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TL/DR -

What do I need to know about purchasing land to build a custom house on it? 

 

Mo' info

 

Wife and I have agreed that we want to buy a large piece of property and build a custom house. We are a couple years away so we have plenty of time to plan and want to build our dream house. I was hoping to see if any of you guys have done this before and can offer some advice. I am a former home inspector and construction supervisor so I'm comfortable with the construction of the home and will be the acting supervisor/GC for my home. 

What we know for now:

-The property will be roughly 50-100 acres.

-Colonial style very similar to this.

-The exterior will be all brick on all sides. It will cost me but I want what I want. 

-10 ceilings

-wide open interior

-Master bedroom on the first floor

-Large roof overhangs (to protect the house from water)

-Budget 1 Million. (Includes the land)

 

Up in the air:

Location. I want WV but the wife isn't feeling it. For now were looking in norther, central MD. A nice piece of property with 59 acres just sold for ~$500k. That's doable for us. 

-Floor plans

-Septic or sewer

-Basement/no basement. (Wife wants one, Im not sure we need one.)

-What am I clearly not thinking of? 

 

Edited by STEADYMOBBIN 22
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I've been in construction in your area pretty much my entire adult life. I'm now into commercial, but was involved in residential for many years.  My couple of shillings: 1. If you're gonna

Also good point to consider- you’ll have to either run wire above ground to the house or run it underground. Assuming you run it underground put something in to mark it above ground (or with plantings

100% agree and 100% think it makes all the sense in the world. We're going with the two story colonial. 

I would love to do this for retirement, but with less acreage.  We’re in central Indiana, and I’m thinking 5-10 acres would be plenty for us.  Our current house will be paid off in 2 years, so it’s definitely doable. 

Following.

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Golly, I can't help but think the $1 million budget is a bit optimistic if that includes 50+ acres of land.  About how many square feet of finished living space are you looking at?  

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No.

 

Eta... That came across a little wrong. Exciting stuff. I'm an architect with a focus on residential interiors...I'll offer whatever advice you'd like and/or I have time to give.

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Just now, GoBirds said:

On a tract of land that size I doubt you will have an option for sewer, plan on septic. 

Yeah, most likely. If we shift gears and go for far less much closer to DC, the land shrinks immensely due to both cost and availability. 

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7 minutes ago, STEADYMOBBIN 22 said:

Yeah, most likely. If we shift gears and go for far less much closer to DC, the land shrinks immensely due to both cost and availability. 

That sounds like a terrible idea, go away from DC. Far, far away. 

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18 minutes ago, El Floppo said:

Very true. You've designed a lot of houses?

He only needs to design one. But won't he need a architect to draw up architectural plans or at least one to sign off on his plan?

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8 minutes ago, Mile High said:

He only needs to design one. But won't he need a architect to draw up architectural plans or at least one to sign off on his plan?

Might just need an engineer, or could have his contractor hire one. Often times dependent on square footage. Eta2...once a location is finalized, check in with local building dept before designing anything to find out all the requirements for zoning, filing, sign-offs, etc.

I'm obviously biased, but if I looked back at my first project- with a BA and Masters behind me...not optimal. So while he only has to design one, he also has to live in it. But yeah, the first project was fun. 

Eta...and I was asking because it sounded like he'd done it before, wasn't trying to be antagonist.

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2 hours ago, El Floppo said:

No.

 

Eta... That came across a little wrong. Exciting stuff. I'm an architect with a focus on residential interiors...I'll offer whatever advice you'd like and/or I have time to give.

Thank you very much! I was not joking about the designing of it all being my favorite part, but Im sure as you've seen a thousand times, Im gonna miss something. 

If we get to the point where we need one I'd much rather work with you than a non FBG. What we have in mind is incredible simple:

Massive footprint,

Large open foyer- large enough for the 18' Christmas tree. Undecided on a grand staircase or a more secluded style. Staircase will be very wide at either location. 

2 bedrooms on the first floor, opposite sides of the house. Dedicated laundry room in the master bdrm, both with bathrooms obviously. 

2nd floor, 3 bedrooms with their own full baths, a hall laundry room /linen closet. 

Attached 4 car garage, one blocked off from the others for trash only. (I have a pickup I purchased just for yardwork that will be converted to a trash/junk hauler since I likely wont have a trash company out there). 

 

See, real simple. :lol:

 

Edited by STEADYMOBBIN 22
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2 minutes ago, El Floppo said:

Might just need an engineer, or could have his contractor hire one. Often times dependent on square footage. Eta2...once a location is finalized, check in with local building dept before designing anything to find out all the requirements for zoning, filing, sign-offs, etc.

