Choosing The Best Rural Lot23 Aug

There are many choices that must be made before buying a rural lot. Most choices are governed by economics, but a person’s lifestyle and background have an influence as well. Do you want a house that is secluded and private, or one that is spectacular with a view of the plains? Maybe your dream is a small ranch with a view of the mountains.

The mountains have always been the refuge of those seeking to find a reasonably priced lot. The mountains of Gilpin and Boulder County are covered with mining districts with the land already divided into 5 ac claims. There are also older mountain subdivisions with 2 and 3 acre lots that have not been built out. But there are pitfalls that can raise the price of building on a lot, and make it less desirable. One of the most expensive is rocky terrain and steep slopes. Steep slopes are difficult because they add costs to the road, to the septic system, and to the house construction. They can usually be built on, but almost every step is expensive.

Another issue to be considered, is the orientation of the lot and therefore the house. Does the road and the house have a Southern exposure which gets good sun, and therefore easily melts off the snow in the winter instead of building up snow pack all winter long? A road that melts snow means fewer trees have to be cut for turnouts in which to store plowed snow. Roads that face North often run out of snow plowing space, and the roads get covered with ice as the winter progresses. Northern slopes can be dealt with, but again, they require more planning. Southern exposures are ideal for passive and active solar gains, an added bonus that could provide your new home with free heat and energy.

West facing building sites may have a wonderful view of the mountains, but they face into the wind, which howls down the mountains onto the plains. Large glass areas facing West can develop a lot of bow in the glass and mullions, and you may wonder if the wind is going to blow your house down to Denver some day. There are building techniques to handle this, including foam forms that make a house much more solid with concrete and rebar cores running throughout the walls. Stronger triple pane windows can also shield from the strong afternoon sun, as well as the strong winds, and overhanging roofs can block the summer sun while letting in the winter rays.

East facing lots can have big views of the plains, and will catch the sun early in the day, ideal for morning people. They can often be situated so that they get the Eastern view and the Southern sun exposure. They are usually well protected from the wind. If they are on a flat bench with a short road in from the South, you have the makings of the perfect building spot. Now if only no one else had found this idyllic spot! Unfortunately, there you may have neighbors who are nestled in to the North, and South, on both sides of your land. Therefore, you also have to be concerned about your neighbor’s wells and septic systems.

Wells and septics need to have space from each other, and between themselves. The perfect spot for a well is close to the house, and just uphill. Ideally, you must have 200ft. from your well to any other leach field, and to your own leach field. Your land must be over an acre, or you have bought a campsite, not a house site. You would be surprised at how many campsites are for sale in the mountains. They are not buildable due to size, and the need for separation of the well and septic. The health department has to approve every building permit before anyone can build on their lot, and their rules are very inflexible when it comes to public safety. The State of Colorado has set the basic rules of septic field and well separation, and the counties have adopted them and in many cases, made them even more stringent. The State has said 100’ is minimum well distance, but many counties use 200’ for high bedrock or high ground water situations. Some counties allow blasting for rock, but some don’t. Some require pretreatment systems to get around the 100’ separation, or for land less than 5 acres. Each area’s rules should be determined before purchasing a lot by looking the rules up on the county web site, or by consulting a professional.

In Boulder County there are 14,000 houses with septic systems, and only about 6000 are permitted systems. The Septic Smart program will attempt to have all septic systems permitted by requiring a septic inspection whenever a house is sold. Negotiating a $20,000 septic system into the price of a rural house would probably be a smart idea for most rural homebuyers.

Before you buy a smaller rural lot, the location of all the neighbor’s septic systems and wells needs to be located to determine if there is room so that a well and septic can be located 200’ apart on your own lot, as well as 200’ from all the neighbor’s septic systems and wells. Many people don’t understand that these locations may dictate the house location, and increase the cost of a specific location by thousands of dollars.

Many counties have restrictions that can make a huge difference in house location and cost. For example, Gilpin County requires a 50ft. setback from a road and from a stream, and thus a valley property with a road and stream may have very few house locations available. On a rural lot the well and septic location should be inspected along with the property survey just as diligently as the title and the road access. Consulting a professional engineer to look at these restrictions should be a part of every land purchase unless the owner is familiar with the regulations and conditions in the location.

Another major condition that may affect a rural property is the wildfire deterrent requirements. If the lot is steep and heavily forested, there may be extensive thinning required by the County to build on the site. Thinning the trees and removing the undercover may protect the house from a fast moving wildfire, and make it more defensible by the fire fighters. There should be no woodpiles or other types of combustable material around the house. Farther from the house, the woods should be thinned and underbrush removed. Propane tanks should be buried and away from the house. Ideally, the exterior of the house is constructed of materials that are fire resistant such as masonary, and all decks need to be constructed of fire resistant materials as well. The roof is the easiest way to burn down a house, and metal and tile are the best materials to use so that doesn’t happen. No wood product or other combustible shingle should be used. Concrete boards are a good choice for facia and soffit to resist fire.

As you can see, there is much to consider before buying your dream lot. Please don’t buy without investigating exactly how your home will – and even if it can – fit on the lot.

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