Q: It seems the only lots available in our area are challenging topographically—and expensive. Conventional home plans don't seem to maximize the potential of these lots. How can I make the most of a challenging lot?

A: IN MANY MARKETS, THE DAYS OF FLAT, RECTANGULAR LOTS ARE OVER. AT THE SAME TIME, THE INCREASED VALUE of homes and the rising sophistication of home buyers mean that design is becoming a critical component of the marketability of new homes. For example, let's look at the case of a lot that slopes from front to back, creating the opportunity for a walk-out basement. This would be a premium lot, but the value of that premium is often minimized because of the clumsy adaptation of stock plans designed for a flat lot. Building a deck on the rear of the house, and otherwise showing three stories of siding is not only unsightly but it limits a homeowner's ability to enjoy the backyard. Measures can be taken to connect the principal spaces of the home to the backyard and to carry the appeal of the home around all four sides.