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  • Writer's pictureMaria Luisa Castellanos

Are you tired of looking at old houses and thinking of building a house from scratch?

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Inside a living room of  a modern house

So now that you’ve spent enough time working out of your house, you realize that your house is too small for your growing family. But after looking at many old houses you realize you really don’t like anything you see.

What do you need to do to build a new house from scratch?

Step one would be to find the right property. In many of the established neighborhoods, you are not going to find vacant land. You are going to have to buy an existing house and tear it down. In south Miami-Dade, or in the western suburbs, you still may be able to buy a vacant lot. However, in the central city, in places like Coral Gables, if you want to build on a vacant lot, you may have to buy an existing house and tear it down.

To build a new house, you will likely have to own the land free and clear. Nobody is going to give you a loan where another bank has a mortgage on the land. There may be a bank that will finance both for you, but you need to look around. Not all banks do construction loans.

Once you have the financing in place, make the offer and negotiate the price. There are many things that will drive the price of the land – the soil conditions, the attractiveness of the neighborhood, whether there are good schools in the area, whether the lot is on sewer or septic tank, the size of the lot, whether it is on a main thoroughfare, and the zoning.

Before you buy the property, you should get soil borings to determine the soil capacity and determine whether it is on sewer or not. You can also determine how much you can build by analyzing the zoning.

Look into the property taxes and insurance you will have to pay once you own the property. Will you also pay Homeowners’ Association fees? You want to make sure that you will be able to pay for all of these and not get in over your head.

Make sure that you get a survey and consider getting an Environmental Phase I Site Assessment. This will tell you whether you have underground pollution on the property.

Sometimes you can get a good deal by having the seller finance the land for you. But if you want to build, they will have to subordinate the property to the mortgage holder of the house. Not many people will want to do that. On the other hand, you may want to hold onto the property for a few years before building, and in that case, as long as you don’t have a pre-payment clause in the mortgage with the seller, it may be advantageous to you.

Once you close and have the financing in place, you can begin to imagine the design of your new home. But before you actually take the steps to build the house, there are many questions you should ask yourself. Read about that here.

As Miami architects with offices in Coral Gables, we have designed many houses, additions, and remodels. We can help you with the process of buying the property, analyzing what can be built there to actually helping you design the house, and getting the plans permitted.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in buying land or a teardown for a future house, call me or email me. I can help you. If it is someone you know, please send them this article.

If you want to read more about the residential design process, click on this link:

And if you are particularly concerned about green and energy-saving ideas, read these two blogs here and here.


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