Questions to ask when buying a lot in a subdivision

Before buying any land or house, you should ask the most important questions before closing a deal. Find here all answers to the most important questions to ask when buying a lot in a subdivision.

Here you’ll find all the answers when purchasing a new subdivision to build your home. 5-Minutes that can save you thousands of Dollars and a lot of unforeseen problems.

Do I have to build with a specific builder?

No. You can pick your own builder. You need to make sure that your building plan will be approved from the local city adminstration.

Do I have to build the house immediately or within any time frame?

In general, if there is nothing specific outlined from the city. You don’t have to build your home within a specific time frame. But some cities actually require that.

For example, the City of Lincoln in Kansas want’s to make sure that their city will be populated. Therefore, they require the owner to build a house within a year.

Once I begin construction of my home, how long do I have to complete it?

You are not allowed to build forever. Therefore, most cities require to build the home within one year of commencing construction.

Furthermore, the utility connections, the driveway and the landscaping has to be finished as well.

My House Plan is ready for approval – how long will it take to get my plan approved?

That depends on two things. First of all, the correct documents that needs to be sent for approval. Make sure that the preliminary plan, that is required to get this process started, is correct and doesn’t have any errors.

Secondly, you’ll need to be aware of the fact, that red-lined plans will not be approved. It’s very important to understand, that all final plans have to include all preliminary reviewed red-lined changes.

And thirdly, every city has a slightly different administration process. However, as an average duration the approval process can be done within 7-10 business days.

What needs to be considered when approving house plans?

A local architect with a track record of building homes in your area is highly recommended.

Local Architects are usually familiar with local guidelines and also usually do work together with local General contractors. In particular, an architect with an excellent reputation of your area knows the requirements of consistent architectural treatment of the building.

They will pay attention to all the mandatory details as well as the city’s recommended style of the home. Especially subdivision guidelines contain all the specific details for plan approval.

For instance, if every house was built in a lowcountry style, you might not get any permission if you decide to build a Tiki-Hut Home. Furthermore, you’ll find more restrictions within the building code.

To illustrate, if windows are built with shutters on the front side of the house it’s required to build the same shutters on all other sides of the home.

Do I need special approval for any Home Improvements?

Short answer is yes. Any improvements, or any additional attached-buildings have to be approved prior to building. Regardless if it’s a swimming pool, gazebos, any decks, fences or playgrounds.

To get approval and the building permit, what information needs to be submitted?

Please always reach out to your local architect to ensure you get all the necessary information, that is specifically for your city. However, there are usually three sets of plans that have to be submitted.

  1. Floor Plan
  2. Elevation
  3. Railing & Spindle Design

Swimming Pool

Furthermore, if you are going to plan a swimming pool a plan needs to be provided that shows the exact location of the swimming pool. Additional it’s required to send detailed plans about the heater location, or Central Air condition including Pump and Filter Systems.

I also advise to discuss the screening materials with your local architect and also to double check with the city about specific material requirements.


Moreover, a detailed drawing of the the location of the fence is usually also required. That includes information about height, style, total measurements and seize of a wall plus the choice of your materials.

Remaining Walls

Very similarly to the fence drawing are remaining walls. It’s important to check the local guidelines what materials are allowed. And also what specific location the remaining walls can or can not be built.


In the same way are gazebos treated. If you can’t find any detailed information always reach out to the local planning department and ask for further details. Always try to get every missing information to make sure you know all mandatory guidelines and your plan approval.

Dog Kennels

Consequently, check also your local guidelines for dog kennels. It helps to provide detailed drawings. Feel free to add photos of your proposed kennel. Any detailed information will help the administration to clearly understand your submission.

Of course, make sure to check the guidelines if any dog kennel is allowed. You want to avoid any mistakes and increase your to get your building plan approval from your local authority.


Besides that, also Playsets that do have an enclosure require usually a detailed drawing including further information about location relative to the home and the lot, the Playset design itself and it’s materials.

Can I have any colors on my Shingles?

Usually every city guideline has some specific color limitations. Most of the time, they are referred to so called “weatherwood” colors. Please always check your local city guidelines for plan approval and make sure that you have the latest updates on specifications.

Are Fiber Cement Siding or HardiPlank materials allowed to use for building?

Both materials are not considered as natural materials. But in many communities those materials are allowed to use for building.

Can I use aluminum fascia in any of my subdivisions?

Usually, aluminum fascia is not allowed to use.

Are lamp posts installed by the city or any other service provider?

Best is to coordinate with your general contractor. Many times, the installation of the lamp post will be done from the builder. It’s important to mention, that the deed restrictions usually contain an installation guide. It’s most common that an unswitched photocell has to operate the lamp.

Is it required to place the lamp post to a specific location?

Always double check with your local architect, the builder or general contractor about detailed information, where you have to place the lamp post at your subdivision.

Who is responsible for my mailbox installation?

The installation of your mailbox is usually not automatically provided by the provider. Make sure you know the exact location the mailbox has to be installed. If you have the proper tools and know-how to setup your mailbox, you can do it yourself. Or just simple ask your general contractor.

Who is going to maintain the open space of my subdivision?

Depending on your individual situation, the open space of the subdivision can be maintained by your home owner association.

If your subdivision is part of a community that requires the membership of an Home Owner Association (HOA) you can actively participate to discuss management, finances, maintenance activities and responsibilites.

Most HOA Fees have to be paid monthly. The goal of any Home Owner Association is to keep the community in good standings and to improve standards and quality of life.

What are the parking rules outside my subdivision regarding my Trailer, Tiny Home, Mobile Home, RV or Boat?

Usually, communities allow only for a short period of time vehicles to be parked outside your subdivision. That includes your driveway or yard. Maintenance, unloading items or for example, loading furniture for moving purpose are relevant events.

Does my garage have to be on the high side of my lot?

The main purpose for that reason is because of grading. To ensure that buildings and attachments to the buildings follow the master grading plan, it’s usually mandatory that garages have to be built on the high side of each lot.

Another reason for that guideline is the fact, that it protects each subdivision for any disputes over lot line grades. Furthermore, excessive filling, or big expensive retaining walls.

If I need to alleviate, how should I grade my lot?

Firstly, you need to keep in mind that the municipal engineer always have to approve deviations from the master plan. No matter what edits or changes you have in mind.

The master grading plan is the basis for the finish grading of each lot. Meaning, your lot must always conform to your master grading plan. Furthermore, the master plan also accommodates the drainage for your subdivision.

It seems my neighbor has graded his property incorrectly – what should I do?

What if my neighbor has graded his property improperly?

Try to resolve lot line grading problems directly with your neighbor. If you are not able to find an agreement, it’s recommend to higher a professional engineer.

Often times home owner believe that the local city authority will resolve any drainage problems. In fact, the local municipality is not responsible for that issue and will not try to resolve any conflicts to this matter.


As you can see, before you make any final decisions, consider a lot of questions to ask when buying a lot in a subdivision. Furthermore, I highly recommend my related article Questions To Ask When Buying Land.

You’ll find more detailed answers to the most important questions every landowner has to consider. With this purpose in mind, don’t forget to download my Free Ultimate Land Buying Checklist. It will save you a lot of unforeseen problems and most likely, thousands of dollars.