic approvals. I have spoken with the town to confirm that it is indeed a buildable lot even though current zoning restrictions, that were put in place after the property was previously approved, are more restrictive. And we are working with a civil engineer to be sure that we have all documentation in place for the Planning Board and neighborhood approvals. Yes, it is a lot. But we are on top of it. And the property is definitely worth it!
Our client is in charge of negotiating with the seller for the land. We are simultaneously moving forward with due diligence so that we have a handle on everything we need to know about the property before he signs a contract. Our goal is to determine all of the potential issues and approximate costs associated with those so we know exactly what we’re getting into before we do. Very similar to designing your home, knowing as much information as we can up front makes a big difference down the road.
Yes, setting out to design and build a new custom home in the Hudson Valley can seem overwhelming. Having the right team in place is key for a successful project. We are happy to work with you to make sure we are asking the right questions and making the right decisions along the way. Happy land hunting!