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Stock Plan vs. Custom Design Plans

by Engineer Designer on July 3, 2010

This is a subject about which I have grown passionate. Was on a very nice website the other day.  It is owned by a national company that sells pre-drawn house plans.  I want to comment upon many of their sales points: They cited 6 reasons why one should go with a pre-designed stock  plan over a €ustom-drawn plan. I will state their reasons  ( in red) and then my comments: You save up to 95% on price of the plans. Custom-drawn plans - which include the designer's fees - can eat up 10% of your total building budget. More on this later when we discuss their cost for custom designed plans. By this reasoning a home that costs $200,000 to build would cost $20,000 to custom design. While there may be exceptions, to pay this much for a residential design would be rare indeed. Prices for a custom home design, fully engineered, through Florida Residential Design will run around $1.00 to $3.00 per sqft under roof depending upon complexity. This includes the design, the renderings, the construction plans, AND the Engineering. You save up to 20% on total construction costs. Pre-drawn house plans help keep construction costs from going over budget. Because the plans have been used to build before, the materials list and other details have already been tested and tweaked. I have been designing AND building for 30 years. Material takeoffs for plans are a bit tedious but not difficult. Any professional builder can create an accurate takeoff of required materials. True, tract home can be less expensive but that is more a function of building several identical homes in the same area more or less at the same time. The stock plans being sold by this and other companies are not tract homes, they are and will be  custom-built homes. Every challenge that one will face as a builder or with a builder will be faced regardless whether it is stock or custom. Having built many 100's of custom homes, I can tell you, "If you plan to custom build, then  get plans that have been custom designed for you which  will suit your individuality. Otherwise, why hassle with building? Go buy a pre-built home; be it new or pre-owned. "  Remember, stock plans are not custom-designed. Plan customizations cost less. Our design customization service makes revising your plans easy and affordable. Simple changes can often be handled by your builder. Not a good comparison. Their "customization" is relatively expensive and is limited to minor modifications to pre-designed plans.  It would be like getting to choose where the ashtray goes in your car up or down a inch or two, rather than getting to choose the style, the drivability, the seat type and every other facet of a car's design. If you were going to get to build your car, would you want it to be limited to a known model? Or would you prefer to, along with an experienced professional, design it to be just as you wish. If you are going to build, which is custom by its very nature, then does it not make sense to get your plans custom-designed as well? Top quality, no nasty surprises. Many pre-drawn plans have the same high-quality design specs as custom-drawn plans, so it's easy to determine the economic feasibility of building the home. Quality is a standard. It is expressed by the materials specified, in part, but is also a function of quality workmanship and builder attention to details.  It is based upon a decision that you and the designer (and the builder) make. One possible source of surprises is the client's lack of understanding the plans. The key is personalize service from your designer and your builder. A beautiful set of renderings from multiple angles, and even a virtual walkthrough can eliminate most of the surprises. We also offer a "Screen-Connect" service where you will connect your own computer screen to ours for a full, real time, look and walk-through of your new home. And the design can be modified on the fly. More selection, more savings. Our huge selection of pre-drawn plans makes it easy to compare costs and decide which plan fits your budget best. Their word “selection” implies that there is a finite number of predesigned plans from which to choose. A custom-designed project has essentially a limitless selection. We can design ANYTHING. Time is money. You'll have your pre-drawn plans in a few days - not the weeks or months you have to wait for custom-drawn plans. Speed can be important but should not be a prime consideration given the money and time you will be investing to build it; not to mentioned the years you will own it. And, frankly, custom design can be delivered at speeds that will surprise you. Our software and skill in its use, allow us to produce at very acceptable speeds. These folks do offer a custom designed service. It takes about 14 weeks according to their own word.

Just check this out:

  • Their custom design service runs $9,950 for a 4000 sqft home.
  • Their custom design service takes 14 weeks.
  • To get their plans engineered (which is a requirement in Florida) it takes 3 to 4 week and costs $5,950. THAT IS OVER AND ABOVE THE CUSTOM DESIGN SERVICE!
KEY - in Florida plans must be engineered. Their plans will not work in Florida unless engineered. Engineering can cost far more than the original plans.

Custom designers, like the Engineer Designer, provide  extensive services for fees a fraction of theirs. As an example, the Engineer Designer will:

  • Design your home from scratch based upon a wide set of criteria including your lot, any sketches you have, any pictures of styles you like, and other factors.
  • Present the design to you with beautiful color renderings, elevations and floor plans.
  • Provide "screen-connect" service for detailed collaboration which is the best communication between you and the designer.
  • Tweak the design until it is the way you want it.
  • And, if registered as Engineers or Architects they are  sealed and ready to permit in Florida.
Stock Plan Company the Engineer Designer
A 4000 sqft home.
Design and Construction Plans $9,950 $4,400
Full Engineering $5,450 zero
Total $ $15,400 $4,400
Total Time 18 weeks, their estimate abt 4 weeks
Of course, charges from various companies may be different. I chose one large and very popular site for my comparisons. Stock Plan sources are numerous. They can be helpful and entertaining to review. I enjoy them as well. But I advise that they be used mainly for ideas to help jump start ones creative juices. One should, especially in areas that require professional design and/or engineering, seek out a professional designer who can create or modify a plan to exactly meet your requirements as well as produce plans that are workable and acceptable to the area where you plan to build. Builders can spot "generic", "store-bought" plan easily and will generally request that they be redrawn according to local custom and Codes. As in all endeavors, it's probably best to get it done right the first time.