Q&A with Perry: I am looking at buying a developer-owned lot, should I get a soil impaction test?

Here’s a question that was recently submitted through our website, along with my personal response. We appreciate your questions, comments, and interactions on our site. If there’s a question you have, I encourage you to ask me.

I am looking at buying a developer-owned lot to build a new home on. The lot is sloped and I will plan on building a half basement. I was talking to a builder three lots from mine and he said that he had to remove excess fill dirt to get to the sub grade to pour foundation. This was an extra cost to the homeowner. Does the developer have to disclose if a lot has been filled in with fill? If not, should I get a soil impaction test prior to buying the lot?

Most developers will disclose any information they have concerning lots. However, the detailed construction drawings will show lots that are filled with soil and or debris. The construction drawings may not show rock formations and or subterranean soil problems that may require additional monies for building.

As an individual buying a lot, it is ALWAYS best to have a builder or his engineer inspect a lot before purchasing. They usually can inform you if the lot requires additional costs to build.

It is customary to do the additional requirements ie: rock removal, additional fill for poor soil conditions, hillside construction, etc. on a cost-plus basis, as it is usually more cost effective to the customer to do it that way verses having an engineer test, estimate rock removal and or fill, and then do the required work after he has included his fees. In some cases, an engineer’s report is required.

As a builder, we have purchased lots knowing there was fill on that lot and it would have to be removed for the building process, and we include an allowance or a fixed cost for that work, adding it to the cost of the structure. The same has been done with rock removal. However, we have built on a lot that had sub soil conditions that were not known by the developer or his sales team, and it was deemed the responsibility of the purchaser to either move on with the project or abandon plans. Because of already incurred costs, they moved on with the project.

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