Permits vary widely in different locations. It is important to develop a list for your project – start by checking in with your local building department. Remember the Building Department may only tell you part of the story. The following List – are some of the things I have come across in the past 30 years. My Builder 20 group often discusses permit issues. Jim in Wisconsin tells me he can get a permit in 5 days, while others of us suffer with months even years in the permitting process. In my local area building departments in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Malibu, Ojai, Ventura County, City of Ventura, Santa Barbara and County of Santa Barbara all treat building codes and zoning regulations in different ways.
Are you interested in buying your own piece of earth? There’s nothing more fabulous than having a few acres of your own, and building your own place from the ground up. But, buying land, especially in highly regulated areas like California, can be a lot more risky than buying a home. These days of real estate disclosure for a home buyer have come a long way from the traditional law of “Caveat Emptor” (meaning buyer beware)! Land, however, does not have the same rules. I constantly hear stories like:
“I thought we were buying 80 acres, it turned out we got 65!”
“We had no idea this area was in an ancient landslide. Its almost impossible to build here.”
“We thought we got an amazing deal, $1m for 120 acres, but it turns out its going to cost another $1m to get to the pad before we can even think of starting the house.”
“We bought a small lot in town and it turns out we can’t get water service so we can’t build!”
Unfortunately there isn’t one place to get answers. Many local departments are involved and sometimes have conflicting information.
Here are 35 questions you can ask Or you can get professional help – call me 310 963 7900.
Planning and Zoning
Is it a legal lot? If not, how do I make it legal?
What is the zoning classification of this lot?
Does the Zoning on the property permit my project?
Does the County General Plan permit what I wish to do?
Are any planning permits required prior to building on the lot?
Are there any zoning violations on the lot?
Are there any special building restrictions in this area?
Are there any cultural heritage sites on the property?
Buying land is different than buying a home. You might be thinking “Duhhh,” however you wouldn’t believe some of the situations I have seen, particularly when the land is in an outlying area and not attached to town or city infrastructure.
Here’s one story I hear all the time.
“Well we were visiting from LA (or NYC or Chicago or any big city and going to the country) and found the most beautiful 40 acre piece of land on the top of the mountains looking out over the Pacific for only a million bucks ! (a lot in their city 10,000 square feet – costs $1m)
Flash forward 2 years
“It’s just ridiculous ! The road and the utilities just to get the house are $1m ! We spent $200,000 and countless hours designing our house now they tell us – 2 years to get the permit
We’re putting the property up for sale!”
For some reason people assume once you buy a piece of land – all you do is build. But why would you know this stuff? Lots of realtors don’t know the requirements to build on raw land. Many spend 95% of their careers selling homes and very little land.