Within districts that meet the family's needs as to general location, the task of choosing a site may be made easier if the points that affect the price or desirability are kept in mind and can be readily balanced against each other. Many people, for instance, object to a street on which there is much noise from street cars, or on which there is heavy truck traffic at night. Streets carrying through traffic are often dangerous, especially to children.
Character of the neighborhood: While a family may think that it would like to live close to relatives and friends, this factor should not be given too much weight. Nevertheless, the general type of people living in the neighborhood is important, especially if there are children in the family, who should be brought up in the right kind of surroundings.
Schools, parks, and playgrounds: Where there are young children much of the family's welfare and peace of mind may depend on being near, say, within a half mile, of parks, playgrounds, and good schools. The opportunity for wholesome outdoor play is the birthright that few care to see their own children deprived of, and if playgrounds and schools are not near by, additional cares and burdens are placed upon the mother.
Desirable points for the lot: There is no denying the fact that most people prefer a lot that is well set out with trees and shrubs and that can be made neat and attractive. The set of the house with reference to prevailing winds and to the points of the compass may sometimes be a deciding factor.
Not only the size and shape of the lot but its location in the block deserve attention. For instance, one side of a house may be made most unpleasant if the kitchen or garage of a corner house next door is too close. A corner lot has advantages, but it may be doubly assessed for street improvements, and requires longer fences and sidewalks, which must be cared for both in winter and summer.
In general, land that is well drained is best for residential purposes, and a lot on firm, dry ground is better than one on marshy soil. House foundations resting on filled-in soil almost invariably damage the house by settling. The cost of foundations and cellar may vary greatly with the character of the soil. Sometimes rock close to the surface makes a lot more expensive to develop. Where grading or filling will be necessary, an estimate of its cost should be obtained before the lot is bought and added to the price asked for the land. Few people appreciate how much filling may be necessary to bring a low lot up to the right level.
In many cases a family buys an improved lot and starts building on it within a few weeks or months. This is vastly different, as noted above, from buying several years in advance of building. While there may be enough increase in land values, in the latter case, to give some profit, a speculation is involved. The outgo for taxes is sure, and there may be special assessments for street and other improvements, which must all be added as part of the cost of the lot. There is also a continual loss of interest on the money invested in the lot. Lots are frequently sold to innocent purchasers in a territory that will not be developed for years. It is to be noted that some cities prohibit building where sewers have not been installed. One should consider all the factors mentioned in the preceding pages and obtain advice from some dependable, reputable, local real estate dealer, not from some transient, or fly-by-night promoter, who sells out to "suckers" and moves on.
How much to spend for the lot: The question of how much to spend for the lot itself depends largely on whether or not it is "improved." Where streets, curbing, sidewalks, water, electric, gas, and sewerage improvements have not been made, a lot may sometimes be obtained for less than 5 per cent of the total cost of the house and lot, and 10 per cent should probably be the upper limit. If all improvements have been made, the cost of the lot frequently runs up to 20 per cent, but it should rarely exceed 25 per cent. "Front-foot" values, as shown by recent genuine sales, and assessed valuations may serve to check values.
The less expensive the lot the more money is left for the house itself, and a well-constructed home on a cheap lot is far more desirable than an unsatisfactory house on an expensive lot. Although a house that is very much more expensive than its neighbors might be hard to sell at a good price, a very cheap house may add nothing at all to the sale value of an expensive lot.