I'm obviously biased, but if I looked back at my first project- with a BA and Masters behind me...not optimal. So while he only has to design one, he also has to live in it. But yeah, the first project was fun. 

Eta...and I was asking because it sounded like he'd done it before, wasn't trying to be antagonist.

I have not built one from the ground up but have rebuilt a few. I rebuilt them to the way they were before so everything was fairly standard. 

I dont think you have come off as an antagonist. 

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21 minutes ago, STEADYMOBBIN 22 said:

Thank you very much! I was not joking about the designing of it all being my favorite part, but Im sure as you've seen a thousand times, Im gonna miss something. 

If we get to the point where we need one I'd much rather work with you than a non FBG. What we have in mind is incredible simple:

Massive footprint,

Large open foyer- large enough for the 18' Christmas tree. Undecided on a grand staircase or a more secluded style. Staircase will be very wide at either location. 

2 bedrooms on the first floor, opposite sides of the house. Dedicated laundry room in the master bdrm, both with bathrooms obviously. 

2nd floor, 3 bedrooms with their own full baths, laundry room, linen closet. 

Attached 4 car garage, one blocked off from the others for trash only. (I have a pickup I purchased just for yardwork that will be converted to a trash/junk hauler since I likely wont have a trash company out there). 

 

See, real simple. :lol:

 

I would budget another Mil. 

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2 minutes ago, DA RAIDERS said:

very cool.  why such a big house?

the wife and i would love to this, but with a much smaller house.  it will just be the 2 of us.

Curious about this too.

I assume all the bedrooms are accounted for (kids, in-laws, etc). 

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2 hours ago, johnnycakes said:

Golly, I can't help but think the $1 million budget is a bit optimistic if that includes 50+ acres of land.  About how many square feet of finished living space are you looking at?  

If I were to hire a home builder, no way. I'd prolly be out of budget by two or three hundred thousand. Im the GC on this project. Im getting multiple bids from each sub; excavation/foundation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, framing, lumber packages, roofing, drywall, trim, paint and flooring is always last. 

I have to meet all of them individually. I let them know that I am getting competing bids and ask that they sharpen their pencils. They submit their bids, we make change orders, we sign contracts and they need to produce. I still need to schedule all the work, get the permits, meet the inspectors, all my subs, their subs and their sub's sub :rolleyes:. It's a lot of work and coordination but if you're organized and know what your doing its just planning and communication. 

 

What I dont know about is really the land portion and what to look for. 

 

Square footage wise we're looking at about 5k. 

Edited by STEADYMOBBIN 22
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16 minutes ago, DA RAIDERS said:

very cool.  why such a big house?

the wife and i would love to this, but with a much smaller house.  it will just be the 2 of us.

 

12 minutes ago, El Floppo said:

Curious about this too.

I assume all the bedrooms are accounted for (kids, in-laws, etc). 

Legacy house. We want to leave the estate in a trust for future generations. Also vanity. We want the long driveway with the trees on both sides leading up to the massive colonial brick house where the wife and run around stark naked and I pee off the front porch when I walk the dogs. 

So yes, for the kids, grandkids, family, and friends. We're not huge on entertaining, EXCEPT for the holidays. We hope to continue to have massive holiday parties until we croak. Ideally, in a perfect world, all the kids and their kids would stay with us for some portion of the holidays and we want the means to make that a possibility, even if it is far fetched. 

 

We want the first floor to essentially be our old timers retirement condo. The upstairs is just for guests, we wont ever use it. We've discussed a larger, sprawling rambler because its more practical but we just cant fathom not having a colonial style house. 

Edited by STEADYMOBBIN 22
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2 hours ago, STEADYMOBBIN 22 said:

The exterior will be all brick on all sides. It will cost me but I want what I want. 

A friend of mine is planning on starting with siding on his house and then adding brick himself later. He worked with a bricklayer for a few years. The slab will extend past the siding a few inches.

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When I was six years old, my father said to me: "Son, stocks may rise and fall. Utilities and transportation systems may collapse. People are no damn good. But they will always need land. And they'll pay through the nose to get it." "Remember," my father said, "Land!"

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Just now, Dezbelief said:

A friend of mine is planning on starting with siding on his house and then adding brick himself later. He worked with a bricklayer for a few years. The slab will extend past the siding a few inches.

I'm too old to do a lot of this stuff anymore. I can do the framing and trim but I wont be. 

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30 minutes ago, STEADYMOBBIN 22 said:

 

If I were to hire a home builder, no way. I'd prolly be out of budget by two or three hundred thousand. Im the GC on this project. Im getting multiple bids from each sub; excavation/foundation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, framing, lumber packages, roofing, drywall, trim, paint and flooring is always last. 

