The orientation of the land
The best orientation is for the rear of the property to face north or north west. This will allow the main family living area, the alfresco area and the back yard to be north facing and make the most of the natural sun during all four seasons. Other land orientations can also be made to work with good architectural design but will have some minor compromises. Note: you can expect to pay a premium price for land with a northern orientation.
The land size and dimensions
Most councils in Melbourne have a maximum “site coverage” of 50%, so the land size will determine the maximum size of the new house. I recommend my clients look for land of approx. 600M² + for a new house with a living area of 370M² (40 square) plus double garage.
Easements and covenants
It is important to check the “land title” to see if there are any easements or covenants affecting the land that will place restrictions on which areas of the land can be built on and any specific building and design requirements for the new house.
Council zoning and overlays
The council town planning certificate in the contract of sale for the land will list the zoning classification and any overlays affecting the land. The zoning determines what can be built on the land and various overlays place specific restrictions on the use of the property. For example, a “vegetation overlay” will spell out what trees cannot be removed from the property, and a “heritage overlay” will often prohibit the demolition of the existing house and place specific conditions on any renovations to the existing house.
The slope on the land
Most properties have some slope or angle on the land and this can have some affect on the design of the new house. Generally speaking, land that slopes down away from the street is not ideal, because surface drainage and storm water will be falling back towards the front of the house. This will require additional drainage works to make sustainable and the new house will sit down much lower when viewed from the street. Land that is completely flat can also require additional drainage works around the perimeter of the new house to allow proper surface and garden drainage.
The surrounding properties
It is important to study the properties directly adjoining and behind the block of land you are looking to purchase. The size and position of the adjoining buildings as well as their main window positions will have some impact on your new house design. Also, the position of any adjoining swimming pools and tennis courts will also be important to your house design. Note: a builder or surveyor can help answer any concerns about the impact of surrounding properties.
Overhead power lines on your side of the street are obviously not ideal and a power pole directly in front of the property is often a big negative. Also note, that the overhead power mains for adjoining properties can cut across your land which you would also want to try to avoid. Note: the power mains for your new house can be put underground but at your additional cost.
Always check the land measurements
The actual boundary measurements for a block of land can vary substantially from the title measurements especially in older suburbs. If you discover this discrepancy after you have purchased the property, it will be too late and very costly to legally fight. So, it is very important to physically measure the width and depth of the fence lines and raise any concerns with the real estate agent prior to signing the contract of sale. Note: a builder or surveyor can help with these land measurements if necessary.
Most councils have restrictions on the removal of “significant trees” from a property. Generally, if an average size man cannot wrap his arms around the trunk of a tree and cannot join his fingers then the tree will be considered “significant” and a council permit will be required to either prune or remove the tree. If the tree is healthy it may not be allowed to be removed.
In the older inner-city suburbs, it is very common to have a “combined sewer” with an adjoining property. This means that both properties share one sewer main. If this is the case it is very important to have a plumber assess the common sewer and advise you of the possible implications regarding the design and additional costs. Always check the “sewer plan” in the contract of sale to see if there is a combined sewer and if you have any doubt ask the real estate agent.
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