Building a New Modern Home in Austin

Tired of condo living? Roommates cramping your style? Girlfriend starting to wonder why you live out of your van? Maybe it’s time to build your own custom home!

Home Designers require land the way that an artist requires a blank canvas. Enter: the vacant lot. Land ownership can be difficult because similar to canvases, they come in many different sizes.  Dissimilar to canvases, they can also come with restrictions. It’s important to learn these challenges before diving head first into building your dream home.

1. Where is it?

It’s always important to look at the context of the property. What is the school district like? What’s the neighborhood like? Is it the property comfortably nestled in a little family neighborhood? These can affect resale value, but more importantly they can affect your quality of life. Something to consider, especially considering most families live in custom homes for a lifetime after they’re built.

Find out this and more using the city’s property profile!

http://www.austintexas.gov/GIS/PropertyProfile/

2. What will limit your building size?

The first thing you should check in the city of Austin is the zoning requirements.

http://www.austintexas.gov/gis/ZoningProfile/

And decoding the zoning code here:

http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Planning/zoning_guide.pdf

It’s typically going to be easier to build a house on a Single Family zoned lot than anything on a Commercial Lot for you and your family to live in. The goal would be to find a lot that is zoned already to your planned use. Zoning also can dictate the setbacks from your building. This will determine how far you can build from the street, how close you can get to your neighbors and how tall the house can get.  

Once the city deems the land alright for your dream home you need Nature’s approval. Look at the property. Are there any heritage trees that can’t be cut down? Is the topography, or slope, too drastic for affordable construction? Is it in a floodplain?

Search for floodplain info here:

https://www.atxfloods.com/FP_mods/Map.html

These are all crucial elements to consider. There are properties in Austin that look good at first but once you overlay the zoning setbacks and topography lines building a home would be challenging indeed.

3. What will limit your building style?

Alright, so you’ve acquired your land, time to build the modern home of your dreams, right? Unfortunately, once you buy a lot there are still requirements that want to limit your creative, architectural expression. There can be covenants placed on lots and deeds. These can limit what you can build, especially when related to Accessory Dwelling Units or ADU's in Austin. Certain lots do not allow these garage apartments. It’s important to check your deed or plat. Architects can help you with this.

In short, building your first home can be a rewarding experience, but not without challenges. It’s a tough task to take on alone. What can make it easier is having an architect in your corner. Architects are trained to know these design challenges and can help you overcome them. Before you buy, get an architect’s advice and see what they recommend. Plus, if you bring them in early on, it will be much easier for you build your dream home down the road.