You have your eye on a home on a terrific Mississippi lot that has ample acreage to give you a chance to do what you really want: Add an in-law until and two additional properties to give you rental income.

But when you share that idea with your real estate agent, you get some bad news. The property isn’t zoned for more than one home.

Zoning is part of a community’s master plan and is used to help plan for future streets, public facilities and such. Zoning laws throughout the United States regulate how property can be used, whether for residential, commercial or industrial purposes. Within each category are sub-categories that specify, for example, whether only a single-family home can be constructed in a residential area or if apartments or other multi-family dwellings are allowed.

Additionally, zoning laws will address topics such as the building height and size, types and number of buildings allowed, where the utility lines are to be placed and things like building setbacks and boundaries.

Regarding that home you want to buy and surround with new properties, the good news is that just because your plan doesn’t fit the zoning doesn’t mean you need to give up on that dream. You can apply to the local municipality for a zoning variance. The zoning board will start by looking at your plans and how they could change the character of the community, then approve them and send them up the ladder, decline them or ask for modification.

An experienced real estate attorney can advise you about just what you need to do to successfully apply for a zoning variance.