Buying Land with Existing Improvements

Hello Carl,

Your website has been a huge help. Thank you for all you do.

My wife and I have found a lot that has had a foundation and basement poured
on it.

The original owner of the lot was not able to complete the project.

The lot has been purchased by a home builder; he is currently selling “as is”.

The home builder commonly works in an area about 45 miles away. He is
selling this lot with the basement around the same price as other lots in the

We feel that this could be a huge opportunity to save money.

We have a set of plans that were to be built on the basement. We were wondering what
we should look at before making this purchase.

We are planning to have our concrete contractor to take a look before going forward.

Do you have any other suggestions?

Thanks! K. & A.

Hi, K & A

The fact that you already have a concrete contractor tells me that you are serious and raring to go.

Even if your concrete contractor thinks it looks OK, you should still have it inspected by the local building inspector, and by a structural engineer (SE). An SE should only cost a few hundred dollars. You can find SE's in the Yellow Pages under “Engineers-Professional-Structural" or through Service Magic (click on Architects & Engineers, then click on Engineer - Structural).

Unfortunately, damage to concrete in an unprotected and unweighted (no house on it) foundation from freezing and heaving earth can remain hidden for years, and the foundation is the most important part of a house. Make the SE inspection a purchase contingency to the seller. In, fact, the seller might (should) pay for it.

Get a market analysis from a local Realtor as to the lot value “as is”. You need to see if you are paying too much for an empty lot in that area.

The “as is” basement has absolutely no value to add to market value, but you have wisely given that basement full value by building the house that it was designed for.

Get a Title Insurance Policy with “no exceptions” at the time you buy the lot. The seller should pay for the policy. This should protect you from any potential liens from unpaid subcontractors or suppliers, breaks in the chain of title, etc. that may be floating out there.

Before you make a final decision to buy the lot, get a separate market analysis from that local Realtor as to the value of the finished value of the house and lot together to be sure you are NOT overbuilding for the area.

Before you make a final decision to buy the lot, run a (several) cost analysis on what it will cost to build the house.

Go to my "Getting Started" page, and using the "Cost to Build Calculator", plug in the answers to the questions. When you have finished, you will have an estimated (approximate) total cost to build your new house in your zip code.

Then, and only then, if the “numbers work” would I make my decision.

You might want to read my “Buying an Unfinished House”.

Sounds like you may have found a good deal.
Good luck,

Carl Heldmann