Buying a rural block of land to build your new home

When looking for a block of land to build your dream home, you can often get caught up in the excitement and the possibility. But if you are looking for a tree change and wanting to buy land in a rural area, it is worth stopping to take check and ask a few questions before you sign on the dotted line to purchase the land and start working out the best house site.

Can you build on the land?

Just because you own land doesn't mean you can build a house on it.

We hear too often where people have bought land, only to find that when they lodge their development application they can’t build a home on the land. It is important to do your homework and find out if you can build, and if you can what restrictions there might be. Keep in mind too, that just because you can build a shed doesn't mean you can build a house as they are different classes of building according to planning regulations.

Reasons why you can’t build a new home may be because of one or more of the following:


Site contamination

Proximity to watercourse

Each local government has a Development Plan, which guides decision making with regard to development to ensure there is consistency in decision making. The overall aim of the development plan is to protect everyone’s interest in their local environment and to maintain characters that are the very reasons why people want to live in the area. 
Each parcel of land will have a corresponding Development Zone and Policy Area which will detail the requirements of development. 

You can find the development plan for all council areas here.
Where it is proposed to change land use, for example from agricultural or rural purpose to residential purpose, there is a requirement to assess if any contamination may exist that would mean the intended use isn't appropriate. A form is completed and submitted to the local government authority who will assess the level of risk that may exist. In some instances the council may require a report from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to fully understand the risk in the change of land use. This may come at an additional cost, so it is worth asking the real estate agent what information is available for the land you are considering to purchase.If there is a watercourse running through the property, or in close proximity, it may be worth investigating the potential for flood and what the setback distances there are for any development. These factors may dictate whether you can build and/or define the potential building sites for your new home.

Are there going to be hidden costs to build

Buying the block of land is one thing, being able to afford to build your new home is another. Some simple considerations may assist in determining if the whole package (that is the land and the house) is within your budget.



You will want to carefully consider any site preparation work required when building on a slope, and the potential cost of these works. A steep slope can mean one of two things – large excavation and retaining costs (not to mention impact on the environment); or a split level home or home on stilts to minimise excavation. Designing a home to suit the slope of the land may be advantageous to the environment and your budget, in these situations a custom home design is the only way to go.Rocky outcrops add character to the land, but can create extra costs when building. Choosing a site away from rocky outcrops may be the best approach; although can’t always guarantee that rock won’t be found under the surface. Engineering soil reports may find and report any rock found at your preferred house site, so check the report before making a final commitment.

What are the costs to provide services

There are a number of services that we use everyday, and probably never really question …but on a rural block you need to plan ahead and make provisions for services in and waste out.




When living on a rural block, we need to determine the most appropriate source of water for our homes, gardens and possibly livestock. There are a few options and each comes with their own infrastructure setup and ongoing maintenance costs. Consider which is most appropriate for you and budget accordingly. Water source options for your rural living block include rainwater tanks, dam (where already established), bore, and well (where already established).Wherever we live we need to manage our waste, and this includes wastewater and sewerage. There are guidelines on what systems can be used and where, as it is important to manage sewerage appropriately to avoid any health issues at home or further afield. A separate development application process is in place for wastewater management and approval of a system is required before you can get approval to build on house on your land.
The type of system, its cost and ongoing maintenance requirements are all important considerations when it comes to managing wastewater and sewerage. It is important to do your research as there are also restrictions on how close certain systems can be installed near waterways.
The cost of getting power to a rural block of land can be prohibitive, and today it can be more cost effective to go it alone and be independent of the electricity grid with an off-grid solar system. It is important to have a system designed to you and your family, to meet your lifestyle needs. There are certain infrastructure requirements in setting up an off-grid solar system and making provisions for these in the design of your home, shedding and other outbuildings should be considered.

Infrastructure costs

There can be hidden costs, and costs that just keep adding up when you are building on a rural blank canvas. Just some of the additional infrastructures you need to consider are shedding, driveway access, fencing, and landscaping.

Will you be able to get finance

Some banking institutions have restrictions on the size of rural land to lend money for an everyday home loan. Some may still offer finance, but as a business loan which will often mean higher costs and higher interest rates. Do your homework and investigate finance options for your tree change dream.

How long with planning and approvals take

It will take time to design your new home, and then it will take time to seek all the necessary approvals. You don’t want to rush the design phase, as it is crucial to getting the end product, your new home, right. 
Take the time to plan your home to meet your current and future lifestyle needs; to make your home easy to live in with minimal ongoing maintenance and minimal ongoing living expense.
In a rural setting, a custom designed home is really the only way to go. With space to move why compromise on a house that is designed for a small block.

Good planning will make the development application and building process much smoother and efficient and to importantly ensure your home it just how you want it to be.

In summary

Making the tree change to a rural living block can certainly be rewarding and by taking into consideration the above items when you are on the property hunt will ensure that the land you buy will be life changing for all the right reasons.