I have to meet all of them individually. I let them know that I am getting competing bids and ask that they sharpen their pencils. They submit their bids, we make change orders, we sign contracts and they need to produce. I still need to schedule all the work, get the permits, meet the inspectors, all my subs, their subs and their sub's sub :rolleyes:. It's a lot of work and coordination but if you're organized and know what your doing its just planning and communication. 

 

What I dont know about is really the land portion and what to look for. 

 

Square footage wise we're looking at about 5k. 

With lumber prices and brick you will be above $100/sf by a good bit I would think. 

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1 hour ago, STEADYMOBBIN 22 said:

 

If I were to hire a home builder, no way. I'd prolly be out of budget by two or three hundred thousand. Im the GC on this project. Im getting multiple bids from each sub; excavation/foundation, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, framing, lumber packages, roofing, drywall, trim, paint and flooring is always last. 

I have to meet all of them individually. I let them know that I am getting competing bids and ask that they sharpen their pencils. They submit their bids, we make change orders, we sign contracts and they need to produce. I still need to schedule all the work, get the permits, meet the inspectors, all my subs, their subs and their sub's sub :rolleyes:. It's a lot of work and coordination but if you're organized and know what your doing its just planning and communication. 

 

What I dont know about is really the land portion and what to look for. 

 

Square footage wise we're looking at about 5k. 

I've been in construction in your area pretty much my entire adult life. I'm now into commercial, but was involved in residential for many years. 

My couple of shillings:

1. If you're gonna be building in northern Maryland, spend the money for a good geotechnical evaluation when your site exploration is performed. The rock up there is funky as hell and it's not consistent.

2. Run a separate plumbing line to every fixture and have shutoff valves on each in your utility area. The plumber ain't gonna like this - he'll want to split closer to the fixtures - but just do it.

3. It sounds like you're going to have some large entertainment areas. I'd plot out where you're gonna have furniture and think about putting some electrical outlets in the floor for those areas not against a wall. Comes in handy if you are going to have floor lamps (or need data ports) and don't want cords running across the floor. 

4. In relation to #3, however many outlets you think you need - double it.

5. This already sounds like a done deal because you're way more experienced than the average guy so please don't be offended but...... I've seen relationships broken when folks GC their own houses. Hopefully you won't have an outside job when you're building the house, because you're going to be full-time on your place. It's incredibly stressful. For your subs - unless you know them very well, you're a one-off. They'll leave you hanging for a spell so they can jump on a project for a GC they'll work for over & over.

6. Sounds like you're gonna have some pretty hefty floor joist spans. Don't chintz on these. Code is fine, but you can still end up with bouncy floors and be legal. I'd say if you're over 80% of allowable span length, either close up the spacing or deepen the joist.

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40 minutes ago, Uruk-Hai said:

I've been in construction in your area pretty much my entire adult life. I'm now into commercial, but was involved in residential for many years. 

My couple of shillings:

1. If you're gonna be building in northern Maryland, spend the money for a good geotechnical evaluation when your site exploration is performed. The rock up there is funky as hell and it's not consistent.

2. Run a separate plumbing line to every fixture and have shutoff valves on each in your utility area. The plumber ain't gonna like this - he'll want to split closer to the fixtures - but just do it.

3. It sounds like you're going to have some large entertainment areas. I'd plot out where you're gonna have furniture and think about putting some electrical outlets in the floor for those areas not against a wall. Comes in handy if you are going to have floor lamps (or need data ports) and don't want cords running across the floor. 

4. In relation to #3, however many outlets you think you need - double it.

5. This already sounds like a done deal because you're way more experienced than the average guy so please don't be offended but...... I've seen relationships broken when folks GC their own houses. Hopefully you won't have an outside job when you're building the house, because you're going to be full-time on your place. It's incredibly stressful. For your subs - unless you know them very well, you're a one-off. They'll leave you hanging for a spell so they can jump on a project for a GC they'll work for over & over.

6. Sounds like you're gonna have some pretty hefty floor joist spans. Don't chintz on these. Code is fine, but you can still end up with bouncy floors and be legal. I'd say if you're over 80% of allowable span length, either close up the spacing or deepen the joist.

1. Good to know, will look in to this more even if not in northern MD. 
 

2) Yes. 
 

3) something to consider. I’m not big on the floor outlets but if you plan ahead they do make sense. 
 

4)Yes. Although I was talking with the wife about wall switches for light fixtures. I don’t think we are going to have a need for them with smart lighting. Less eye pollution on the walls. 
 

