Why do this, since even stock plans cost you at least a couple of hundred dollars each? Because the right stock plans can save you tons of time and money if you have a talented architect. Most plans are at least partly modular these days, and often you can even order prefabricated sections pegged to a specific house plan.
One item to look for when evaluating a house plans' quality level is the number of structural sections which are shown on the plan. Highly detailed sets of plans will always cut lots of sectional views through the house to show every different roof framing situation. This might mean that 10 or 12 (or even more) sections need to be drawn for a large house plan. And even a small house plan should include 3 or 4 sections minimum. However, many home plans available today (especially plans purchased through inexpensive plan directories) cut corners in this department and only show one or two house section views. This means that the builder will have to guess at the rest of the house framing.
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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