Have you fantasized about living by a wooded stream or on a mountaintop? Can you simply not find the house you want from what's available on the market? Buying a lot to build on has its own set of considerations. The most important one is still location.
Check your local newspaper for listings of lots for sale. Or hire an agent who specializes in lots to help you find one that's a good value and suitable for the home you want to put on it.
Consider the location carefully, as well as proximity to shopping districts and parks, quality of the schools, traffic and congestion, public transit and the crime rate. Look at the lay of the land.
Features such as steep drop-offs, drainage problems or poor access roads may increase costs. Find out if utilities such as gas, electricity, sewer, garbage and water are available, especially if you are buying a lot off the beaten path, and how much it will cost to access them.
Define in general terms the structure you'd like to build, including square footage, number of floors, number and types of rooms, architectural style, as well as any specific features you want, such as a pool or large deck. Depending on the size and design of your home, a particular lot may or may not work. Consult an architect (see How to Hire an Architect) or buy a plan (see How to Buy House Plans) to rough out some designs and assess feasibility.
Investigate what the future holds for neighboring properties. Will other houses be built? How many? Are they zoned for residential or could commercial buildings be put in? How will this affect parking and traffic? Is there a possibility of additional buildings or roads being added in the future? How will your view be impacted? Look into potential environmental disputes such as water rights or endangered species habitats that could affect your property's value or ability to be sold or developed.
Hire a surveyor to map out the specifics of the property. A title company can order this or refer you to a suitable surveyor. Costs will vary according to the time needed for the survey and how difficult the job is. Ask for estimates.
Find out if the lot is in a flood plain. If it is, you'll not only need flood insurance (see How to Obtain Disaster Insurance), but will need to have a soil engineer conduct a survey to spot potential sliding problems.
Buy owner's title insurance. This coverage lets you gain clear title to the property. The cost will depend on the value of the land.
Put down earnest money to hold the property while you close the deal--a small percentage of the overall value. See How to Shop for a Mortgage, and complete your financing.
Call local builders to learn more about housing developments they are building and lots that are still available. Finding a builder (see <a href="http://www.ehow.com/how_111134_hire-builder.html" target="_top">How to Hire a Builder</a>) who owns land that you're interested in generally simplifies the process of purchasing the land and building a home, which can be done in a single transaction. Visit the lot several times at different times of the day to get a complete feel for sun and shade patterns, as well as traffic and parking issues.
If you buy an odd-shaped lot or one that's difficult to build on, be prepared for extra expenses such as house plan modifications.