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“Insider“ Tips & Tricks on How to Pay Less for Your New House Plans


A major cost-saving strategy when deciding to build a new home is to purchase a “stock” home design instead of a “fully-custom” home design. However, it can be confusing to determine exactly what plan package and/or options that a particular person needs.

“Part of the issue in picking a home design is the sheer variety of plan packages out there,” said Mark Mathis, owner of, a leading national home designer. “Since every designer offers a variety of different ways to buy their house plans, it can become confusing to a new person shopping for designs.”

To choose the right package, you should know the basic features most include as well as some of the add-on considerations. The “right” package will ultimately depend on your needs and budget.

The Basics

Most designers will offer packages that include a single set of blueprints stamped with the words “Not for Construction.” These packages usually will not include a license to build the home or allow for copies of the blueprints, and the main purpose of these type packages are simply to obtain accurate bids and materials quotes to build that specific home, in that specific local area.

In addition, most designers will also offer more typical “construction ready” packages which allow you to have a valid license to build, obtain a building permit, secure your financing, and actually build your home.

In all cases, “construction-ready” plan packages will have multiple copies (usually 3-10) of the complete sets of house plans, which will include all four exterior views (also called elevations); complete floor plans; a foundation plan; a roof plan; building sections; and other details necessary to build your house. These “construction-ready” plan packages will also typically come with a single license to build the home, although many designers also offer a “multi-build” license for an additional fee.

Changes to Stock House Plans

If you plan to make minor changes to you house plans, you’ll want to upgrade to a package that allows for modifications to be easily made by a local design professional. By upgrading to an electronic CAD file package, PDF file package, or even a Reproducible plan package which is printed on erasable Mylar, sepia, or vellum paper, you’ll have the flexibility that you need to have those changes made, locally.

Included in these “modifiable” type plan packages is a legal release, allowing your local design professional to make the relevant changes necessary to the stock plan. In addition, when shopping for these type plan packages, you’ll want to look for those designers who also include a second copy of the plan to be used as a reference, and a release to make additional copies of the modified documents to aid in the bidding and building process.

According to Mr. Mathis, a popular package on his website is the “PDF File Set.” , which is a modifiable plan package delivered in the digital Adobe PDF file format. In addition, Mr. Mathis said clients like it because of its flexibility. “You can make your own copies from the PDF version, which makes it an excellent option when you need plans very quickly, and will need to make substantial modifications.”

Serious Freedom

A final type of popular plan package is the CAD file. CAD stands for “Computer Aided Design.” These electronic files allow the home plan to be modified, substantially, and is typically the best option for modifying a stock plan as the actual design files can be easily manipulated in the computer, with no need for conversion or re-drawing of any type.
Finally, many people look to have a fully-custom home design developed, however Mr. Mathis notes that the design process can take up to 6 months for a design professional or licensed architect to complete the detailed working drawings and can easily cost several thousand dollars.

“While we offer fully-custom home designs at, we always recommend that our customers first find a stock design that fits their needs, fairly closely, and then discuss changes with us,” he said. “We can usually modify that stock plan to fit their exact needs in a much more timely and inexpensive manner, but whatever the customer wants, we always strive to make them happy with the final product.”


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