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The top image is taken from a public domain USGS Digital Raster Graphic file for southwest Escondido CA. It shows contour lines representing elevation. The closer the lines, the steeper the slope. Compare this image with the Google Earth picture of the same area in the lower image.

Most of the easy buildable land in Southern California is either long gone or is many miles from the nearest city. That means that builders are having to cope with land with significant slope or rocky terrain or both! You may find a nice flat lot, but the laws of supply and demand suggest that you will have to pay an inflated price to buy the lot.

If you've selected a lot with slope, you'll need the services of an expert grader to estimate how much it will cost to carve out the pad for your home. If you have already hired an architect and/or engineer they will need to get involved at this stage. Grading is expensive, and it is not uncommon for a pad to cost $50,000 or even $100,000 to grade. In some situations a retaining wall will be necessary on either the cut or the fill side of the graded area, depending on the situation.

The topography of the land also affects utility. For horses, you'll want a large flat or gently sloping area. For the 8000 square foot home you may be OK with a mountain top retreat so long as there is enough area for a 1/4 acre graded pad.

We'll discuss septic systems in a later section, but slope affects the feasibility of putting a septic system on a lot. The steeper the slope, the deeper the trenches for the septic system have to be dug. This adds to the cost, and if rock is present, extra depth may not be possible.



This website has been written and developed by Rob Ransom, PhD. Rob has extensive experience working with buyers and sellers of vacant land in San Diego County, CA. Although Rob currently has a California real estate license he is retired from selling real estate.

If you have comments or suggestions regarding this web site, email Rob at the address below.


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