7 Tips for Choosing the Right Plans for Your Dream Home

Tips From a House Plan Publisher

View drawing of a wooden house, computer mouse
Is your perfect home a fantasy?. Photographer: Dieter Spannknebel / Collection: Stockbyte / Getty Images

Hundreds of companies sell stock house plans. You find them on the Internet and in the checkout line of Big Box stores like Lowe's and Home Depot. Even architectural firms may have their own stock plans—designs that have worked for other clients and are easily adaptable for anyone's needs. So, how do you choose?

What features should you look for? What can you expect when your mail order house plans arrive? The following tips come from a building plans pro.

How to Choose the Right Plan for Your New Home

Guest Feature by Ken Katuin

1. Choose a House Plan That Suits Your Land
Choose a plan that fits the characteristics of your land. It can be very expensive to haul in dirt or grade a lot to make it suitable for a plan. It's better to make the house fit the land rather than try to make the land fit the house. Also, the size and shape of your lot affects the type of home you can build on the lot.

2. Be Open-minded
It's important to be open-minded when looking at houses. By doing this, you'll learn things you never realized. Over time, your 'ideal' home will evolve and change. If you are like most people, you will probably buy a home that is different from what you thought you wanted. Don't quickly discard houses. You will have a better understanding of what you want by taking a close look at many houses.

3. Exteriors Are Easy to Change
Some people will only look at a house if they like its appearance. However, usually the house's exterior can easily be changed. The changes to an exterior can be so dramatic that you won't realize you are looking at the same house. To change the exterior, you can use different windows, modify roof lines, and change exterior details. Don't judge a home by its appearance. It's the inside that really counts. After all, you'll spend 90% of your time on the inside of your home.

4. Hidden Potential
You might discard the right home because you don't see its hidden potential. For example, say you don't like living rooms and you avoid houses that have living rooms. However, a living room could serve another purpose. It could become a den, a nursery, or an additional bedroom. It could also be an excellent dining room. Changing the location of a doorway or adding a wall may convert a room into something you would really love. Sometimes all you need to do is rename a room. When looking at houses, look for the hidden potential.

5. Perfect Homes Don't Exist
Some people spend years searching for the perfect home. However, they never find it because their perfect home is a fantasy. It doesn't really exist. Be realistic when shopping for a home. Ask yourself what are features you must have and what are features you want to have. When you find a house that meets your requirements, it may not have all of your wants. However, if you hold on to your dream of a perfect home, you might pass up the right house and regret it later.

6. Blueprints Can Be Changed
Almost everyone who buys stock house plans makes changes to them. Try to find something close to what you want and make changes to suit your needs. Common changes include doing a mirror reversal of the plan, moving walls, changing the location of the garage door (to make the garage a side garage or a front garage), and changing the size of the garage (such as lengthening a 2-car garage into a 3-car garage). Also you can usually add features to a home. For example most home plans can have a fireplace added.

7. Square Footage May Change
If you use a stock plan, you will probably make changes to the floor plan. Changes to a plan often increase or decrease the size of the house. Because of this, you should also look at plans that are smaller and larger than what you think you want. After changes are made, the plan may be close to the size you desire.

~ By Guest Writer Ken Katuin

The Bottom Line

Dreaming about a new home should be fun. If it's too stressful, maybe new construction is not your cup of tea. Making dreams a reality is a process of materialization. As more and more variables come into focus, balances can be visualized and defined. The plan becomes a possibility, which becomes a reality only after construction begins.

A home plan on paper is only a blueprint for a dream. Before construction begins, consider materials inside and out. You may be able to give up one variable (e.g., room size) to have another (e.g., imported natural ipé wood deck or porch). Also, remember that plans and materials can be expandable—what you can't afford today might be reasonable in the future.