- An acre is plenty of land to build a house on.
- There are pros and cons to buying more land versus building a larger house.
- You can build a large house on an acre, as well as use it for other purposes.
There are lots of options for choosing the right home option for you: you could rent, purchase an existing home, or build a new house on a plot of land.
If you have one acre of land, that’s more than enough space to build a house on. You can erect multiple structures on one acre, or leave lots of open space for recreational land (like a yard) in front of your house.
You’ll need to check with your local zoning department on what is required for the plot of land that you’ve chosen, but if you can get your hands on a full acre, that’s plenty of space to build your dream house and then some.
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Is 1 Acre of Land Enough to Build a House?
In the 1970s, the average lot size in America was 0.22 acres, meaning that the average homebuyer would have owned 0.22 acres of land. However, by 2015, that lot size shrank to around 0.19 acres.
This means that most people today own less land than they used to. Many factors, such as residential zoning laws and the need for greater quantities of housing, have played into this real estate trend.
That being said, if you are fortunate enough to own a full acre of land, you have more than enough to beat the average lot size across the country. You’ll have plenty of room for a spacious home, an expansive front and back yard, and lots of extra land for other uses.
How Big Is One Acre?
As a general rule, an acre is defined as 43,560 square feet. If you had a perfectly square lot, one side of that acre would be approximately 208.71 feet long.
Of course, most plots of land are not perfectly square. But finding the square footage of your lot is fairly simple for most rectangular plots: multiply the length of the long side by the length of the short side, and you’ll have your total square footage.
For comparison, an acre of land is approximately equal to:
- 90% of a regulation football field
- A little more than 9 basketball courts
- A little more than 16 tennis courts
As another point of comparison, the average house built in the United States in 2021 was 2,480 square feet. This means that, if there were no space between houses, you could fit a little more than 17 houses end-to-end in a single acre.
What Is a Commercial Acre?
Some states or land sales organizations classify plots of land using what’s called a commercial acre.
A commercial acre is 36,000 square feet, or about 83% of a standard acre as defined above. The reason for this is to account for commercial land sales that do not include publicly-owned areas that landowners cannot modify, such as sidewalks, roads, and utility access points.
A commercial acre is mostly useful in urban settings, where land is scarcer and more valuable due to urban density.
How Much Acreage Do You Need to Build a House?
Most residential lots sold today are less than a quarter of an acre, meaning that developers who map out the use of their acreage for a subdivision will likely place an average of five houses per acre when they build (although most developers will try to increase that density where they can).
In general, however, most experts think about a “land-to-building ratio.” This refers to the size of the building when compared to the total size of land in a given lot.
A good rule of thumb is to use a land to building ratio of 3:1, meaning you will have three times as much “empty” land on your lot as land used for your home.
Using the example of the average home size of 2,500 square feet, and a 3:1 land to building ratio, you would need a minimum total lot size of 10,000 square feet (the square footage of the house plus three times that much as undeveloped land).
For an acre of land using that same ratio, you could conceivably build a house that is 10,890 square feet!
Obviously, this leaves lots of opportunities and possibilities for how to use your acre of land. It’s more than big enough for a house
Should You Buy for Home Size or Land Size?
Depending on what is available in your area and your life goals for a land purchase, you should think about whether to buy a larger house or opt for a larger plot of land. There are benefits and drawbacks to each decision.
If You Buy a Larger House
If you choose to buy a larger house, you obviously reap the immediate benefit of having more space in your home. This could mean additional bedrooms, or larger living areas.
Plus, a larger house on a smaller parcel of land means there is less undeveloped property to take care of. This usually means a smaller lawn to mow, but could also mean less trees or undergrowth to maintain.
The larger your house is, the more you will pay in property taxes. These taxes are assessed on the square footage of the total developed area on your property, which is typically your house.
And if you did want to expand your home, or build additional structures on your property, you would likely be limited because of the smaller parcel size.
If You Buy More Land
Buying a larger parcel of land automatically gives you greater privacy, since there is more space between you and your neighbors.
If you’re building a new home, you also have a lot more leeway to build a larger home. You can also build more outlying structures if you have an acre or more, including a separate garage, shed, barn, or other recreational or storage structure.
More land also means a bigger yard, which gives your family more room to play and enjoy. If you are able to add a pool to your property, or if you buy several acres of wooded area for hunting or fishing, you also reap the benefits of these other pastimes that would otherwise require travel to another location.
Most larger pieces of property are further away from populated areas, meaning your commute will increase.
Larger properties also require more upkeep. You will either have to care for the land yourself, or consider hiring a land management company to do it for you.
Uses for an Acre of Residential Land
If you can get your hands on an acre of land, you can build an expansive house for yourself and your family. You could also include outlying buildings like an expanded garage, a guest house, an outdoor living space, and more.
You could also partner with a developer to build tiny homes on part of your property. By subdividing your land and leasing it to tiny home tenants, you can produce a steady stream of income by providing space for either temporary or permanent housing.
You could also pursue agricultural interests on your acre of land. Use part of your plot to farm the crops of your choice, or raise livestock - even a few cows can help with maintaining your lawn, and can even give you tax breaks in certain parts of the country.
Additionally, you could build storage facilities for yourself on your property. This doesn’t mean a commercial storage rental unit, but could look like a separate shed or barn, as well as a tent or canopy for an RV or boat.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling