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.
Having been in the business for more than 30 years, we have seen a large number of house plans which looked good at first glance. However, upon closer examination, many of these plans were found to be lacking large amounts of needed information. If a house plan is not easy to navigate or is not thoroughly detailed, then the builder is left to guess at the designer's intentions. This often means that he will "pad" his bid to make sure that he covers any unknown construction costs that may arise.
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.
"Some communities promote close neighbors, and some communities promote more breathing space," Martin says. "It's not wise to use up every square foot of building space because you'll have less of a yard." If the lot is located in a suburban neighborhood, consider the placement of windows - take care that they will not align exactly with neighbors' views. Driveways should also be taken into account to make sure that there's plenty of room for parking and turning around.