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For most, designing a new home begins with a lot of false starts. Questions need to be answered. How big of a house do you need? How many bedrooms and bathrooms are needed? Do you want an open floor plan? Do you need porches or decks? Which home styles do you like? Once most of the questions are answered then the process of finding a floor plan begins. Where do you look? Can you afford an architect? What about home plan websites with thousands of plans? Can you design your own home? There are lots of options and by working with a good, qualified builder you can rely on their experience and knowledge to help you avoid many costly pitfalls.
Builder’s Standard Home Plans
Most builders offer standard floor plans. Some builders will actually only build using their floor plans because they know the costs of construction and can build them efficiently. However, a true custom builder never builds the same floor plan twice. Each home is designed specifically for the individual home buyer. However, using a standard floor plan as a good start is a great way to save time in the design process.
When evaluating standard plans, here are some tips to think about during the review process:
- Home Size – It is much easier to find a smaller plan than you need and make it larger than to find a larger plan and make it smaller. Designing square footage out of a plan to make it fall within your budget usually means you lose the very things that made you fall in love with the plan in the first place.
- Prioritize Features – For most, finding everything you want in a single standard floor plan is nearly impossible. By prioritizing desired features you can find the house plan that most closely meets your needs and then design in other key features where possible.
- Think about Function and Flow – How do you and your family live? Think about schedules, abilities, and age when reviewing plans. Does your spouse leave early for work and do you leave later? How will noise and light from the master bathroom affect the other person? What about hallways and doorways? Do you, or any regular visitors such as parents, have mobility issues to consider?
Working with an Architect
For some, architects are the way to have a professional designer review your needs and design a home and floor plan completely around you. Architects are trained in many areas, from engineering to landscape design. Their knowledge and experience means they can find solutions and see possibilities that a home buyer would miss. They will interview you as part of the process and anticipate your needs in their designs.
When interviewing architects, make sure their experience and work reflect your tastes. Ask for a bio and study their website. Architects can charge by the square foot or on an hourly basis. Costs can range from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars for a home and floor plan design. Typically they range from about 8% – 12% of the final cost of the home.
House Plan Websites
Just Google “house plans” and see how many home plan sites there are. Many of them display 25,000 – 35,000 house plans for sale. The great thing about home plan sites is the breadth and diversity of styles and options that appear in their home plans. You can get access to designs from architects and home designers across the country at a fraction of the cost you would pay to hire an architect.
The renderings of homes and the floor plans you find can be absolutely beautiful. Just keep in mind that whether you are site building or using modular construction; all those angles, bump-outs, and roof lines add significantly to the cost of a home! Using modular construction has evolved to be very flexible when it comes to home design. However, it is important to understand that while it may be possible to build practically any home design with modular construction, sometimes it just isn’t cost effective. It is important to evaluate each plan to determine how modular-friendly it is for construction.
DIY Home Design
After reviewing builder plans, plans from a website, or from one of the many other locations; the option to just do-it-yourself seems like the best way to get started. Sitting at the dining room table with graph paper is how many custom homes get their design start. The more modern approach is to use a store bought or free online home design tool that helps you do floor plan layouts and even place furniture to see spacing and help establish room sizes.
At some point, most home buyers turn over their initial sketches or designs to a builder or professional designer to be completed. These completed drawings are then used for cost estimating and pricing. For many, this is a great option to help them feel like the home they are going to live in is truly custom to their needs.
Getting the Home You Want
Designing a new home typically starts with a vision. A desire to build a home that meets your needs and the needs of your family or other occupants. Inspiration can come from many places:
- Visiting Open Houses
- Walking neighborhoods
- Visiting websites (i.e. Houzz.com)
- House Plan websites
Pictures are a great way to document items you want in your new home. Whether they are snips from a website or are actual photos collected on tours, the key is to get organized. Create folders or books and collect pictures or notes for like areas. These can be noted as: Master Bathroom, Master Bedroom, Kitchen, Front Porch, Stairs, etc. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and if you begin working with a design or building professional that picture helps them better understand exactly what is in your mind.
Custom Modular Homes
When it comes to creating a custom modular home design, flexibility is key. Modular offers the option to create virtually any home design. The benefits of indoor construction, the cost savings that can be associated with volume purchasing, and the health benefits of being built indoors and out of the weather can be hard to beat.
Just remember that any home plan must be able to be cost effectively broken down and designed to be built in modules. These modules then have to be transported to a site and assembled on a foundation. For a majority of today’s house plans, the modular construction method is a great way to build them. For some, the total cost to build it using modular construction can outweigh the benefits. It is important to talk with a modular home designer early in the process if you want to make sure your home plan can be built using the modular advantage!
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