Maybe you've always dreamed of building your own home -- the house of your dreams, constructed to your exact specifications. You might be looking for vacant lots, figuring that you'll buy land and then build. While this strategy can work well for a lot of people, it's not as simple as you might assume. Here are some things to consider as you look at land for sale.

Location is still important.

When shopping for houses, buyers are usually careful to consider the school district, how close the home is to shopping centers, and other location factors. Because you have so many other things to worry about when shopping for an empty lot, it's easy to overlook location. But consider that you probably won't live in the home you build forever. At some point, you will sell it, and if it is in a bad school district or 30 minutes from the nearest freeway entrance, you may have a harder time getting a fair price -- even if the location did not bother you while you lived in the home.

Consider how the land around the lot is zoned.

If the land you're considering purchasing is zoned residential, then you're in the clear, right? Well, not necessarily. You also want to look into the zoning of any empty land around the empty lot. Ideally, it will all be zoned residential, too, so you know all that will be built is more houses. If the land is zoned commercial or industrial, you'll have to consider whether owning a home right next to a strip mall or Walmart is something you're okay with once that land is developed.

Ask if there is an HOA.

Once your home is constructed, you'll be expected to abide by any community rules that are enforced by home owners' association (HOA) or similar organization. This association may have no say over what happens on the land until a home is actually constructed. Ask your realtor and homeowners in the community about any HOAs and their regulations so you don't build your home and then suddenly find out you're required to keep the lawn mowed to a certain height or buy a matching mailbox.

Have the land surveyed before you buy.

If a piece of land is in the area you want, has ideal zoning around it, and is overseen by an HOA you can tolerate (or no HOA at all), there's one more thing you should do before you sign those sale documents: have the land surveyed. You would not want to purchase the property only to find that you cannot build a home with a basement because the soil is unstable, for instance. Having the land surveyed will save you time and money since it will ensure the land is suited for your purpose before you spend your hard-earned cash.