There are many advantages to buying a house plan online. When you buy online, you are able to browse thousands of possible sizes, styles and layout of homes, which typically give you the option of making small customizations to every plan. This method will end up costing you much less than you would pay to hire an architect or designer to develop a custom home plan for your specific needs. The process will also save you much needed time. With thousands of sites that offer house plans to choose from, this process may prove a little overwhelming for some. In order to successfully buy a house plan online, you will need to carefully assess your needs in the home plan, as well as the design service. Below are 10 factors to consider when purchasing house plans online.
Like most other things in life, a budget is the first thing that you need to consider before shopping for a house plan online. This applies to both the price of a desired house plan and the building costs to transform your house plan into a dream home.
- Plan Price - As for the house plan price, shop for a house plan that is suitable for your budget. To do this, be sure to compare pricing offered on various websites. Most sites will offer both reproducible master plans as well as a CAD (computer-aided design) drawing which you can easily change. The site may also offer in-house customization done by a licensed architect amongst other services. Also take into account any additional features and services that the site offers such as cost estimation tools that will assist you in planning out your total budget.
- Building Costs - While a house plan may seem reasonably priced, keep in mind that you will still require a contractor to build your house, and will therefore need to take into account contractor fees and the price of the property. Ensure that you have a basic understand of builder’s rates and costs of providing for various design items for a given type of house. Know what items of a plan are considered to be “basic”, “mid-range” and “upmarket” in relation to building costs.
Your Needs in a House Plan
Like when you approach an architect to design a house for you, first he will want to know what you will require in a new house. During that process an architect will normally take some time just to develop a needs-analysis document called the Brief. This process is highly important to both yourself and the architect because it provides a road map to your dream home. The same applies when you intend to buy your house plans online. First you will need to take your time to identify all your needs in a new house. Prepare a list of these needs. Separate the luxury and nice-to-have items and shortlist the most important items. Determine specific numbers, sizes and types for each item on your list. This will include things like:
- Number of bedrooms, bathrooms, lounge spaces, etc.
- Sizes of these rooms.
- The interaction you require between the various rooms
This list will assist you to focus on the more important items during your house plan search for a house
The House Plan & The Size of Your Plot
A big mistake you can ever make when buying a house plan online is to buy a house plan that doesn’t fit on your plot. Even if it does fit, remember that your local municipality has by-laws and regulations that restricts how far you can build from your street boundary and all other boundaries. This “buffer space” is called a setback or building line. If your plot is 10 000m2, then this may not be a problem for you. But if you’re working with a smaller plot, this means you will first need to make a visit to your local municipal offices to find out what restrictions are imposed on your property with regard to these setbacks/building lines.
Municipal Property Zoning & Building Codes
As with the setbacks/building line restrictions above, your property is also subject to your city’s town planning schemes and regulations. Before you purchase a house plan online, you may want to seek the advice of a building department official in your local area, where your property is located. The building official will be able to provide you with guidelines on the use, height and size of house that you are allowed to build on your plot. Such guidelines are important especially for those who intend to build a home within an urban environment and the plan they choose may be too large and not comply with the local building codes. Note also that you will have to appoint a structural engineer to undertake the structural analysis and design for double storey structures or if you bought a plot with unsatisfactory soil conditions. For just an hour or more, be sure to visit your local building department so that they can walk you through their requirements.
General Conditions of Your Plot
In general, architects usually pays special attention to any physical conditions that exists on your property. They do this long before they even start to think about the floor layout sketches, etc. So it is essential that you also consider the existing site conditions of your plot. These conditions may include the following:
- Ground slope
- Any existing trees, rock outcrops, etc.
- Position and orientation of existing neighbour’s properties (ie. Where are their windows/balconies facing?)
- Sun’s north/south orientation (ie. which part of the home will get more sunlight?)
- Are there any restrictions to accessing the plot? (Street poles, water/electricity connection boxes, etc).
The Architectural Style
Most websites provides house plans in various architectural design styles that you can choose from. This means that you can browse through a number of categories with different design styles to suit your particular lifestyle taste and preferences. Again, you will need to be careful that the architectural style you choose would also be accepted by your homeowners association (HOA) – if building in residential complex or estate - and your local municipality. Secondly, you will need to compare between various house plans that you’ve shortlisted so that you come to the very best house plan at the end of your search. During this stage, try and involve members of your family in as much as possible to obtain their input in a house that they will be sharing. Consider having the house plan printed out such that you are able to compare each side by side and ask your family to give their opinion. Be sure to also print out the house plans such that you are able to sketch any potential changes onto the plans directly.
Remember that you may not find a single house plan that include all the features and items that perfectly matches your desires. Even if you were obtaining the service of an architect who is dedicated to designing to your specific taste, some things would still be traded off. You and your architect would still have to compromise on some of the features and items in order to come to a more rounded design outcome. It is the same with buying a house plan on line. You will need to be logical when searching for a house plan for you and your family. The house plan you choose should not only provide you with an aesthetically appealing home, but a functional one as well. It is therefore important to assess how closely your favorite online house plans would fit in with your home living needs. Bookmark several of your favorite house plans and consider each one carefully.
The house plan you purchase should provide you with a home of the right size. In order to have a better visualization of the house plan, take some measurements in your current home. For instance, if you are concerned that a 3 meter wide room will feel cramped, then try to identify a room in your present home that is of a similar size to compare with.
Changes to House Plans
So you’ve identified the right house plan for your needs but which requires a little tweaking. You may still buy it and get someone to make the final changes to the house plan. If you intend on hiring an architect to make minor changes, be sure to buy your house plan in the form of a CAD or reproducible master drawing. Such a drawing will allow the architect to produce updated copies which can be permitted. If you have major changes in mind for your house plan, your best bet would be to purchase a CAD drawing. Architects are able to thoroughly alter CAD drawings before printing them out. In the event that the house plan is just perfect and you don’t wish to make any changes on it, you may simply order a set of copies. Such copies can be permitted and utilized by your builder as they are.
When ordering your house plans online, you have the above options at your disposal, each of which varies in price. In any case, it is advisable to have consultants such as architects, or structural, electrical, mechanical and plumbing experts on hand to provide you with advice on how to transform your floor plan into your dream home reality.
House Plan Approval
Remember that your house plan will still need to be submitted to your local building department for approval. If you’re building in a residential complex or estate, you will also need their approval before submitting to your local building office. So while you may undertake both submissions yourself, it is much easier to get your builder or a local draughtsman to do the submissions on your behalf. This is ideal since they’re already used to the process and can therefore speed up the process for you. Some builders may even volunteer to do the submissions if they are sure to be offered the contract of building your house.