House plans: Top 4 things that drive up cost

    You can spend your whole life looking for the perfect house plan. The problem is, how do you know you can afford it once you've found it? This article will get you started.

    After reading this article to understand the basics, I encourage you to read more in-depth info by downloading our free guide, 3 Steps to the Perfect Floor Plan. You can also visit our page that talks about finding or creating the perfect house plan.

    A cost estimate to be aware of

    Sometimes, the designer can provide a cost estimate that you can buy along with the set of plans. Beware of that estimate. I can tell you from experience, some house plan designers in other cities or states have no idea how much it will cost to build that home.

    It's also tempting to shop new home prices, figure out the price per square foot, then apply that price to the home design you like. That approach makes sense, but it doesn't really work, and here's why. Let's say the design you like has 200 linear feet of cabinets, and the homes you're comparing it to have 150. Well, those extra 50 feet of cabinets cost money but don't add any square feet. That drives the price per square foot higher.

    Same thing goes for any feature: ceiling height, number of bathrooms, flooring type, number of windows, size of the doors, area of countertops, countertop material (granite, quartz, laminate, etc.). Square footage isn't the only variable, so many other factors must be considered when looking at the price.

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    Is your house plan cost-efficient?

    So, how can you tell if a house plan is going to be cost-efficient to build? Here are the top 4 things in a house plan that can make it more expensive to build:

    1. Corners

    Do the side and back exterior walls have lots of offsets and corners? Every time you turn a corner on an outside wall, you create construction waste. Look for a design that doesn't have many corners, or offsets, on the sides and back. Straight walls are efficient walls, both in terms of cost to build and energy efficiency.

    A rectangular house is going to be efficient but might not be as pleasing to the eye as you'd like. So, keep the sides and back straight, and put some offsets and corners on the front for visual appeal. Spend the money where it's valuable, not where it's wasted.

    2. Too many hallways

    Hallways, by definition, are wasted space. Now, there's no way to eliminate them completely, but hallways are an indication of square footage that's counted, but its only use is to get from one room to another. Thoughtful home designers know that square footage adds cost, so they'll work hard to create a layout with access to as many rooms as possible with as few hallways as possible.

    3. Angles other than 90 degrees

    If you like the aesthetics of angles, then you might find them worth paying for. If so, understand that the same philosophy about lots of corners applies to angles as well. They waste material and space. But, if you like the way they make a home look and that's valuable to you, then go for it. You'll know there's a cost associated, and now you can make your own choice instead of a designer making it for you.

    4. Varying ceiling heights

    Sometimes, it makes sense to have rooms adjacent to exterior walls have lower ceilings to keep the outside walls lower (less brick, lumber, and insulation). However, that's not a universal rule. Many times, it's more efficient to have all the ceilings in a house be the same level. Varying ceiling heights create framing issues that are solved through the use of extra material and labor. Again, more material means more money.

    When reviewing house plans, the best approach is to find a few you really like and make a list of the design features you like about each one. Then, find a designer or builder who will listen to your wants and needs and design a custom home just for you—one that incorporates your favorite elements in an efficient, cost-effective way.

    For a guide on creating the right house plan for your family, download our free guide, 3 Steps to the Perfect Floor Plan:

    Download 3 Steps to the Perfect Floor Plan

    2 minute read