WHAT ARE THE 5 KEY AREAS TO CONSIDER WHEN PURCHASING AN ACREAGE BLOCK? (PLUS, HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU DON’T GET SOLD A DUD!)

Looking for an acreage block to build your dream home? Or just wanting to invest for later in life? There is a multitude of different options available to you when looking for land. Not to say the additional advice from all quarters!

We’ve done a bit of research and put together a list of the 5 key points you need to consider when your out looking to purchase a new acreage block. So, read on to find out how to make sure you don’t get sold a dud!

A lovely sloping site with a view? Or a flat functional block? The choice is yours!

So, firstly look at the slope of the site. Obviously, the flatter the block the easier to build on but just as obviously the more sloping the block most likely has nicer the outlook. What is best? Is it going to cost way more to build of a sloping block or what?

In answer to this – there are a couple of points which we’ve listed below. But the good news is that, unless you have an extremely steep acreage site the build cost won’t be too expensive. Because of this, we find that with modular homes you can have up to 1.5m fall over the building footprint for a very little extra cost.

You need to consider the type of home you’re looking at putting on the site. Normally, a slab home can be cost-effective on near level sites whereas a home on stumps is better on sloping sites.

What is the best Building method for a steep site?

So – you’re looking at an acreage block with a slope. Its perfect – lovely and leafy, has a beautiful outlook and is the site of your dream home. But what is the best method of construction? Normally speaking you have two options available;

Concrete Slab – to use this method on a sloping site you will need to really think about cutting and filling a level pad. Furthermore, depending on how steep your site is you will need to allow for retainer walls and how a house pad will affect site drainage

Stump Home – this method is recommended for sloping sites for a couple of reasons. 1, there is minimal disturbance to the site which reduces the cost of building & 2, you aren’t messing with your site drainage. Because you won’t be doing any cutting and filling the cost savings can be huge!

Crane Access for sloping blocks.

Access to the acreage block of land you’re considering for purchase is really important. Generally speaking, if the block you are looking at is so steep that you wouldn’t be able to get a mid-size crane or even delivery trucks to your site, you can expect it to be a lot harder to build a home. This means that unfortunately, your new home will cost more!

What is the soil classification?

When purchasing your new acreage block one of the main items you need to consider is what is under the ground. You may have a lovely block with beautiful views but with a really reactive soil classification. Needless to say, the increase in cost for reactive soils can be astronomical!

So how do we demystify this! Well firstly, let’s get an understanding of the different classes of soil. There are 7 main classifications of soil which are based on the expected surface movement. To help you understand the expected movement measurement you just need to think of it as how much the soil expands and contracts between wet and dry periods. Now, when you see all those cracks in the mud when it is drying out – that is expected movement!

What are the types of soil classification & What do they mean?

Class

Expected Surface Movement 

(Ys)

Explanation

A

0mm

Includes many areas of sand, gravel, and rock sites with no clays. These sites have no expected movement. And, as a result, zero moisture variation.

S

0 – 20mm

SLIGHTLY reactive sites which exhibit only small movements with moisture variation. 

M

20 – 40mm

MODERATELY reactive sites exhibit moderate amounts of movement with moisture variation. These sites commonly include red/brown silty soils, some sandy clays and loamy soils.

H1

40 – 60mm

HIGHLY reactive sites exhibit high amounts of movement with moisture variation. These sites include some silty clays in the Toowoomba area. And, many of the sandy clays and basaltic clays in the Lockyer Valley.

H2

60 – 75mm

HIGHLY reactive sites exhibit very high amounts of movement with moisture variation. These sites include some silty clays in the Toowoomba area and many of the sandy clays and basaltic clays in the Lockyer Valley.

E

>75mm

EXTREMELY reactive sites which exhibit greater than 75mm of surface movement. Typically, these sites include deep reactive clays, such as black and dark brown soils on the Darling Downs, but are also found throughout the Lockyer Valley and parts of Toowoomba. These sites typically demand quite expensive footing systems.

P

“P” or Problem Sites

As indicated previously, the Site Classification must consider many aspects of the site, not just the reactivity of the soil. P sites are those that include other factors that need to be brought to the attention of the owner, builder and footing designer. A “P” classification does not indicate a specific Ys vale and is described as a “Problem” site

The reasons for a P classification include:
  • Growth &/or Removal of Trees will cause Abnormal moisture conditions in the subsurface soils;
  • Unusually high moisture conditions cause by water flow, ponds, dams, etc
  • A site with fill which can be either “controlled” or “uncontrolled” upon the depth and type. The P Classification depends on the depth and the type of fill.
  • Sites with poor bearing capacity, soft soils, or soils which are prone to collapse;
  • “P” sites prone to mine subsidence, landslip, piping or coastal erosion;
  • Sites which for one reason or another cannot be classified as normal sites;

Source: Soiltech Pty Ltd

Now to find out what your soil classification is exactly you will need to get a soil test completed by a geotechnical engineer. Unfortunately – you can’t really go and do this BEFORE you purchase an acreage block of land!

So – we’d really recommend you speak with your agent to find out if a soil test has been completed previously. If not – you could try to speak with some locals who have recently built in a similar area to find out what sort of soil types they encountered when building.

Location of Services ON AN ACREAGE BLOCK

Now, the next thing to consider is access to basic services such as water, power and sewerage. These are all totally necessary and also a major cost centre when building your new home. Again this is something that is not readily seen as something that can really cost you.

