On Tom Landis’ site OwnerBuilder.com I read the following quotation and it makes eminent sense:
“Always design a thing by considering it in its larger context: a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.” Eliel Saarinen
Before even considering buying your piece of land try, as far as possible, to visit it in every type of weather. Be there when the wind blows, be there when the rain falls, be there in the heat of the midday sun, be there when the sun rises, be there when it sets.
For the past two years I have lived in an apartment in an area in which I had always longed to live. Unfortunately (or fortunately as it turns out for me) I could not afford to buy there. Thank heavens!
Having lived here for eight seasons, I cannot wait to move from here. The wind is diabolical. It whips down the mountain, across the bay for weeks on end. Nothing grows, nothing can withstand this wind. Whilst I love the elements and enjoy a brisk walk along the beach in the throes of a south-easter, to live up here on top of the mountain with the wind howling down the chimney and into every crack, nook, crevice and cranny windy season upon windy season would be more than I could bear.
I know you have to pay a price to live on the coast but there are spots along the coastline where it is, if not wind-free, at least a place where you could be sheltered and erect that pergola or position your house so it is not in the teeth of the south-easter or north-wester. It is important to take those factors into consideration.
Consider every single factor when purchasing the piece of land on which you intend to build and live in conjunction with your needs. Think of things like...
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- Shopping centres
- Train station
- Bus route
- Distance from work
- Informal settlements
- Town planning
If you are looking for a country retreat, spend some time in those areas, speak to the locals, speak to the local agents, visit the home industries, speak to the owner of that restaurant in the little Karoo town you see yourself living, find out about tourist season, engage in conversation with the local B&Bs - you will be amazed how much you will learn.
Read the local rags – find out about crime in the area, safety and security. It really is important to know all these things. Find out about house prices and land prices in the area. The estate agents should also be able to provide you with activity over the last several months so you can see what house prices and land prices in that area have done in conjunction with what is being asked now.
Just recently someone I know bought a little cottage for a snap in little country “dorp” – lo and behold, two months later he hears that one of the largest corporations in South Africa is moving its headquarters there. Now this could be a good thing if you’re thinking of renting your place out in the meantime before you can afford to move into the country or it could be awful if you were wanting to escape the rat race.
Be sure you speak to the local authorities wherever you intend to purchase and find out if anything’s afoot. The library is a great source of information; very often public libraries have on display for signing purposes, petitioning and objections the designs and plans of developers who propose to build on that pristine slope or the bank of that river. It would be awful to buy your dream plot in your dream area only to discover that little “Tuscany” is going to be built on the slopes behind you or Balmoral Castle which is going to obscure your view.
Once you have decided on the area and location, it's then a good time to start originating that bond.