Precision Consulting since 1978

General Information

California Rural Homesite


The following sections are items that may be of special interest to you. 

Residential Site Planning

Laying out your residential home site can be tricky on rural property. Consult an architect or land use planner for assistance. Architects are particularly qualified to integrate your home with your property and surroundings for pleasant country living. Some of the main pieces to the puzzle that need to be considered:

  • An accessible, fire-safe building site with a pleasant view and solar orientation.
  • Ample septic tank/leachfield area, for the initial system and future repair, or a sewer connection. The area should be downhill of the building site for gravity feed if at all possible.
  • A producing well separated at least 100' from the septic area or a public water connection.
  • A private outdoor living area and an outside storage area.
  • A thought to wildfire safety through vegetation reduction, access, and evacuation


As a part of your escrow, you'll receive a preliminary title report. The report is a preview of your title insurance. It includes the legal description of the property and discloses liens, encumbrances, and easements affecting the property. If you've purchased your property, your title insurance policy will contain this information. Your title company and REALTOR® can assist you in evaluating the report. Consult a land surveyor if you need help identifying the location of easements. Some easements can't be located from their record description and the location must be determined by field observation or even by interviewing the party having rights to the easement area. Your title company can explain the coverage afforded to you by the title insurance that will normally be issued upon close of escrow. 


In the process of many land purchases the apparent property corners are flagged and shown to the buyer. These corner monuments are usually identified by the land owner and shown to your REALTOR®. Sometimes, a licensed surveyor or civil engineer qualified to practice land surveying identifies the corner markers. If you plan improvements at or adjacent to the property line, it may be advisable to consult a land surveyor. A surveyor can also help you evaluate your legal description and title report. A surveyor's services can range from marking the apparent corner monuments to verifying all of the monuments and establishing accurate points on line for fencing or building setback measurements. A land surveyor can also assist with related services, such as lot line adjustments. Many adjoining property owners can benefit from agreeing to more logical boundaries between them. Finally, a land surveyor can provide topographic mapping to assist your architect. 


If any type of agriculture is your interest, contact public agencies set up to assist you. Typically a local U. S. Soil Conservation Service or Resource Conservation District can assist with soil capability evaluation. Local farm bureaus or similar organizations can help you as well. Stop by and talk to one of your neighbors engaged in similar pursuits. 


Certain parcels, usually at higher elevations, are suitable for logging. These are generally larger parcels, perhaps 20 acres and larger. The local, state or federal forestry service can provide you with information on timber land and explain timber harvest plan requirements. You may also wish to consult a local private sector forester to have your timber cruised and to assist you in preparing a Timber Harvest Plan. Your neighbor might not like your logging effort. Not everyone agrees that
timber is a crop like any other. A sensitive harvest plan is recommended both for environmental protection and neighborhood serenity. 


Since the influx of so many people to the rural areas, mining is not permitted in many county zoning districts. Check with the planning department. Any activity much beyond gold panning may require a permit from State or county. Check with local officials. There may be a private mining organization in the area, too, that can help you. Qualified local geologists or geotechnical engineers can help you identify mining potential and requirements. A land use planner can assist you in making formal applications for mining projects. 


Depending on the zoning of your property and other factors, you may be able to subdivide the property into two or more separate building sites for sale. This may also be a way for a large family to build more than one single family home in the same vicinity. Land divisions can be a good strategy for estate planning, retirement investment, and just general investment. You need the approval of the City or County to subdivide your land. Essentially, they will make you prove that your new lots meet all of the criteria in this booklet! You may be required to complete a battery of technical tests and studies to prove your land's capability. You may also be required to make general improvements, such as on and off-site road improvements. Land divisions are a complex activity nowadays. Usually, no one government source knows all the answers. Seek consultation and assistance from a civil engineer or land surveyor that specialize in parcel maps. They will usually provide you with a free estimate to help you evaluate this possibility. They have had experience working with the variety of agencies that set requirements for land divisions. 


There may be other ways that you can develop your land beyond just one single family dwelling unit. Check with the Planning Department for the zoning regulations which establish the permitted uses that can occur on the property. Be sure to read the "conditional uses" too. These are higher uses that might be allowed on the land with the granting of a use permit. Most jurisdictions allow methods of establishing a second dwelling unit, too. Most allow "granny units," and many jurisdictions have
housing options that do not have an age restriction. Such a second unit might really meet your family's special needs, providing togetherness and privacy at the same time. For a quick overview of your development potential, consult your local planning department. Many civil engineers, land surveyors, architects, and land use planners can assist you with this evaluation. Sometimes a modest investment in agency requirement research and special studies can save you plenty of time and
money in the long run.