Which House Plan is Best For You?

Sarah PowellPosted by Sarah Powell on February 9, 2017

You bought some land, and you’re ready to move ahead with building a house. Now what you need is a plan! A house plan, that is.

But where do you find house plans? You’ll probably look on the Internet first, as most of us do, where there is a plethora of home design software that can be downloaded for free or purchased for a few hundred dollars.

You can also buy stock plans online, from a mail order service, or from a brick-and-mortar business. There are also construction companies that offer design/build options. And then there are residential designers and architects to consider.

What’s the right option for you? That depends. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the five basic home plan options.

  • Do It Yourself: Free software sounds like a good deal, right? But remember—a house plan is more than a sketch of all the rooms in a house. It also includes a plan for the foundation, a plan for the exterior of the house, a plan for the grounds, plus detailed written specifications about everything from the light fixtures to the doors and windows. If your knowledge of home construction is limited, designing an entire house might be beyond your capabilities. You may pay for that “free” software in costly mistakes.
  • Purchase a Stock Plan: Stock plans can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,000, and for additional fees, a residential designer can modify the plans to meet your specific needs. One thing to research about a stock plan, however, is whether that particular house has ever been constructed. If it hasn’t, the plans might include some problems that will only become apparent once construction begins.
  • Hire a Residential Designer: One grade below an architect, a residential designer can draw up the plans for a relatively small or traditional house. Designers have less education than architects, and will, therefore, typically charge less for their services. If your home goals are modest (by architectural standards), a residential designer with proven experience and sterling references is a good option.
  • Design/Build: Many companies offer a kind of package deal, where they’ll both design and build your new home. This can be a good, streamlined option with one point of contact, which often makes the process simpler and more understandable. This minimizes the risks since you are dealing with one entity, and because the two branches of the company are in communication with each other, often the process can be smoother.
  • Hire an Architect: If the home you’re dreaming of is a complex or unique structure, you need to hire an architect. Look for one who specializes in residential design (as opposed to hospitals or theaters, for example), and who also has experience in the type of house you want to build. If you want an ultra-modern house, don’t hire someone who has made a career out of designing Colonials. Most architects make their money by charging 10 percent (or more) of the total cost of the construction of the house.