Understanding Site Development

Steps to Prepare Your Lot for Home Building

Site development includes all the work necessary to turn raw land into a home site suitable for construction. Given each lot’s unique characteristics, the extent of work needed varies and depends on many factors. Below, we outline common elements involved in lot development. While we offer assistance with these services and include allowances for these items in your custom home quote, we believe this guide will also assist you in effectively planning your lot development budget as you begin thinking about building a custom home on your lot.

Initial Site Prep

Site Survey and House Staking

Before the start of construction, many localities require a plot plan prepared by a certified surveyor showing the house’s location and other project elements. This is particularly necessary in subdivisions or on compact lots. Additionally, in some locales, the surveyor revisits the site during construction to verify the accuracy of the foundation placement and ensure it maintains the appropriate elevation.

Construction Driveway

The construction driveway is the main artery for access to your project. It facilitates the movement of heavy vehicles transporting various materials, from concrete to kitchen cabinets. Thus, it is imperative that both the driveway and culverts (if applicable) are durable and accessible.

At American Heritage Homes, we have established specific requirements for construction driveways:

  1. The driveway must run within 2 feet of the staked foundation at the garage door opening.
  2. Adequate flares must be provided at the road to facilitate easy maneuvering for construction vehicles.
  3. If a culvert is necessary, it must be a minimum of 30 feet in length.

During your lot walk, your American Heritage Homes Builder will assess your individual construction driveway needs. When budgeting for your construction project, it’s important to consider that funds for driveway maintenance (such as repairs and snow plowing) during construction are typically the homeowner’s responsibility.


sewer or septic

Is a municipal or shared sewer system available, or has the local Health Department approved the property for a septic system? Additionally, what are the fees for connecting to the sewer system?

We strongly advise contacting your local Health Department or municipality early in the building process to conduct a site evaluation. This will help determine the type of wastewater system required for your property, which is particularly crucial if you haven’t purchased the land yet.

It is recommended that you obtain a written quote from a qualified installer to budget for a septic system. Your budget should encompass various aspects, including the system’s cost, test holes, soil surveys, system design, inspections, and permits. Depending on factors such as lot conditions, county requirements, and the number of bedrooms in your home, septic systems can range in cost from $12,000 to over $25,000.

Well water or City Water

If you have a private well, it’s important to allocate funds for all associated components, covering expenses such as obtaining a well permit, installing and testing the well, running a circuit from the well to the basement, acquiring a pressure tank, and installing it. Additionally, consider budgeting for water softeners, filters, and related installation fees.

For those connecting to city water, factor in any tap fees, expenses linked to moving the waterline from the tap to the basement, and installing a water meter into your budget. Moreover, certain water systems may necessitate a thermal expansion tank or a backflow prevention device, so it’s advisable to consult your water company for detailed information.

Electric and Gas connections

Electric and gas requirements can vary significantly depending on factors such as site location, distance from the road, and the specific electric, gas, or propane company serving your area. Typically, your Builder will furnish a temporary pole, a construction power box, and a permanent electric meter base for electricity. However, it is your responsibility to arrange for the installation of the permanent power cable to your home. This is typically done underground, with the electric company providing the service for a fee. If underground power isn’t feasible, overhead service may be necessary, often requiring the installation of additional components.

In terms of natural gas, the owner is responsible for applying for a natural gas hookup and tap fee and overseeing the installation of the gas line, tracer wire, flexible riser, and meter mount. A licensed installer should handle the installation of the meter mount. Additionally, you should include the anticipated cost of utility usage during construction in your budget.

Miscellaneous Site Conditions

You should also budget for unforeseen challenges in your lot development costs. These funds may or may not need to be used. However, typical uses of these funds include concrete pump truck fees when the concrete trucks cannot get around your excavation to pour footers, walls, or floors. Poor soil conditions or having to reroute field tiles are other common challenges. Also, extra fill gravel for porches and garages is a typical use of these funds.



Permit costs and requirements vary widely across different counties. In addition to permits for well and septic systems, the standard list usually encompasses Zoning and Building permits, often determined by your home’s square footage.

It’s essential to note that certain areas may necessitate additional permits or fees, including those for Driveways, Street Numbers/Addresses, DESC (Site Grading and Runoff), Occupancy, Architectural Review, Park Fees, and more. Unfortunately, accurately predicting permit costs at contract time can be challenging due to the frequent changes in fees and requirements by local authorities.

All-Risk Insurance

Overall liability for your property resides with you, the property owner. We strongly advise that you carry full liability coverage, often called All-Risk Insurance, for the property throughout construction. This coverage is typically included in your existing homeowner’s insurance policy, but please follow the advice of your preferred insurance professional. As the Builder, we furnish a Builder’s Risk policy for the construction of the home. Additionally, we ensure that all individuals working on the site are covered by liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

Additional Items

Downspout Conductors

Downspout conductors are underground pipes designed to channel water from your downspouts away from your home. They are important because the downspout water must be managed properly to maintain your basement waterproofing warranty. If you are building in a subdivision with curbs, the conductors usually need to drain to the road through curb cores. Funds for the trenching, piping, and curb cores should be budgeted.


After completing your home, we conduct a final grading process using a bulldozer, ensuring a positive slope away from the foundation. We utilize the excavated dirt from the basement and footing areas for filling. If necessary, you may want to allocate funds for any extra fill dirt or topsoil needed and the costs associated with hauling away excess dirt.

While we strive for an optimal final grade, the outcome may vary, especially during rainy seasons. Remember that this grade is not intended to be the final seed grade; you or your landscaper must oversee the final grading before planting grass or shrubbery.

Furthermore, allocating funds for adjusting dirt closer to the foundation is advisable, especially in tight corners. Additionally, consider budgeting for landscaping elements such as shrubs, trees, or hardscapes like pavers.

Finish Driveway

You might want to include money for a finished driveway or walkway leading to your front porch or stoop. In many subdivisions, driveways (either concrete or asphalt), walkways, and sidewalks are mandatory.