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Buying a Home: Land, Infrastructure, and Circulation

By Tanner Sagouspe Rise Writer
Jun 25, 2021

Last time, we tackled the challenges of understanding the climate and landscape of the property, but what about the things you can't see? There's plenty to consider when buying a home, from social and economic, infrastructure, and even road access. 

What Social And Economic Factors Affect Home Buying?

The "invisible structures" that affect home buying come in many forms. This section will touch on a few social and economic factors to consider when buying a home or property, including:

  • land purchase or lease options
  • easements and right of way
  • property size considerations
  • municipal zoning and bylaws
  • neighbors and homeowner associations, and
  • access to food.

Property Ownership And Tenure

When buying a home, typically, the purchaser becomes the owner of the house and accompanying land. However, in some instances, instead of purchasing, a person may have the opportunity to lease a property. There are, of course, pros and cons to each. The difference between purchasing and leasing ultimately comes down to the right to change a property within legal boundaries. If a person is a leaseholder, other restrictions may be placed by the property owner, limiting possible changes.

Property Easements And Right Of Way

Before you buy those 100 acres for your homestead at a too-good-to-be-true price, see if the property is hiding any easements and that it includes the right of way to enter. Some properties can be for sale but require the future homeowner to discuss with neighboring properties to pass roads, pipes or powerlines, through with their land first.

Property Size Considerations

It may come as a surprise to no one, but it costs money to purchase a property. Sometimes, buying the biggest piece of property may not be the right solution. In permaculture, we discuss small and slow solutions, which can, of course, also apply to purchasing an urban homestead! If you opt for a smaller plot, you could use the additional capital to jump-start a food forest or install renewable energy to power your home. 

Regulations For Municipal Zoning And Relevant Laws

Just as crucial as property ownership, understanding the zoning regulations and local laws helps guide you toward what a homeowner can and can't add to a property. Researching things like, for example, how many chickens are allowed on a property within city limits provides you with information to influence your future designs. Checking local municipal bylaws should always be done early to ensure that your dreams of what this property could become are legally obtainable.


What About Neighbors? Is There A Homeowners Association?

When you are looking to buy, examine the properties that are directly around you. Are you purchasing a home in a cul-de-sac, or are you looking for something a bit more rugged with potential miles between you and your nearest neighbor? Occasionally, a resident may have to pay into a homeowners association when living in a subdivision, planned community, or condominium. Knowing the benefits and restrictions before moving in will help guide you to what sustainable features you may be allowed to add to your home.

Are There Any Local Markets Nearby?

Living a more sustainable lifestyle can extend from the home to the local markets and shops. But how far will you have to commute from your home to purchase from these stores? Locations that you plan to frequent regularly, for example, a market or workplace, are preferably within biking (or other forms of active transport) distance from the house. By placing these features closer, trips can be made more efficiently with a smaller impact.

How Do Road Access And Circulation Affect Home Buying?

Roads and circulation can affect the overall flow of your day, both on and off the property. Ill-placed paths can take valuable time out of your day depending on your home or homestead's size. So what are some things to consider when looking at the overall flow of your property? Be sure to ask these questions:

  • What are the access points?
  • Do roads and paths allow for easy vehicular and pedestrian access?
  • Is there additional storage, and if so, are they conveniently located?

Access Points

Where do you enter your property? When examining a site, look for different places to access it either by car or foot. Proper road access is crucial, so if your land does not have this, ensure that it is installed correctly and up to the appropriate state or provincial codes. Access points can also mean finding a section of your property that can provide a nice walking trail away from your home. 

Vehicular and Pedestrian Access

As you examine a property for flow, look at the size of the paths and where they lead. Vehicle paths will be the largest, leading to and from the house or garage, but are there other locations they can or need to reach? Cart paths, used for hauling things like tools or your homegrown produce, are narrower than car paths and are doublewide compared to footpaths. Finally, footpaths allow a person to move comfortably and lead into gardens or a particularly restful spot.

Additional Storage: Sheds, Garages and Their Locations

If you're buying a large property, search for present storage sheds and their position in the landscape. What materials would you store, how often would you travel to get them, and what could you add along the way? Asking these questions helps determine the flow of the property and if the current state works for your purposes. Your time is valuable, and it is best to streamline the property as much as possible.

Gas Line

How Do Existing Buildings and Infrastructure Affect Home Buying?

