All land is created equal, right? No, most definitely not. That is very, very wrong. But all land in the same neighborhood is created equal? Again, not at all. Ok, then certainly all land on the same street is created equal, though? Umm, no. Same block? No again. Same side of the street? Not a chance. Let’s cut to it…It would be extremely rare to find two equal pieces of land. There are just too many variables. Here’s where you ask what the variables are. Here’s where I give you an abbreviated list:
And the biggest challenge of all is that it is a corner lot. “But corner lots are so pretty, what is the challenge?”
That’s the general sentiment about corner lots, right? That the houses look prettier. You do, after all get to see two sides of the house from the street. So, if the house is designed well, you see two good looking elevations. If the house isn't designed well, then you see two ugly elevations, your neighbors can’t stand walking past your house, and you should probably drop me a line so we can see how to remedy that.
But the thing that people don’t ever realize is that the house on the corner is actually pushed further back from the street, giving it a larger front yard, making it look more majestic. Why is it pushed back? Because in most counties, a corner lot is considered to have two front yards, one on each of the streets. That way, the front and side of the house on the corner lines up with the front of each of the houses on the interior lots.
Building Restriction Lines
Every piece of land has invisible lines on it that are established by the county the land is in. These lines, called setbacks, dictate how close the house can get to the property line. A four sided, rectangular, interior lot, will have four setbacks - one front, one rear, and two sides. A corner lot will have two front yards, one rear yard, and one side yard. Our corner lot looks like this:
Generally, in Montgomery County, where our lot is, a front setback is 25’, a side is 8’, and a rear is 20’. Of course nothing is ever easy, so those aren't hard and fast numbers, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s go with it. Now, when you have two front yards, instead of setbacks of 25’ and 8’, you need to work around setbacks of 25’ and 25’, meaning you lose 17’ of buildable space across the length of the lot - that hurts. To complicate things even further, you also need to determine which “front” of your house is actually the front, so you know where the side and rear yards are. This becomes rather important. Let’s look at the diagram from above again, but this time, I will swap the side and rear yards:
Take note of the red line, which represents the buildable envelope. With everything else being equal, the “front” of your house moving from one side to the other could make a huge impact on what you could build.
Even though our building envelope would have allowed us to design a pretty large house, we opted for a long skinny design (which I'll touch on in a post soon), with a relatively modest amount of square feet (as compared to most new construction). We also wanted to put the house as close to the center of the lot as possible. Given the steep slope of the lot, almost half of our basement will be out of the ground, so the house will look taller than it actually is. By building a long skinny house in the middle of the lot, we are able to stay as far from each property line as possible, being as respectful to our neighbors and neighborhood as we can.
So remember, when evaluating land to build your dream house (or just A house), often the most important thing to look into is something you can’t even see. The type of lot you have and the building restriction lines will make an enormous impact on the size and shape of your home. If you’re not sure where to start, let me know, I’d be happy to help.
Bye for now,
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