No Zoning and the Site Analysis

In many areas of the country, home sites have no zoning, and in some cases no deed restrictions.  How does one begin a site analysis when there is no zoning?  Where does Highest and Best Use begin?  It begins with understanding the land as vacant in its physical possibilities, legally permissible uses and economically feasibility of being improved.  Although many believe the legal permissible uses should be the first question asked, many others, like myself, believe that legal allowances can’t be considered if they are not first physically possible.  You can’t put a house on a minimum 5,000 sq. ft. lot if the area is only 3,800 square feet.  I’ll bring the question to surface again, how does one begin a site analysis when there is no zoning?

For those who appraise in the rural markets, that do not house any planned unit development, this scenario is the given factor in most assignments.  Even in some suburban markets, zoning simply doesn’t exist, and houses sporadically dot a mixture of sized parcels where a variety of housing styles, quality of construction, size of the dwelling and condition exist.  In a rural market the economic principle of Conformity, is not the supporting driver of demand.  Demand in a rural area most frequently begins with the desire for a location, where governing authorities do not demand conformity.  But there is demand for the right to quiet enjoyment, the legal privilege to improve as the owner desires as well as the rights of ingress, egress, to bequeath/will, give away, mortgage, etc.  Parcels without zoning and/or deed restrictions have more options for land utilization.  When you begin with the size of the parcel and its dimensions the shape begins to tell the story of what dreamers dream who own unzoned parcels.

Delving into the physical aspects, what does the soil composite support?  What does the topography offer?  Does the site have adequate drainage?  Is it in a flood zone?  Is it near major transportation arteries, are there public services available?  What is the surrounding land use?  Does it appear the area is changing or is it relatively slow in its growth?

All too often we get in a hurry to complete the form in the site section with too little time spent on considering why the site section is relevant to the conclusion of value.  Truth be told, there would be no dwelling without the site.  Connected to the location, the site characteristics, and the comparison of those characteristics to similar sites in the neighborhood builds support in the conclusions for the best use and position of marketability within the neighborhood.

The next appraisal you perform when you’re making your notes and taking your pictures at the site, think about the conformity of the site within the boundaries of the neighborhood.  Pause for a moment and critically reason through the site analysis; what would you do if you owned the site and took the more time to consider all the physical, legal, and economic characteristics of that site in that location?  Those conclusions are the assignment results of your site analysis.  Do you have that reasoning documented?  Shouldn’t you?