Residential Land Development Process – What You Need to Know

There are many different ways to approach the residential land development process, and there is a lot of information you’ll want to know before you get started. 

Beginning your development project can be complex and requires in-depth research at every stage, from purchasing land to securing the correct permits. 

This guide will provide a general overview of topics to keep in mind as you start the residential land development process.

Know the Rules

The laws and regulations of residential land development processes will vary depending on where you want to build. Every state and territory will have its own set of rules and permits and approval systems that will require careful consideration before the project begins. 

Some residential projects may require federal permits, so it is essential to check in with your applicable local, state, and federal offices before beginning development. 

You may need to have a Federal Environmental Review completed and/or submit an Environmental Impact Statement for areas with substantial flora and wildlife. Alternative or additional permits may also be required if the area requires rezoning or special exceptions.

Contacting your local planning, permitting, or development office will also help you determine if there are any potential historical or conservation-related issues with your project location. 

Special considerations must be made if the potential site is a habitat for endangered plants or animals. Some areas also have special requirements due to recurring or high-risk natural disasters, such as areas within a floodplain or near a fault line.

Keep in mind that the permitting process may involve added expenses such as impact fees, and your permits may need to be modified before they are approved. After you have figured out the land development process regulations for your area, it’s time to find your site. 

Locating Your Site

Getting started on a new residential land development process means finding and analyzing a lot of information. The prospective builder will need to identify a suitable area of land that fits the unique needs of their project. 

As you examine places to get your residential property started, it is essential to determine whether or not the chosen site is the best spot for your project and if your project is the best use for that piece of land.

While choosing your site, there are many facets to consider, such as lot size, existing structures, and green space requirements. An excellent source of information will be the most recent survey. If one is unavailable, try searching for professional surveyors in your area. 

Once you have tracked down your ideal location, there are still more essential questions to consider before purchasing any land. What is the zoning for this property and surrounding areas? Are there any existing easements, power lines, or geologic hazards that need to be considered? Does the site have utility access available? Does the cost of the land account for any physical improvements that will need to be completed before the site is usable?

It is also recommended to walk around the property and take pictures around the site. In addition to documenting the topography and resources, it is also helpful to take note of any heavy air or vehicle traffic, drainage issues, access points, and any potentially protected plant or animal species. 

After answering all your questions and securing your new residential land development site, it is time to dive into the planning process. 

Project Financing and Budgets

As with all development projects, setting and maintaining a budget is highly important. In addition to the engineering and construction costs associated with your new project, you may also need room in your budget for clearing structures or debris, removing hazardous materials, testing the soil, and surveying environmental assets. 

The final goals for your project and in-depth knowledge of your chosen location will determine where your development finances will need to be used. Is there a sewer system in place, or will a septic tank need to be installed? Will there be water or internet/cable connection fees? Will your project require slope control, retaining walls, or substantial landscaping?

Answering these questions will help you determine if the cost of the land, permits, and development are feasible for the goals of your residential project. It is highly recommended to complete cash flow calculations, market analyses, and feasibility studies as part of your project financing plan. There may also be municipal financing or special cost-saving opportunities available, so be sure to research your funding options thoroughly.

While it is always an excellent idea to have a budget, keep in mind that unexpected expenses may always arise. Adverse weather, environmental conditions, or other unforeseen circumstances may cause residential development process delays, which will increase costs. 

Additionally, recent changes in development standards and construction codes could mean supplementary fees for your project. 

Determine the Details 

The location has been found, the permits have been approved, the fees are paid, and you’re ready to start building. However, there are still important details to consider before breaking ground on your new project. 

For your new residential development to be successful, an in-depth understanding of the surrounding area is essential. Connecting with any neighborhood associations, civic organizations, or just local property owners can provide a wealth of information. 

Speaking with anyone who may be affected by your residential development can also help you prevent problems from underlying issues that only locals may be aware of.

Remember that there may be additional costs even after the construction is complete, such as development taxes, inspection expenses, or homeowners association fees. If your project is designed for sustainability, you can also look into National Green Building Standard Certification, which offers different certification levels based on the environmental impact of the development. 

Once your research is finished, your permits are purchased, and you know the site area like the back of your hand, you’re ready to start building. 


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