10 Things to Consider When Choosing House Plans Online

If you were to go to Google and type in “House Plans” in the search browser you would receive over 156,000,000 hits in under a second. Even if a small fraction of these are relevant to what you are looking for, this still leaves a plethora of websites which have fully designed house plans available for purchase. The majority of these sites are large collections of house plans designed by various architects who have sold the plans to these websites for the resale to the general public. The architect in turn receives a small commission on each set of plans that is sold. The idea is simple: draw a set once, but get paid for it multiple times. Sounds good in principle, but let us see if it holds up under scrutiny.

1. Does it pay to hire an architect?

You could just as soon ask if buying a tailored suit will fit you better than a generic one. Of course hiring an architect will yield a better product which fits your exact needs and wants. An architect’s job is not just to draw pictures of floor plans and houses, but to communicate with their client to create from scratch a realm in which the client can live and grow and fits their needs. Often clients do not have a clear view of what they want and it is the job of an architect to interpret their foggy requests and turn it into a crystal clear vision! This is what separates the good architect from the great. So to answer the initial question, Yes, Hiring an architect will provide you with a better set of plans, which you can be assured is unique and honed to your life.

2. But it is still cheaper to buy plans online, right?

The simple answer is yes. A set of plans purchased online will range in cost depending on the elaborateness of the plan, the size of the home and the architect who designed it. Some websites charge by the square foot, others use different formula to determine how much to charge for their house plans. In addition, different websites offer different types of plan sets, but this article will discuss those difference later. For the time being it is reasonable to suggest that you would paying about $1,000.00 for plans for an 1,800 square foot home if you purchased them online. To hire an architect would cost much more.

3. What additional costs might I incur after buying a set of plans online?

The most common cost is when the owner decides that they want to make a few small changes to the plans which they have purchased. Many would-be “Do-it-yourselfers” will attempt to make these changes themselves, after all, how hard can it be to add a closet and change the pitch of the roof? They’re just lines on paper. Well, after you take into consideration that altering any part of a building, however small also means altering the foundation and framing plans and possibly the exterior look of the house, most will come to the conclusion, several frustrating hours later, that they are in over their head. At which time it is time to hire an architect to make the changes for them. So we’ve come full circle… In addition there are other possible changes that might be required to be made before the house is “buildable” on your lot.

4. Take into account the site on which you plan to build the house.

Is the site flat? Sloped? How steep? Is there a view? Is there limited access? Are there existing obstacles such as trees, rocks, other buildings or water? Sure, most developed sites have been established in flat areas with pre established roadways and driveways entry points and even a place to put your mail box. But if you are one of the lucky few to have obtained a more “interesting” site, then these are all things for your consideration. The majority of the house plans you find online are designed for flat sites, with a few trees and no water, view optional. Some house plan websites will offer plans that are designed for specific types of sites, such as “lakeside” plans or “golf course” plans. Take special not of anything on your site that is out of the ordinary and make sure when shopping online for plans that you look to see how large the home is. It is doubtful that your neighbor will be thrilled with part of your new Game Room poking into his Koi Pond…

5. What other restrictions should I consider?

If you have never dealt with your local Planning and Building Department then you might not realize that you are in fact, not free to build whatever you see fit on the piece of land which you paid for and now own. Most areas have several types of limitations on the amount of development that a piece of property can have on it. The first consideration is the setback requirements; this is how far from the property line your home must be. In addition, many building departments regulate how high the building can be at the setback line. Usually this height limit gets higher as you get farther and farther away from the property line.

This leads us to the next common restriction; overall height limit. This is usually used by the Planning Department to ensure that both you and your neighbors will retain good views of the landscape beyond.

The Planning Department will also often restrict the amount of square footage allowed to be built on any one lot. This is usually based on the size of the lot; the bigger your lot the more building you’re allowed to put on it. Similarly, some jurisdictions may try to restrict the number of bedrooms you have on a piece of property. The reason for this is logically it should also restrict the number of people living in a single home.

Before buying a plan, get into contact with your local Planning and Building Department and find out what kind of restrictions might be hovering around your land.

6. Don’t be fooled, be smart.

Most Websites will make the claim that they are selling Construction Document Sets, which include everything you need to build your new home. This is almost true. Considering what you’ve learned in the above sections it shouldn’t be hard to see why this is unlikely to be true. The chances of the home fitting perfectly are rather slim. The most common problem is that the site is not perfectly flat. Even a slight grade will mean that earth will have to be moved around in order to create a “pad” for the new building. Furthermore most people like to have these nifty things called “driveways” attached to their garages. Since online plan companies have no idea what the condition of your site is, they will usually provide a suggestion for the driveway, but it is unlikely t

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