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Old 11-19-2014, 03:14 PM   #1
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Hi Folks,

Just registered after finding your forum after a few Google searches for home construction. My questions are most likely repetitive in nature to many threads already here but I believe somewhat unique to my situation. I definitely won't hassle anyone with frivolous thin air price quotes, as I enjoy researching costs anyways.

The story is I am a Michigander and I run a cell phone store. I have been attempting to purchase residential vacant land for years through tax foreclosure auctions and have never made a purchase until last month. The parcels acquired are 12 lots all contiguous in Monroe County in very close proximity to Lake Erie. Since purchasing the lots I paid the summer county and village taxes and have tried to get some research as to the feasibility of constructing a new home there.

The lots are approximately 12 acres altogether as I have been told by surveyors. I have called and emailed a dozen surveyors in southeast Michigan since this purchase in efforts to find a reasonably priced boundary and topography survey to start the project off. I am not sure if this is the proper first step although because I have never done this before.

Many of the surveyors I contacted never replied or called back after I requested a quote with a copy of the quit claim deed and a subdivision plat. Out of the ones that did one seemed entirely incompetent and one has given me actual prices. I have been quoted $2600 for a boundary only survey and $7500 for boundary and topographical.

This land has no improvements on it besides someone is cutting the grass and a dilapidated shed sits on a portion of it with what appears is an abandoned fence project. The subdivision has sewer and water which I have been told by the township will cost $11,500 for connections to, not including the excavation or actual plumbing. When I inquired about the process to obtaining a permit for the water and sewer connections I shockingly was told to draw a map of the property with the sewer lines and proposed lines to the new home, they actually told me a survey was unnecessary. This seems unlikely or a surefire way to open myself up to major headaches.

The waste water plant manager for the township should have prints in their office for the location of the sewer lines I assume I should be able to obtain copies of and in conjunction with the survey and an excavation/sewer company can layout the run to the house.

My first question is should I have a complete site plan with architectural drawings and full survey including topographical and boundary done before any ground is broken or can I piecemeal the project by getting the boundary survey first and contracting the sewer excavation work, perhaps including the driveway simultaneously?

The township is very lax from my perception in comparison to where I live now, but that could change quick doing things the wrong way.

The advantage to me in doing things in steps would obviously be not spending as much money at once and being able to spread the major purchases over a longer amount of time. I believe once the water and sewer are brought in and gas and electric I would have the basement excavation site staked and once that is dug out I would need to do the sub rough plumbing, pour the footings and basement walls and then frame out the house.

Do I have a grasp on this process at all? Will the complete site plan be necessary to start anything?

For the house itself I was thinking about contacting truss manufacturers in Michigan and inquiring as to the largest span with price efficiency in mind, where if after 28' floor trusses are much more expensive and needed to be spaced closer or if it would be more economical to run a beam and post system in the basement to support a large span in the basement. I really would like to build a two story home roughly 40'x80' on a full basement with wrap around decks on each level.


Any suggestions on this fantasy plan?

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Old 11-19-2014, 03:35 PM   #2
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I would think the basement location would come before the water and sewer.

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Old 11-19-2014, 04:21 PM   #3
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Go to your water and sanitation office and see if you can get a photo copy (8"X10") of the property showing the water and sanitation line layout. Most times these maps use the tax maps as the base for the line map. This map will give you an idea of the dimensions of your property and also where you might want to put a house. However, DO NOT start any construction until a surveyor had found the boundary and has done a title search. the reason it cost so much is the surveyor has to have special insurance to provide a guarantee that the work he has done is within the law. The insurance is very expensive.
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Old 11-19-2014, 06:22 PM   #4
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Well, the people that actually have to approve it have told you what they need so I'm not sure why you think crazy people like me on an internet forum would know better than the actual AHJ. LOL

You might also want to touch base with your loan officers to see if they have any requirements. They might want a survey. They will definitely want title insurance. And you should actually get your own title insurance policy before investing any money in construction - just in case. But that is not done by the surveyor, it's done by a Title Company.

If the loan company doesn't need a survey then it's up to your comfort level. If you are building in the middle of 12 acres and it turns out the property line is off by 20 feet then probably no big deal. But if you are building near a property line then you'd probably want a survey before building anything. Doesn't hurt to meet with adjacent landowners and get their opinion on where the lot lines are. Look at the plat maps, look at the road, look at google earth, maybe you can even find lot markers, talk to adjacent owners. If something is inconsistent then that's a red flag and you'd want a survey for sure.

Where would you run the water, gas, electric and sewer to if you haven't started excavation? I'd consider holding off on the driveway. Construction equipment (esp concrete trucks) can be hard on driveways. Maybe put down rock base and pave later after the big trucks have stopped.
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Old 11-19-2014, 08:08 PM   #5
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I thought it might be possible to run the water, sewer, electric and gas to where I would intend on putting the basement and stub it out until I have architectural drawings, but what I'm hearing from you guys is that's not a bright idea

If I didn't get the survey first, and hand drawn sewer lines to the property encroached on other parcels I would be liable, which would be a bummer.

I will be driving down there tomorrow or Friday to try to get a copy of the sewer line map, and make payment on half of the boundary survey invoice.

Thanks for the input
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Old 11-19-2014, 10:47 PM   #6
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You could maybe run electricity to a meter pedestal (overhead or underground), and use that as your temporary electricity. Then run it underground from there to your home later.

I've never seen gas run until there is a meter bracket on the home.

Similar deal for the water as with the electric. You may be able to get a meter pit installed and run a frost free spigot off that to use during construction. Then come off the spigot line for the line to the home later.

You will want to find out the elevation of the sewer line, so you can determine if you can hit it from your basement, how deep the basement can be, etc. This is probably your most important concern. So if the sewer line is 7' deep, you can forget about plumbing in your basement. If the sewer line is 9' deep and the ground is level, but your home will be 400' away, this probably won't work.
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Old 11-20-2014, 03:39 AM   #7
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Go to the local land use office and obtain a copy of the survey. If you actually want it staked out then pay for one. Also get a copy of the plot plans, this you should have gotten with the purchase.
Note: The stakes outlining the property may still be there, it doesn't have to be actual stakes in some parts.
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Old 11-21-2014, 01:30 AM   #8
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The plot plans I have that were posted with the auction listing itself are from 1923, with illegible dimensions and notations, and the legal descriptions from the auction were not 100% accurate with the legal descriptions I have on my quit claim deed, many of which include 20' exclusions on a particular side. This uncertainty is why I was steadfast on obtaining a survey, I unfortunately had underestimated the cost based on prices I know others have paid for 1/2 acre sites extrapolated to 12 acres doesn't fit a linear formula.

Since I purchased the land so inexpensively I also pondered if "land improvements" like utilities on site would drastically increase the price should I flip it before construction. These posts are clarifying what I was dreading in that is an unrealistic plan. Maybe if it were a septic field and well I was putting in this would be more doable.

Cleveman's thoughts on the depth of the sewer main have me thinking I needed this research before considering a particular house plan because the grade of the basement excavation and main placement will determine what I will actually have to work with, unless lifter/grinder pump can be inline with the run to the main compensating for the height. I still haven't the opportunity to visit the township offices to obtain the sanitation maps yet.
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Old 11-21-2014, 06:07 AM   #9
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The land use office will have every single record for that property.
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Old 11-21-2014, 02:38 PM   #10
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So it was platted out as a subdivision 91 years ago and no one ever built on it? I think I would be trying to find out why before spending any more. Flood plain, hazardous waste, inadequate utilities, ghosts -something caused the delay. Hopefully just someone holding it as an investment but it would be trying to find out why.

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