When you buy a home, you want the building to be in working order. But other areas like paved surfaces, fences, and utilities are considerations too. The present infrastructure of a property at the time of buying can save you money or quickly become a financial burden. Be sure to:

  • get your home inspected and check allowable uses
  • examine fences and gates
  • check the state of the paved surfaces
  • look for power and gas lines, and
  • find out where snow accumulates.

Building Condition and Use

When looking to buy a house, inspecting the home to ensure it is up to code is commonplace. But be sure to look for additional features that may affect the overall quality of the house. For example, if you're buying a larger property with an older home on site, how long ago was it used? Does it already have a well and septic? What is the state of the foundation? If a home on the property is in disrepair, it will require resources and potential waste removal. And while it is best to repair and recycle what you can, always be sure to put your health and safety at the forefront.


Fences And Gates

Often the edge of a property within city limits is lined with a fence. This trend is less common as you enter more rural expanses. Barriers, like fences and walls, not only mark your perimeter but also can be used to prevent larger pests, like deer, from entering your yard when appropriately designed. Be sure to inspect the quality of present barriers and determine when it was installed and its expected lifespan. However, making friends with neighbors is key here, as the cost of installing fences can be shared.

Paved Surface State of Repair

How do the paved surfaces of the property look? This question is essential because an adequately sealed pavement can last for many years, saving you money and the resources of repaving. However, suppose the paved surfaces appear to be wearing. In that case, they will continue to deteriorate, especially in locations prone to freezing conditions. Paved surfaces also act as a means to guide stormwater runoff through your property. Therefore, if paved areas are in need of replacement, it could be an opportunity to direct excess water to the places that need it most or consider permeable options to reduce runoff.

Power, Gas & Electric Lines

Unless you're purchasing an off-grid home, you will have a connection to the grid. Look around the property to see any potential issues with the line connecting to the house. For example, are there any trees around that could fall, interrupting power? If there is natural gas, where is the underground line? Could this interfere with planned work? Consider its electricity source (i.e., renewable, nuclear, or fossil fuel) and how you may begin to transition to home-scale renewables.


Where Does The Snow Pile?

If your climate is prone to heavy snowfall, examine the property in the winter months to see where snow builds. This information gives you an idea of where winter winds will push snowdrifts or areas where trees are dangerously bowing under the weight. Also, look for sites where snow will be shoveled or plowed because these heavier patches of snow and ice compact the soil. If the property used sands and salts previously, these would also build up in these sites, affecting the ground and future plant growth.

Why Should You Think About Zones Of Use Before Buying A Home?

Understanding the boundaries of your property gives you knowledge of how to maximize the use of every square inch. But, of course, this doesn't just mean the property lines, but also the locations that receive the most and least daily activity.

Property Lines

Where Are The Property Lines?

What is the extent of your property? When examining your property, map out every dimension you see as crucial to your sustainable design. Places like the home, front yard, and back yard make up the primary sectors of the property within city limits. If you own land beyond that, mark up the extent of your acreage. Also, be sure to look beyond your property lines and see what is in your immediate vicinity. This extra step is essential because it may reveal powerlines, train tracks, or other features that change your property's design.

Where Are The Activity Centers On The Property?

Look at the areas where the most activity occurs. These areas can include where you leave and return from work, entertain guests, or even where your dog likes to adventure. Noting these locations helps you design the property in a way that flows and optimizes the space. For example, you wouldn't want to host friends and family in a spot that receives no break from the sun, but you could place your solar panels there.

Where Are The Zones 1 To 5?

What are the current zones of the property? First, look for ways to make the spaces efficient, putting daily tasks closer to home and less frequent jobs farther away. Second, find the parts of the property that you will likely rarely visit—this varies greatly depending on the size of the property. Still, even small lots will get more use out of certain aspects of the yard, depending on the time of year. Rise has a great breakdown of permaculture zones and how to use them if you are unfamiliar.


Now that you understand both invisible and physical structures, it is time for the last part of this "before you buy" series in home buying. Next time, we will be looking at the most accessible aspects of a property to change: vegetation, soil, and aesthetics.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-01T21:08:48+0000
Tanner Sagouspe

Article by:

Tanner Sagouspe

Tanner Sagouspe has a Masters in Environmental Management and is a Permaculture Designer who promotes tackling the climate crisis at home.