5) I know- That’s a caveat to not not being an establish GC who gives them work on the daily. I am working some extra time in the schedule for multiple delays for exactly what you describe. I’ll be able to absorb a few hits but they can’t al leave me stranded. 
 

6)Not skipping anywhere in the framing. Going overboard there. Can’t stand squeaky floors and/or cracked floor tiles. 

 

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

 

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49 minutes ago, Uruk-Hai said:

Sounds like you're gonna have some pretty hefty floor joist spans. Don't chintz on these. Code is fine, but you can still end up with bouncy floors and be legal. I'd say if you're over 80% of allowable span length, either close up the spacing or deepen the joist.

100% in agreement here.  Go to the next depth of joist.

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Re: #4> How are you going to turn the  overhead lights on/off when the internet goes out, possibly for quite some time in a rural area, without wall switches? Or, how will guests unfamiliar with the home automation navigate in the dark?

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5 minutes ago, STEADYMOBBIN 22 said:

1. Good to know, will look in to this more even if not in northern MD. 
 

2) Yes. 
 

3) something to consider. I’m not big on the floor outlets but if you plan ahead they do make sense. 
 

4)Yes. Although I was talking with the wife about wall switches for light fixtures. I don’t think we are going to have a need for them with smart lighting. Less eye pollution on the walls. 
 

5) I know- That’s a caveat to not not being an establish GC who gives them work on the daily. I am working some extra time in the schedule for multiple delays for exactly what you describe. I’ll be able to absorb a few hits but they can’t al leave me stranded. 
 

6)Not skipping anywhere in the framing. Going overboard there. Can’t stand squeaky floors and/or cracked floor tiles. 

 

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

 

@Uruk-Hai ...fantastic advises!

#2...interesting. that's a lot of pipe in the walls. I typically also have the shutoffs local to the room so if something happens at a fixture, you're right there to shut it off. Cleaner to have them all in one location...can you expand on the reasoning a bit?

#3.. furniture plans are a huge help for electrical, lighting and mechanical layouts. Definitely recommend. And yeah...I do a lot of contract work for interior designers who all love including floor or table lamps (they make money on these vs architectural recessed fixtures). Can't tell you how many times they don't think about having enough floor outlets to power them...sometimes hard to do in NYC apts.

#4...be consistent with heights and locations of switches and other wall devices. Set a height that's comfortable to you (usually 36-42" aff for switches and slightly lower than eye level (5'-ish) for t-stats and other panels that require you to look. 

#5...can't agree with UH any more highly. You know the biz and are bidding, so won't get killed by typical stuff. But it's the coordination and schedule that's where GCs earn their money imo. One sub or delivery going wrong and the project grinds to a halt with other subsequent work depending on it. It's also helpful if subs have relationships...worth a little more if that's the case imo.

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14 minutes ago, Rustoleum said:

Re: #4> How are you going to turn the  overhead lights on/off when the internet goes out, possibly for quite some time in a rural area, without wall switches? Or, how will guests unfamiliar with the home automation navigate in the dark?

I kissed the automation part. Would recommend keypad- like lutron- lighting along with remote/app. I assume that's happening. One device, six buttons with various combinations of lights and moods.

Eta...kissed, missed...whatever.

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2 minutes ago, El Floppo said:

@Uruk-Hai ...fantastic advises!

#2...interesting. that's a lot of pipe in the walls. I typically also have the shutoffs local to the room so if something happens at a fixture, you're right there to shut it off. Cleaner to have them all in one location...can you expand on the reasoning a bit?

 

Some of it's what you said, Flop - they are all in one place. It's easier to turn a bunch of valves that are next to each other than it is to run from room to room.

Also - if the pipe bursts below the local room shutoff, you don't have to shut down the entire house. 

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5 hours ago, Sea Duck said:

When I was six years old, my father said to me: "Son, stocks may rise and fall. Utilities and transportation systems may collapse. People are no damn good. But they will always need land. And they'll pay through the nose to get it." "Remember," my father said, "Land!"

:lmao: grizzled old men

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My dad used to own a small construction company in Michigan. He built the house I grew up in (10 acres) then bought 80 acres about 5 miles down the road. We built another place down there that they moved to when I graduated HS. My brother also designed and built his own house. None of this makes me an expert.
1. Drainage- try to visit any prospective property in the spring of possible and see where the water is/goes. 

2. The further off the main road you go just keep in mind you have to build the driveway up. If you lay asphalt make sure they lay it thick (ie don’t just go cheapest guy). 

