Know Your Lot Before You Buy

This small step could save you thousands of dollars. When purchasing a lot, we advise our clients to do a lot walk to better understand the unique conditions and building requirements a particular lot may have. Throughout a lot walk, you will learn about special site conditions, ideal home placement, soil composition, covenants and restrictions, set backs and easements that all have potential impact to construction costs.

Our Director of Construction, Matt Huffman, understands the importance of educating and assisting clients. He has decades of experience in custom home building as well as a breadth of knowledge in lot evaluations. We interviewed him to find out all of the important factors of lot walks; this is how he responded.


What’s the most important reason for having a lot walk?
The most important reason is to understand how the house will work on the lot. Lot implications could affect infrastructure, what kind of trees would be affected on the lot and what kind of soil may be present at that time. By having a lot walk, we can determine the type of house (walkout basement, daylight basement, etc.) that would work best.

If I haven’t started designing my home, should I still have a lot walk?
Absolutely. When going on a lot walk, the first thing I ask a potential client is what their looking for in the lot and to see if the lot matches those requirements. Do you want a three-car garage or a side load? Where do you want that positioned? I always try to give potential clients recommendations on criteria that they give and my suggestion for how the house should be placed. This is a good way to find a starting point for the design process as well.  

Director of Construction, Matt Huffman while on a lot walk in  Holliday Farms  with a potential client.

Director of Construction, Matt Huffman while on a lot walk in Holliday Farms with a potential client.

Do all lots, even in custom communities, need a lot walk?
Not necessarily, but in order for the builder to best answer clients’ questions, it is beneficial to walk the lot together. All lots have classifications and aside from flat lots, all lots have their unique formation and difficulties. Being able to understand what all a lot can offer as well as any limitations is important during the design process. 

What are common site conditions for Carmel?
If building in Downtown Carmel, we’re finding that a lot of the older structures that may still be on the lots have underground systems. There may be difficulty getting infrastructure into the new home, which could impact a homeowner’s budget. On a newly developed site, there are not as many difficulties because that has all been taken into consideration throughout the development process.  

How do site conditions impact my budget?
Site conditions can create more infrastructure costs than one would incur on a lot in a newly developed community. For example, if building on an out lot (or on your own land), a homeowner may have to pay for a driveway where in a community, they would not. Another example would be bringing utilities to the lot. 

Through the lot walk, Matt helps client’s visualize where the house will sit on the lot as well as what type of view they will have.

Through the lot walk, Matt helps client’s visualize where the house will sit on the lot as well as what type of view they will have.

How much can side-by-side lots vary?
In a developed community, they should be relatively similar. In Downtown lots or on your own lot, they could vary as much as $10k-$15k. 

How to prepare your budget ahead of time for potential site conditions?
The best thing to do, before getting too far into the design process, is a lot walk with an experienced builder, to give homeowners an idea of what conditions are present and what the home design would bring to the lot.  

When building a custom home on a non-developed lot (on your lot builds, downtown Carmel or Zionsville lots), it is a necessity to have a lot walk first. This way, as a homeowner, you are capturing any inconsistencies that could arise during the build and are getting a better idea of what to expect. When building in a development, the builder has taken it upon themselves to make sure that the infrastructure is in place before home development commences. 

It really comes down to finding out what the client wants, what is possible to build on that lot and really giving them a good understanding of how much impact to expect on the budget. From an out lot to a developed lot, the cost implication could be anywhere from $10k to over $100k, depending on site conditions.  


At Old Town Design Group, partnering with our clients is of the utmost importance. By offering complimentary comprehensive lot walks to each client, we are educating our clients by keeping them informed at each step in the process. If you’re interested in scheduling a lot walk, contact the New Home Consultant for your community.