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The Guide to Buying Land to Build On | Expert Architecture Services in Kansas City

by Hoke Ley

Modern home with horizontal cedar siding, limestone walls, gray brick, and a glass pavilion in Paradise Valley, AZ.

Truly custom architecture and design often begins with a new piece of land. From location to building details, buying property to build on allows you the tangible space necessary for your specific project. However, as architects with years of experience helping our clients scope out land to build on, there are a few things you need to keep in mind while on the search for the perfect plot.


At Hoke Ley Architecture & Interior Design, we make it our business to facilitate a smooth project from beginning to end. If that means consulting with you about potential parcels, then that’s what we’ll do. 


To make the process of buying land as smooth as possible, we’ve put together some ideas to guide you on your search. Once you have an idea of things to look out for when buying land to build on, you’ll be able to make an informed and logical decision about your spot! 

Talk with your architect before you buy your plot

Oftentimes people think of buying land as the first step and acquiring an architect as the second, when in reality, it should be reversed. Buying land to build on is a complicated process, and having the guidance and expertise of an architectural team on your side can save you the heartache of ending up with a chunk of land that you can’t use.


Katie Hoke is one of the owners of Hoke Ley Architecture & Interior Design. Listen to what she has to say about buying land to build on→ embed video



One of our jobs as your architectural team is to give you insight on what to know when buying land to build on. Oftentimes, realtors aren’t as versed in the complexities of zoning, codes, and other property regulations, which can leave you feeling a little blind during the process.


Our expert advice? Sit down for a consultation with us. We’ll discuss the basic parameters of what you’d like to do with the land, whether that be a commercial or residential build. Then, we’ll do due diligence on your site before you sink money into it. 


Due diligence requires a few necessary steps:

You’ll need a feasibility study

Unfortunately, not every piece of land will be exactly right for your project. So, there are a few things you’ll want to be aware of before you sign the deed. A feasibility study is one of the more important steps on our list of what to know when buying land to build on. The function is in the name: we want to make sure your project is feasible on this particular piece of property. 


Feasibility studies begin with understanding the parameters of your project. Important questions to bring to the table when buying land to build on include:


  • Is your project commercial or residential
  • Do you plan to build one or multiple structures? 
  • How big would you like the structures to be? 


Once your architectural team has a substantial understanding of the scope of your project, we can begin to assess the plot or plots you’re looking to build on. This will help us decide if the potential parsels have the necessary attributes to accomplish your goals.


Step number two of a feasibility study is acquiring an individual or a company who can perform it. At Hoke Ley, we are more than happy to assist you with this step. We understand the nature of these studies and have worked closely with folks who perform them. We’ll bring recommendations to the table during our initial consultation


Finally, the actual feasibility study takes place. The checklist typically looks something like this:


Consider the utilities you’ll need for your structure. The standard ones include water, electricity, gas, and sewer. During the feasibility study, you’ll learn which utilities are available for a new build on the piece of land, and even more telling, which ones aren’t.


If certain utilities are unavailable for the site, that’s not necessarily the end of the line. It just means you may have to look further into how to acquire them.


For example, if the land you want to buy does not have access to municipal water, but you’re completely sold on the site, the next steps would be looking into digging a well, or having water hauled in by truck.


Zoning restrictions are simply one of the ways a city makes order out of chaos. There’s a reason cities have different districts for different things. You’d be hard pressed to find a nightclub right next to a daycare, or a recycling facility across the street from a library! As members of organized societies, we enjoy these privileges of buildings going with similar buildings.


That being said, if your intention is to build a multi-level factory complex, but you’re looking at a plot of land in a residential area, chances are the zoning restrictions might nip that idea in the bud. The feasibility study will help determine if your project fits in the desired physical space with relation to the business around it. 

Environmental issues

There are many environmental factors that may make the site inappropriate for your project. Some of them include:


This one can sneak up on you, and it’s a huge reason why the feasibility study is so important. Some land may seem completely fine to build on if you don’t know better, but environmental factors like floodplains actually render it impossible for most standard architectural endeavors. 


There’s nothing more heartbreaking than purchasing a lovely plot of land and then finding out it completely submerges during the wet season. Unless you want to build your apartment complex on stilts, make sure you do your due diligence in this field. 


The question here is: “Does the topography of the site work for the project you want to build?” You can absolutely bring in your architectural team here to help lay out an idea of your proposed structure. This helps us determine how the topography might affect the design. 

Difficult soil

The earth is, of course, the foundation for your new structure, but some soils are more suitable for building than others. A simple soil test determines the strength of the dirt and whether or not it can handle the weight of your proposed plans. Acquiring this testing may be a prerequisite prior to getting a permit to build, so make sure it’s on your to-do list!

Road access

In planned city environments, we can take for granted things like roads and streets to and from the places we frequent. But when purchasing raw land, there might not be easy access to a road or even a trail.


Additionally, sometimes you’ll find pockets of land for sale that are completely bordered by other private land. This would make it impossible to come and go from your site without trespassing over somebody else’s property. 

Set up a site survey

Once you’ve purchased the land, you’ll need to hire a professional land surveyor to come out to your new property. A site survey serves to map out the physical characteristics of your land. It will produce documents with the exact dimensions of the parcel that your architects can use to further plan for your project. 


During the surveying process, the surveyor physically walks through your land, placing stakes or metal rods on the corners of your site. These indicate the boundaries of your property (which may come in handy down the line if you have particularly troublesome neighbors). They’ll take note of both man-made and natural features of the land, including:


  • Streams
  • Roads
  • Ponds
  • Pre-existing buildings 
  • Ditches
  • Utility access structures


Once the process is complete, the surveyor will mark up the information in official documents which help us (your architects) visualize where features like your front and side yards will go. At this time, your architectural team can also help determine the need for razing or bulldozing to make room for your new structures. 

Get started with the design!

Once your due diligence comes up clean and you acquire your new property, it’s time to start the process of getting your project from a dream to reality! This is when your architectural firm will come in full force. Working with an architectural team for the completion of your project ensures each step is completed with precision and accuracy.


You may also start thinking about hiring a general contractor for your project. General contractors are responsible for the construction portion of your project, including hiring laborers, ordering materials, and creating a timeline. It’s important to know how to choose a contractor who will guarantee the safe and timely completion of your build.

Ready to buy some land? 

Starting your relationship with your architectural team during your land search poses many advantages. Our in-depth consultation allows us to lay out the facets of your project and scope of work so that we can get the most out of your feasibility study. It also gives you a space to bring your ideas and get industry advice regarding your sites. 


So, whether you’re just beginning your land search, or you’ve got a few prospects, sit down with Hoke Ley Architecture & Interior Design to discuss the best method for buying land to build on. We are centrally located in Lawrence, KS, and we offer architecture and design services to the greater Kansas City region and clients across the country! Consult with us today about prospective sites, and let us help you find the perfect plot for your project.