Getting your power connected

Has the acreage block of land you’re looking at purchasing had power already connected? This this is the ideal situation as it will potentially save significant cost down the track. One of the most common issues our clients run into is getting power connected to their site.

But if electricity is not connected to the land you’re looking at purchasing we recommend you follow a few simple steps to check out if this will be a problem. If your site doesn’t haven’t power connected it can provide a major cost centre as well as increase the time to build.

HOW TO FIND OUT HOW TO GET POWER CONNECTED TO YOUR BLOCK

Follow the below steps to find out how easy it is to get power connected to the acreage block you looking at buying.

  1. Find the nearest power pole. 
  2. Think about how far your potential house site will be located from the pole. (Remember: the further the distance the more cost involved.)
  3. Speak with a local electrician to see what the options are around connection and potential costs
  4. Check out Australian Energy Regulator website to find out how to get the power connected.

Often if the cost to connect electricity to the block is exorbitant or you have to pay a lot of upgrade costs we recommend looking at a standalone solar power. While this isn’t a cheap option it certainly provides you with complete autonomy and NO blackouts! Check out our article on how to save on power bills in your new home.

Water

If the site has town water this is a major feature. If water is not you will need to allow for larger water tanks and pumps. While this doesn’t seem like a major hassle it does cost a little more. In saying that we find that most clients certainly like to have the extra water storage available to them anyway!

Many of our clients also use dam water or a bore to use for landscaping and non-drinking water.

Sewerage

Again – a block of land connected to town sewerage is ideal. Unfortunately, most acreage blocks don’t have this service. This means that you will almost always be required to install a sewerage treatment plant or septic system and have it connected to your home. Our clients usually install new treatment systems as they are more reliable and consequently, more cost-effective than a septic system.

We normally find that the cost of onsite septic systems ranges from $20,000 – $25,000 once they are installed and connected to the home.

WHAT IS THE Flood & Fire RIsK

No one wants the heartbreak, angst and horror of having to experience the close proximity of a raging bushfire or flood. Thankfully in recent times, the regulations surrounding areas that are prone to bushfire or flooding have been tightened up.
If your acreage block is in a bushfire or flood area there are specific building requirements that we are required to comply with. And, ultimately this will require detailed assessment by a Bushfire Consultant or a Flood Height Surveyor to survey the site.

So, the things to do?

  1. You need to check with the local council to see if your site has a bushfire or flood overlay.
  2. Look up the Rural Fire Brigade websites for some helpful hints about building in bushfire zones. The NSW rural fire brigade has a particularly helpful article here.
  3. In the case of a bushfire overlay – look at the risk level. This is the risk posed by bushfire due to the proximity of the home site to bushland, the type of bushland and the slope of the ground. If you have a house site that is fairly flat the risk won’t be too great. Needless to say, a sloping site can quite often have a heightened fire risk. Check out this document on Bushfire Attack Levels or BAL.
  4. If your home is in a flood overlay zone you will need to ensure the home is above the flood level set by the council. This normally involves building a pad or having the home installed higher.

Council Planning Overlays & ZONES FOR THE ACreAGE BLOCK

Which brings us to our last point. You need to find out if the acreage block you considering for purchase has any council planning issues. These issues can take the form of a planning zone or “overlay” map. The reason for this is some overlays can make a block of land very difficult, if not impossible to build on.

WHAT ARE OVERLAYS & ZONES?

So, what are overlays and zones? Firstly they are a way for the council to easily categorise different areas of the local area. Consequently, they are then able to ensure safe building practices as well as ensure the culture, environment and livability of the area are retained. Some of the common overlays that many councils use are bushfire, flood, heritage, eco-habitat and landslip. Almost every council and government area are different and there are literally hundreds of different overlays out there – most of which won’t affect your site.

Now, how to find out if you block is affected? We recommend that you find out if any overlays do affect your site and potentially limit your building options is to contact your local council or a town-planner. Once you’ve provided the address of the land they will be able to check this out very quickly and provide you with the relevant information.

The final word!

So, in summary, we really do recommend that you consider each of the above items carefully before buying the block of your dreams. Above all, we really hate to see anyone waste time and money. Unfortunately, we have seen clients go through a lot of this trying to work around issues that they had never even considered. So – do yourself a favour, don’t buy a dud and download the checklist below!

See below an easy list of the main points we discussed for your ease of recall!


Slopes

Slopes – Is the site to steep? (Over 1.5m fall over the building footprint)

What is the site drainage like?

How accessible is your acreage site?

Soil Classification

Has a soil test been completed? If so what is the soil classification for your block

If not, what is the opinion of the agent, neighbours, and local builders as to what the soil is like?

Location of Services

Is power connected?

If not where is the nearest pole? Also, ask a local electrician to have a quick look or contact our design team to discuss your options.

Do I need a sewerage system or are town sewer and water available?

Flood & Fire

Contact the local council to see if there are any flood or bushfire overlays

Council Planning Overlays

Contact a town planner or the local council to check for any applicable planning and government overlays.


Alternatively feel free to contact one of our team to discuss any particular acreage block of land. Consequently, we can give you a “builders” opinion based on our knowledge of building and using online mapping systems

DOWNLOAD THE FREE ACREAGE LAND BUYERS CHECKLIST NOW

Want to discuss some prefab building options for your block of land? We can certainly help, just fill in the form below to organise for one of our consultants to call. Alternatively, call us now on 1800 688 044

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