June 22, 2019
So you have purchased a lot and now you are looking for a house plan. Do you know what your setbacks are? Do you even have any idea what setbacks are? Do you know that they could keep you from building your dream home on your lot?
Every house lot, no matter how big, has restrictions. Typically these restrictions are put in place to keep houses from being built too close to each other. This means there is an invisible line running around your property. This line makes the area where you can put any structure smaller than the lot.
For example, say you have a lot that is 80 feet wide by 100 feet deep. If the set-backs on that property are 10 feet, this means that nothing can be closer to the edge of the property than 10 feet. This will make the “build-able” area of that lot 60 feet wide by 80 feet deep.
Not knowing exactly what your setbacks are can be a costly and time consuming mistake.
Not all setbacks are uniform, meaning that any one side may have a larger setback than the other sides. There may also be dedicated easements on your property. These can be for many reasons: fire access, power lines, drainage and even maintenance easements.
Do not trust the permit office to be the final say in the matter.
We have seen clients submit plans to the permit office and receive a permit to build, only to find out during construction that the house violates a community setback rule. Rather than get into a battle of who was at fault for a situation like that (hint: the permit office is “never” wrong), it’s best to do your research and enlist a local design professional ( i.e.: surveyor, designer, etc.) and double check the setbacks before you submit the plans for permit.
The size of the lot doesn’t matter either. There can be wetland setbacks, right of way set-backs, and fire brake setbacks, each potentially decreasing the area where you can build, even on a large plot of land. There are often restrictions placed by your subdivision that may have greater setbacks than what the county or local municipality may require.
Always get a thorough survey and double check your setback restrictions before you choose a house plan. If you do that you should decrease the possibilities of being Set Back in your plans to build your new home. Of course always seek the help of a local professional including attorney, civil engineer, surveyor and/or design professional for expert advice before going forward.
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