3 Steps To The Perfect Home Plans – Chapter 3
Who will craft your home plans?
It’s time to find the home plans designer, architect, or builder who you trust to translate your vision into a home plans a builder can build. This is obviously a critical step, and it presents a unique challenge.
You are not buying into a set of home plans, you’re going to buy into an individual. A prospective designer will not draw the plans and then let youdecide if you’re going to buy them. Becuase, you have to trust that the relationship is going to work and that you’ll end up with the plans you envisioned. Sounds a little like getting married?
Elements makes this process easier by bringing the home plans design process in-house. You can get your wants and desire by committing to a process, just like before. When your rational brain is in charge and before the emotional decision-making time comes.
Some thoughts on having the home plans drawn.
- First, I’m going to assume you have a budget? I’m also going to assume that your core values DO NOT include bragging to your friends? You know at cocktail parties about which architect you hired to design your new home plans or about how much you had to pay him/her for your house plans.
- If I’m wrong about that, then my advice is to find out who’s designing the biggest, flashiest, showiest multimillion dollar homes in your town and go hire that guy. Done.
How do you find home plans designers to interview?
The best thing to do is find a builder first. I know that sounds out of sequence, and if you don’t feel that’s the right way to go about it, that’s OK. If you finish reading this guide, you’ll be well equipped to create a great home-building experience. On the other hand, a builder you trust will guide you through this whole difficult process. They can help with finding land, designing a house, getting a construction loan, etc. With Elements when you find the builder you also find the designer with 20 years experience.
- To find the “house designer” who designs efficient-to-build home plans, think back to making your list.
- Were there some homes that had some of the indicators of inefficient or less-than-thoughtful house plan design?
Two words: Google Maps. Search the following words or phrases:
- Look up “House designers”
- Home plans
- Search House designs
- The Home designs
- Set of House plans
Search Results For Your Home Plans
Most of the results that turn up will be interior designers, just ignore those. If you’re not seeing any results for people who design house plans, keep zooming out the map until you find some (Remember to look for Elements Design Build too!).
- Avoid big architect and engineer (A&E) firms that have names that sound like attorney partnerships
- Next, set up appointments to visit them face-to-face. Remember, we’re talking about building a relationship on trust.
Another worthy home plans source: call the local chapter of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Home designers join local NAHB chapters to associate with their main clientele, home builders.
Choose Home Builder First
One more suggestion, which might seem weird and out of sequence. Look for a home builder that does design in-house (like Elements). If you can find that, and the interview process below goes well, you’ve saved lots and lots of work. You have also tremendously upped your chances of getting more of your list within your budget. Why?
- Because a builder knows building costs, and the house plan designer who works that closely with a builder will design with a knowledgeable eye toward building efficiency.
You’re after a house plan that gets you the most of what you want for your money, and a builder/designer combination (Like Elements) can understand how lines on paper affect your wallet
Interviewing home plans designers: what to look for
- I always like to start with the disqualifiers (cross someone off the list). It’s easier if there are some obvious deal-killers up front. Here are two.
- Home plans mills – Place that one person’s name on the door, but there are lots and lots of people sitting behind computer screens churning out plans for plan books.
- The home plans designer that won’t meet with you directly in person for the first meeting. That’s fine if the draftsmen is the brains of the operation. If that’s the case, though, the person will be able to show you his/her own work as opposed to work that’s under the boss’ name.
- When you do sit down with the designer (and if you’re married or have a significant other who shares decision-making with you, you both need to be there), ask these questions with the included purpose in mind.
Question: How do you start the process?
Purpose: Find out if there’s a systematic method to draw out your needs and desires. If the beginning is a blank sheet of paper where you’re just expected to spill your guts, or if the beginning seems random, it’s not a good sign.
Follow-up question: Will we be starting with one of your existing house plan designs?
Purpose: Your family just want to find out if this designer is accustomed to designing one-off custom plans, or if he/she has a “comfort zone” and wants to stay in it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with starting from an existing plan. However, that should be your choice, not the house plan designer’s.
