Avoid relying on house plans found online

    Frequently, the first time I meet with a client, she brings with her a set of plans that she's found during many hours of painstaking research online. She's usually spent a lot of time looking online to find a home plan that is just perfect for her family's needs.

    Usually, that design isn't exactly perfect, but it's the closest thing she's been able to find so far. The best thing about internet home plans is that they can give you a really good head start on the process of thinking through what you want, need, and can live without in a home design. And sometimes, that's the hardest part!

    But there are some things that an house plan found on the internet can't do for you. It can't give you a realistic prediction of how much it will cost to build, because every family has different preferences, and there are pricing variations depending on your market.

    In addition to that, any customization of a home design found online is up to you. That usually means that you'll pay the original designer for the house plans, and then you'll pay another designer to make the custom changes that make the home perfect for your family. You'll end up paying twice for one home design, and any substantial changes will have to be tacked on to what are essentially plans for someone else's home.

    The best approach is to use the house plan as a guide. Find the best design you can online, and use it to guide your initial conversation with your builder. Talk with your builder about what you really, really like about the plan, what you really dislike, and what elements you could take or leave. You should also include any photos you've found (you can share your Pinterest board for convenience) so your builder can get a feel for your style and tastes.

    Your builder should use that information to create a brand-new, custom design that meets your design and budget needs. It shouldn't cost any more than any other design, assuming you'll be hiring that builder to build your home. All of the details you've shared, taken together, will result in a unique, one-off design that fits you like a glove.

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