I first became familiar with the Lot Protocol Plan when a builder group insisted I talk with a Land Planner/Architect, Scott Morisey with Reece, Hoopes & Fincher, who was doing some of their site plans in one of our developments. They wanted to make it mandatory that all builders use this planner to site their houses and prepare the individual site plans. And they were willing to foot the bill! That was my first hint that this guy was good – and he was and is. All 20 custom builders approved. What was happening was that the builders were causing each other drainage problems and unexpected costs for retaining walls or other methods to mitigate problems caused by foundation elevations not being preset. It was also taking way too much of my time and theirs in resolving these issues. The Lot Protocol Plan reduced these problems by 90%.
So what is a Lot Protocol Plan? It is a subdivision plat with topo where foot prints for typical houses are overlaid on all lots. The basement, first floor and garage floor elevations are noted. Probable driveway location and grades are shown as well as theoretical retaining walls, sub-walls, sidewalks, and most importantly, how the drainage will be managed.
The optimum time to do the LLP is after the land planner does the initial subdivision/lot layout and before the plans are submitted to the civil engineer. This is the most efficient and cost effective point in the development time line as minor changes can be made. But, it can be done anytime before building starts.
Below is a portion of a LPP to show what is typically included.
Who gets what?
For the developer, the LPP allows for optimizing lot value if done after the land planner's initial layout. By overlaying a typical foot print, the individual building sites can be assessed and improved. Changes from the original land plan are usually fairly minor but in many cases a few feet adjustment between lot lines can vastly improve the building site and therefore increase the potential lot value. This is also a good time to review the lot layout for the house siting to avoid instances where the approach is from the rear of the house which is a killer for sales.
The LPP is also invaluable for lot pricing. You can easily evaluate and factor the lot price for retaining walls, subwalls, driveway grade and length, and drainage. For the same reasons the LPP makes it easy for builders to evaluate the lots prior to buying.
Sales agents may need some instruction and guidance on using the LPP as a sales tool, but if the investment is made, the results will be huge for presales – again, if you are dealing with topo. The buyers will also need to have some ability to understand the LPP but if they are considering building, they may come prepackaged with vision.
Let’s say for example you have a development and are just opening up Phase II. You have some prospects who would like to consider building one of your plans. The on-site sales agent, armed with the LPP, can engage the buyers in initial conversations about the lots that are available based on the buyer's desires and lifestyle.
Mr. Buyer says he wants a lot that will accommodate a pool and play area for the kids. He does not want the house to sit below street grade but does not want a steep uphill driveway either. The agent asks about the backyard preferences. Does Mr. Buyer want a daylight basement opening to rear/backyard or does he want the pool area level with the first floor where the family can easily interact from the living areas.
Well, that’s a good question! Let’s talk about the differences. The agent and the buyers can take the LPP and discuss the various options. “This lot offers a flat driveway and yard but the pool will be on the basement level with steps down from the living area off a deck. Now here is a lot that might work perfectly. The driveway will gradually sweep up, but it is not steep, the pool will be in perfect perspective with the kitchen and family room and you can see here where the daylight will be in the basement. Would you like to go see this lot?” Of course the builder will come on the scene concerning the siting, but at least the agent has a means by which to engage and advance the buyers towards a buying decision. Otherwise the complicated nature of lot selection, where topo is involved, could be a morass out of which few buyers emerge.