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How to Buy a Block of Land: The Complete Guide

PART 1 – 10 Tips to Narrowing Down Your Search for an Ideal Block

Are you considering buying a block but don’t know where to start? Use these all-important tips from an experienced agent will ensure that you buy the right block for your needs. My advice will help narrow your search and save you a lot of frustration, time and money. 

  1. Speak to an excellent financial advisor before you start searching for any property. Their services are free, and you will know where you stand financially. 
  2. Know the amount you want to spend, and stay within that budget.
  3. Draw up a list of NEEDS and LIKES to determine what you want. If it doesn’t tick all the NEED boxes, move on immediately. 
  4. Decide on minimum and maximum square meters and stick to that. If you don’t, you will run in circles and never decide. 
  5. Know the style you want to build and ensure that the blocks you’re looking at will suit that style. This is important because you will find like-minded people in your neighbourhood, which makes for a more cohesive community and a more contented area for you to live in. The wrong decision will cost you dearly.
  6. If you want something quiet, consider something far from the main road and check for traffic noise and future development plans. Narrow down your search to your needs list only.
  7. You retain/invest your money in blocks by finding something “rare”. An average block will take a long time to become a “good investment” as there’s too much competition. 
  8. You can change the building, etc., but you cannot change the position. Position is everything. Consider building smaller and adding quality finishes in time. 
  9. Always, always, always consider resale values in the future in everything property-related. You can only afford to get a significant investment right, so take your time. 
  10. Ensure your plans will suit your 10/15-year plan. Consider your age and physical health – steps, hills, double storeys, land size, etc. A forced sale through changed circumstances is seldom a good thing.

PART 2 – 8 Very Important Factors to Consider Before You Buy

1. Shape & Location

Don’t just focus on the size of the land you’re buying – the site’s shape is vitally important, too. Irregular blocks can offer exciting opportunities to create an impressive home, wide blocks offer excellent street appeal, and deep blocks provide an opportunity to create fantastic garden spaces. However, elongated, battle-axed, or angular blocks can cause problems for the unwary. An expert architect or builder is required to maximise these blocks without wasting space.

Avoid a position too close to an estate entrance, as more traffic will pass. Cul-de-sacs are more popular but beware of “headlighting” when car lights sweep across windows, which can be a nuisance for properties at the end of a cul-de-sac.

Locations near or overlooking a park are always more in demand than regular blocks. In general, blocks on the higher side of the street or slope are more popular to avoid problems with water runoff in stormy weather but watch out for the added costs when building on a slope. A block with a view is always a bonus, while corner blocks can more easily be subdivided if that is your long-term goal. Check with the council whether the possibility of subdivision on the specific block exists before committing yourself to the sale.

If you buy a block of land because of the views and lots of vacant land around it, do thorough homework to ensure that you will retain the views in the future. Speak to the local council and find out what height restrictions there might be or if there’s a future plan for a new development that would obstruct your views. You might be overlooking a lovely natural forest now, but it might be earmarked for future growth. Spend time investigating as much as possible to avoid disappointment in the future. Don’t rely on hearsay.

Consider getting a BAL assessment done on the block if there are a lot of trees in or around the area, as it might add considerable costs to building your dream home. A BAL assessment is used for planning and building purposes to determine whether a building or development requires additional bushfire risk management measures to address the threat of bushfire to the development. For more information, follow this link: 

https://www.wa.gov.au/government/document-collections/state-planning-policy-37-planning-bushfire-prone-areas

Be aware that there may be restrictions on removing trees on the block that could prove expensive or impossible to build your home in the position you want – do thorough homework.

If you’re buying a block as an investment with no intention of building soon, look for something rare and out of the ordinary. There will be less competition when the time is ripe to sell, and you’re almost guaranteed to profit.

2. Consider Slope and Soil Type

We all know that blocks with a steep gradient without retaining walls will incur higher building costs. Sandy and light soils may need reinforcement even over small gradients, and thick clay or rocky soils may incur costly excavation and tipping costs.

I strongly recommend having a soil test performed by a qualified contractor before you buy any land. Great Southern Geotechnics in Albany will do a complete soil analysis at a reasonable cost (a few hundred dollars in 2023). Getting your earthworks budget wrong could delay all your building plans and land you in financial trouble. It’s truly amazing how often this happens to inexperienced buyers, so please don’t become another statistic – do your homework. The house’s foundations can ultimately depend on the type of soil it’s built on so spend time and a bit of money to ensure the block is suitable for your needs.  

3. Look for Ground-Water

Damp blocks may require additional drainage, even across garden areas, while the costs or suitability of underground garaging or building can vary enormously depending on the wetness of the site.

4. Orientation

Most vacant blocks tend to look sunny and elevated to the inexperienced buyer. Chat with the neighbours and get an expert’s opinion on the block’s exposure to sun, wind and rain, as it will affect the type and orientation of the home you want to build – and of course, your lifestyle. North-south alignment and north-facing backyards are usually the most popular choices.

5. Services

While most blocks in established areas are fully serviced, you can only assume that services are available on the block, too – double-check. Blocks on new estates often incur additional costs in rural and remote areas. Contact utility companies to check the costs of connections to water, gas and electricity if the service connections are not included. Remember to ask about an internet connection.

6. Check Out the Neighbourhood

Your resale and enjoyment are dependent on the neighbourhood you purchase in. Like-minded people will significantly add to the enjoyment of your home and environment.

Consider the location and quality of the surrounding homes and whether the style of home you want is appropriate for the area. Consider distances to shops, transport, entertainment and schools and if it would suit your family’s needs and lifestyle choices now and in the future.

7. Uncover and Understand Easements and Impediments

Check the Certificate of Title carefully as it will list easements and encumbrances. Ensure you get full copies of all the details on the title deed. Visit the Council and approach the relevant bodies to discover whether other encumbrances on your land might not reflect on the title deed – and find out exactly what they mean. A lot of the easements and encumbrances cover many pages, so it’s easy for the layman to miss a crucial point. Consider taking it to your settlement agent or solicitor to check as they are experts in this field.

An easement in the backyard may be a small thing unless it happens to be where you want to put the pool or ancillary building, while a road-widening order may not affect how you use the block today but could be vitally important to whether you can profitably sell your home in the future. Check with the local council if any future developmental plans could influence your enjoyment of the land – now or in the planned future.

8. Documentation

Check and recheck the documentation relating to your land purchase. If you are purchasing subject to certain conditions, make sure that all the details are correct and fully recorded in the purchase documents. Once again, your settlement agent should be able to advise on all legal jargon and terms before you sign any paperwork. It is extremely important that you fully understand what the terms mean. 

In summary

Once you’re interested in a block of land that ticks most of your “Need” boxes as well as a few of the “Likes”, start doing thorough research.

*Understand that building a home usually takes much longer than originally planned and that building costs can rise sharply in the interim. Speak to your financial planner and be certain that you can afford variables over a period of time. If all is in order – well done! I hope you thoroughly enjoy the experience.

If you are considering selling a property in Albany, Mount Barker, Denmark or Walpole areas, please contact me or call me to discuss your needs. Consultation, advice and appraisals are free of charge, with no obligation or harassment – ever.