35 Questions to Ask Before Buying Vacant Land ?

Are you interested in buying your own piece of earth?  There’s nothing more fabulous than having a few acres of your own, and building your own place from the ground up.   But, buying land, especially in highly regulated areas like California, can be a lot more risky than buying a home.  These days of real estate disclosure for a home buyer have come a long way from the traditional law of “Caveat Emptor” (meaning buyer beware)!  Land, however, does not have the same rules.  I constantly hear stories like:

Ojai Land for slae
“I thought we were buying 80 acres, it turned out we got 65!”

“We had no idea this area was in an ancient landslide.  Its almost impossible to build here.”

“We thought we got an amazing deal, $1m for 120 acres, but it turns out its going to cost another $1m to get to the pad before we can even think of starting the house.”

“We bought a small lot in town and it turns out we can’t get water service so we can’t build!”

Unfortunately there isn’t one place to get answers.  Many local departments are involved and sometimes have conflicting information.

Here are 35 questions you can ask
Or you can get professional help – call me 310 963 7900.

Planning and Zoning

  1. Is it a legal lot? If not, how do I make it legal?
  2. What is the zoning classification of this lot?
  3. Does the Zoning on the property permit my project?
  4. Does the County General Plan permit what I wish to do?
  5. Are any planning permits required prior to building on the lot?
  6. Are there any zoning violations on the lot?
  7. Are there any special building restrictions in this area?
  8. Are there any cultural heritage sites on the property?

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Ojai – New Construction – Radiant Heat and Cooling


By: Otis Bradley

Project: Ojai, California – Radiant Cooling

Architecture: Patrick W. Nolan
Builder: Otis Bradley Company, Inc.
Interior Design: Rhett Judice

In the words of the late great singer – James Brown – I feel good !  Like I know that I should! Ughhh ! Yeahhhh !

Everybody loves radiant heat ! It feels good.  Done right – you don’t even know you have a heating system – it just feeeeeels good!

Our new custom home in Ojai  – is traditionally designed in a French Provincial style, yet includes high tech equipment.  Not only does it have radiant heating tubes embedded in the concrete slabs under the French limestone floors, but … we also have cooling tubes in the ceiling.

Floor tubing
Ceiling tubing
This project – although a traditional, French Provincial style home, still has high tech equipment. The house is super insulated using insulated concrete block, ICF, technology and both heated and cooled using radiant panels in the floor and ceiling.

The problem:

Everyone loves radiant floor heat, but in hot climates everyone wants cooling as well.  Typically this means an entire second – usually a ducted forced air system – is added just for cooling.

The solution:

Use radiant to cool as well as heat.

We did this with the help of special panels and control systems that sense humidity and allow us to cool without creating condensation.

Bottom Line:

It feels GOOD ! In hot or cold weather !Everybody loves radiant heat! You won’t even know there is a heating system in a home if its done right – it just feels comfortable.


More on this project CLICK HERE




Feel Free to copy, share, or re post this article. Kindly make sure to include this information: Written by Otis Bradley, a Custom Home Builder, in Southern California. Please see OtisBradley.com for more          information on Custom Home Building!

Permitting in Ojai and Ventura County – always new rules, especially in the mountains


Building a new home these days requires lots of permits.  More all the time.

Ventura County which includes a lot of the area around Ojai, has a difficult permitting process and many different agencies which require permits.  Particularly if you build in the mountains, the process can be challenging.

  • Building and Safety Department
  • Grading Department
  • Planning and Zoning Department
  • Environmental Health Department
  • Fire Department
  • Water Resources Department
  • Trash and Recyelcing
  • to name a few !

The process requires multiple trips to each department,  consisting of submitting plans for “plan check” – revising plans and making corrections – resubmission of plans (sometimes repeat again and again)

If you pass “GO” you move on to the next department.  Sometimes you go to “JAIL” or have to start over!

A day at the county can feel like living a “Twilight Zone” episode.


Below is an example of a recent Ventura County Ordinance – amending the rules for an “overlay” of the “Scenic Resource Protection Zone.”  This revises regulations for homes built on “ridgelines.”  The thinking that overbuilding on the tops of mountains spoils views for others.  Just an example of the incredible complexity of the rules and regulations in some areas today.

See if you can read and clearly understand this …

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Leaving Las Vegas – The New American Home 2013

I love Vegas … for the fist day… and hate it the next…. Overstimulous!!!

This house is the same.  8 bar areas, 5 pools and 25 TV’s … but they’ve got some solar panels !  Ohh and 3 bedrooms.

Break the mold … these show houses are supposed to do this.  This year’s 8,000 square foot, “New American Home” was designed and built by Blue Heron.  They took every feature you could imagine and threw it on the wall so to speak.  I am in awe at the way they were able to put all the parts and pieces of this house together.  From a technical point of view its amazing, but who would live in this house?

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Ventana Magazine Features Ojai Custom Home Builder – Green Home

Contemporary Cool

The Ojai abode of green builder Otis Bradley.

By Andrea Kitay—Photography by Gaszton Gal

The exposed structural steel and beams are painted in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Cherokee Red.

Casa Verde, the two-acre Ojai spread that Otis Bradley and his family call home, is more than a play on words. Its name is a nod to the custom homebuilder’s passion for efficiency. The 3400-square-foot contemporary completed in 2008 is a result of Bradley’s determination to build an ecologically sound home, in keeping with his family’s laidback lifestyle.

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