Taking the plan from blueprint to dream house : A builder may provide a ballpark estimate of construction costs from a study plan, but he or she should consult the working drawings to give a more accurate figure. Many variables can affect the bottom line, including the choice and availability of materials, labor costs, choice of finishes and degree of detail. Ask several contractors for competing bids. If you've got the vision but not the bankroll (at least at this time), it may be wise to choose a plan with bonus space that can be built out as finances allow. Be sure to allot a portion of your budget to landscaping and finish details. Architects and interior designers recommend that you don't skimp on the seemingly small stuff. Higher-quality trim and building materials may trump extra square footage. "Good, insulated windows may be costly initially," Martin says, "but over the long run, they're going to save you money on your power bill." Crown moulding and custom cabinetry can make a stock plan feel like it was designed specifically for your family. After all, it's the personal touches that make a house feel like a home.
The field of drawing custom house plans is a crowded and competitive one. There are many architectural and design firms out there vying for a "piece of the pie." However, if you look closely at examples of their finished product, you will find huge differences among them. The better ones offer quality designs and highly detailed plans.
Square one : The real estate agent's mantra "location, location, location" rings true even when you're building from scratch. From privacy to orientation, your lot is likely to influence which plan you choose. "Theoretically, it's best to start by finding a lot because then you'll have a clear idea of what square footage will and will not fit on the property," says Robert Martin, Architecture Editor at Southern Living. "It's a dangerous proposition to try to gooseneck a house into a lot that's really not ideal for that plan."
The property owner can seek a variance to exceed the "building envelope," the allowable area that a home can occupy on a lot. However, the process is often lengthy and there's no guarantee that permission will be granted. Local zoning boards and community organizations often require a house be set back a certain distance from the street. Before purchasing a corner lot, find out if front-yard setback regulations apply to the lot's front and side-street boundaries. This could substantially reduce the area available for a home's footprint. Easements as well as natural features, like rock outcroppings and mature trees, may also influence where the house can be located.