3. Geothermal- it’s fantastic. Costly on the front end, but my bro’s heating and cooling bills are nothing. 

4. Consider something like this. Mower, snowblower/plow, front end loader, brush hog, forklift, pretty much everything. 

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10 hours ago, Snorkelson said:

Oh and get a generator that runs off the gas supply, and kicks on automatically if there’s an outage. Like this

If you’re in a rural area you may not be a priority. 

Definitely this.

Also, you need to look hard at internet options if that's important to you. A lot of times in rural areas, even if there's cable running down the road, the cable companies will not run it to a home that's set way back off of the road. My aunt has this issue and can only get DSL/satellite. For her, it's not a big deal because she lives alone and only uses it for web browsing. But having super high-speed may be an issue for you.

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17 hours ago, Sea Duck said:

When I was six years old, my father said to me: "Son, stocks may rise and fall. Utilities and transportation systems may collapse. People are no damn good. But they will always need land. And they'll pay through the nose to get it." "Remember," my father said, "Land!"

Asheville area...home prices are 2-3x what they were 10 years ago, land prices still going for 50 cents on the dollar.

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26 minutes ago, Uruk-Hai said:

Definitely this.

Also, you need to look hard at internet options if that's important to you. A lot of times in rural areas, even if there's cable running down the road, the cable companies will not run it to a home that's set way back off of the road. My aunt has this issue and can only get DSL/satellite. For her, it's not a big deal because she lives alone and only uses it for web browsing. But having super high-speed may be an issue for you.

Oh yeah, my folks have a real hard time with reliable internet and cell service simply because they’re in a very low population density area. The satellite internet is frustratingly inefficient. 

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Also good point to consider- you’ll have to either run wire above ground to the house or run it underground. Assuming you run it underground put something in to mark it above ground (or with plantings) and run whatever wire you might think you will eventually need. Cable, internet, etc if available will have to connect to main service at the road. 
 

The 80 down the road was partly wooded, but we also planted a few thousand pine trees as well as some maples and oaks. Lots of apple and pear trees as well but those take some maintenance. Mainly there for the deer. 20-25 years later we have pine groves dotting the property (also good for wildlife). 
Since you’re potentially designing a legacy property, maybe make some secret passageways like Webster had in his house. Just seems cool to say “let’s go downstairs” and open up the grandfather clock to find a fireman pole or something. 

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Just a quick couple of items to think about,

Check for any easements that are attached to the property

I would imagine you will need to run all utilities into the property.   gas, electric, water, sewer etc.  All can be expensive so upgrade to the most largest size and volume that you could ever need and then add 25%. Expanding or upgrading later will cost even more than the original costs to run.  

Check for mineral rights on property. If you won't own them, think about what could happen if someone else wants to drill for oil or gas or mine for some minerals. 

Inspect for soil conditions, especially if there are any expansive clays. Then engineer accordingly

 

Gotta run to a golf game. I will try and check back in if you have any questions or to add additional thoughts  

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If you have a well for your water supply dig it deeper than you need to, water tables seem to be getting further down these days. I know a few people who have had to put a new well in because theirs no longer has access to water.

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Just now, Snorkelson said:

If you have a well for your water supply dig it deeper than you need to, water tables seem to be getting further down these days. I know a few people who have had to put a new well in because theirs no longer has access to water.

 

Thats kinda scary to read. 

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28 minutes ago, jps said:

 

Inspect for soil conditions, especially if there are any expansive clays. Then engineer accordingly

 

8 minutes ago, Snorkelson said:

If you have a well for your water supply dig it deeper than you need to, water tables seem to be getting further down these days. I know a few people who have had to put a new well in because theirs no longer has access to water.

Both of these are good points and what I was referring to when I said earlier to get a thorough geotechnical exploration done.

In addition to the soil material @jps mentions, there is also a good amount of porous and pinnacled limestone up above Frederick and Westminster. You're gonna get differential settlement whether you put in a basement or you don't (basement's liable to make it worse). Since this is only a house, your loads on the bearing materials are pretty light so it'll mostly just manifest as cracks where walls meet ceilings. It's going to happen even on non-load bearing walls, so just a heads up. Nothing a little caulk and paint won't fix every few years.

I agree with @Snorkelson - drill that well to China. 

You're talking about building a dream house.....a legacy home. Most of the best money you'll spend won't be visible. Get the site, structure, utilities, and mechanicals right. The rest is aesthetics.

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19 hours ago, Sea Duck said:

When I was six years old, my father said to me: "Son, stocks may rise and fall. Utilities and transportation systems may collapse. People are no damn good. But they will always need land. And they'll pay through the nose to get it." "Remember," my father said, "Land!"

How's Ms Teschmacher doing?

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  • STEADYMOBBIN 22 changed the title to Building a custom house on land - Early planning phase - What do I need to know about capital gains?

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