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.
Streets and topography may be the main determinates of a house's orientation, but it's also a good idea to consider sun exposures when possible. A homeowner might reorganize a floor plan to take advantage of morning and afternoon light. Martin says that covered porches that face a southern exposure can help block out heat and sunlight.
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.
Remember that plans are not necessarily "as is." Builders can use a reverse set of plans (sometimes called a mirror image) to better site a house. It's also possible to hire an architect or modification service to personalize a plan. Ask if reproducible prints or electronic CADD files are available for the selected plan. Either will make the alteration process quicker and easier.
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