When you’re gearing up to buy residential land to build your custom home in Nashville, it’s important to know what to look for when you’re searching for vacant land. The land buying process is not like the home buying process– and it can be very complicated if you’re not experienced.

Here are some things you will want to keep in mind when buying land in Tennessee:

  1. Buildable Lot
  2. Location
  3. Unrestricted Subdivision vs Restricted Subdivision
  4. Zoning & Utilities
  5. Potential Environmental Hazards
  6. High-Growth Areas

1. Buildable Lot

The land you ultimately choose to build your home on has to meet some requirements, including:

  • Permission to build on the land from the city or county
  • Land characteristics that allow for building (you don’t want to pay more to prepare the land than to actually build the home)
  • Utilities on site
  • All feasible studies completed
  • Already available permits and services

2. Location

Obviously, the location of your property matters a lot. You’ll want to research the area to learn about the neighborhood, quality of life, jobs, local schools, medical facilities, and entertainment. This should be a top priority so you can find a community you’re happy living in.

If you’re searching in the Nashville area, Donnelly Timmons can direct you to beautiful homesites in Forrest Hills, Oak Hill, Green Hills, Franklin, Brentwood and more. We have a history of over 25 years of experience building custom homes in Nashville.

3. Unrestricted Subdivison vs Restricted Subdivision

You’ll need to decide whether you want to build on an unrestricted subdivision or a restricted subdivision.

Unrestricted Subdivision

This type of subdivision does not have a Homeowners Association (HOA) or Property Owners Association (POA) that enforce measures to maintain property values or a certain appearance. However, this doesn’t mean an unrestricted subdivision isn’t subject to restrictions set by the state, county, or city. Restrictions of this nature are listed in the deed to the property.

Restricted Subdivision

This type of subdivision has deed restrictions that are implemented by the initial developer and are different for each master-planned subdivision. These restrictions are enforced by a HOA or POA and may include specifics on the size of the home, how many homes can be built on a lot, types of homes that can be built, care and upkeep of the home, setback lines, and sometimes even rules about pets. Dues are paid to HOA or POA groups monthly or yearly to maintain shared subdivision upkeep such as roads, signs, pools, etc.

Depending on your intentions, you may prefer purchasing land without so many rules and restrictions so there aren’t so many obstacles to building your dream home exactly to your specifications.

4. Zoning & Utilities

It’s important to know that the land you’re considering is zoned residential, but it’s also important to ensure the surrounding areas are not zoned differently so that you don’t end up living in a situation you didn’t plan for– such as living near a commercially zoned property where industrial buildings can be erected or agriculturally zoned land where livestock can be housed. You ideally want to choose land that’s surrounded by land that’s also zoned for residential buildings.

As mentioned in point number one, your property needs to have utilities. If there aren’t utilities– such as water, sewer, gas, cable, and telephone services –already available, you will have to contact the service providers to have a line added to the property. This tends to be a problem in rural areas and can really run up the bill for the home building project.

5. Potential Environmental Hazards

You definitely don’t want to purchase land that poses any environmental risk. For example, it would be hazardous to build on land that has fuel or chemical storage tanks or may have contaminated soil or water. Be sure to have a Phase I Environmental Study performed to be sure the property is free of contaminants.

6. High-Growth Areas

Land in areas where populations and economies are growing are properties in higher demand. These plots of land can yield great returns on your investment. Land that’s closer to bigger cities is typically the best option, and while rural properties can provide a good return too, they’re farther away from local jobs, medical facilities, shopping, nightlife, and entertainment– so they’re not as valuable.

Make sure any plot of land you’re considering to purchase goes through several inspections before you commit to purchase so you can be confident that conditions are favorable for building.


Buying land is an important step on the way to moving into the home of your dreams. Be sure to keep these things in mind when you’re looking at land. If you want guidance finding a homesite in the Nashville area, contact Donnelly Timmons. We have the experience and the network to not only find a great homesite but to also make your dream home a reality!