Question: How many iterations will it take?
Purpose: Does the designer is going to cut you off after a certain number of revisions. Or is the designer is confident enough in his or her process to know that if he/she hasn’t developed a plan that works within a certain time, it’s his/her issue, not yours.
Having said that, you have to be reasonable. Don’t expect the process to go on forever—it isn’t fair to the designer.
Question: What if I hate it?
Purpose: This is a legitimate question. If the answer is, “You won’t,” then the designer is unrealistic and might try to “sell” you on his creation if he comes up with something you really don’t like. Further, it’s not uncommon for the first draft of a design to be something the client doesn’t like, simply because there was an unspoken element nobody knew to bring up until it was put on paper. You want the designer to answer with something like, “It’s totally OK if you hate the first draft. We’ll learn a great deal about what you do want from that exercise. It’s just part of the process.”
Question: What the designer does to keep the design efficient to build? Or, how do I know I’ll be able to build this plan within my budget?
Purpose: This is a tough question for many designers to answer. Many have no experience building, so they really don’t have a feel for how much it costs to build what (to them) are simply lines on paper. Therefore a more conscientious designers get feedback from their clients (builders and individuals). They do this to find out how the building of their plans actually went, and they use that information to adjust their design practices. However, some designers will tell you they don’t worry about designing for building efficiency, and that it’s up to the builder to worry about that. That is a half-truth: it is up to the builder to operate efficiently, but if he/she is building a design he/she didn’t create, then that part is out of the builder’s hands.
Question: How do I pay?
Purpose: Really a logistical question, and the designer will have no problem answering.
Understand what square footage number the designer is talking about when referring to proce. There are several possibilities.
- Under roof (or under beam): Total area covered by the roof, including first floor, second floor, porches, patios, garages, etc.
- Framed Footage – Heated and cooled: This is the total area that’s just living space on every floor. It doesn’t include porches, patios, and garages. If the designer uses this number, the fee per square foot will be higher just because this area is smaller than “under roof.”
- Heated and cooled (veneer footage): If a house is covered by a brick veneer, the total plan area that’s heated and cooled but measured to the outside of the brick rather than the outside of the wood framing is called veneer footage. It’s the same as frame footage (above), except the plan area of brick is added in. This one seems weird, but it’s useful for comparing to completed houses because you can measure the outside of a house pretty easily. This is the area Realtors and appraisers use, because you can measure a finished house this way.
Question: May I see some of your work?
Purpose: The designer expects this question, of course, and you’re looking for design elements like we talked about above. Watch out! The designer will show you elevations or even artist renderings (the front of the house) first. Why? So you’ll fall in love with a look. Because the rendering might be in color, it will have great big trees in the background, the landscaping will be mature and impeccably groomed, and the season will be perpetually spring. Don’t be fooled by your emotional reaction to the pretty picture.
House Plans First
Look at the plan first, then you can look at the elevation or rendering. Look for efficiency, aesthetics, and attention to detail. Have the designer tell the story of a few of the designs you like and listen for clues about his/her approach to design. Is he/she a stickler for certain details (like making sure you can’t see a toilet from the entry)? Does the designer seem to just add on elements later (like external mechanical closets), or does he/she work hard to stay within square footage and shape constraints? You want to get a feel that the designer will work hard to stay within your guidelines. The above questions are all intellectual in nature, and you’re asking for intellectual answers, but you’re really looking for more than that.
You’re trying to get an emotional feel for whether you want to work with this person or not. Remember my analogy of marriage? Yeah, you want to come away with a good feeling, but a good feeling that’s based on something tangible, not just a head rush. That rush will fade if it isn’t based on something substantial. Interview several designers, as many as you feel you need to get the hang of the process, then go home and talk it over with your significant other.
Strike the ones that don’t give you a good feeling off the list, then continue to narrow the list until you feel you have the right one. If you can’t narrow it to one, go talk to the ones you like again. If you have it narrowed to two, flip a coin, and the feeling you get right when you find out whether it’s heads or tails will tell you which one to choose.