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On a regular basis, we get a call asking if we can customize home plans that someone purchased online. Since this is a somewhat controversial subject here in the office, this week we are going to dig into the online plans.

If you are considering building a house, one of the first and most natural things to do in modern times is to hit the internet. While you’re googling what you need to do, you invariably come across someone selling new home floorplans. Generally speaking, these plans are VERY reasonably priced. And like most people you’re going to think “Score!” So you scroll through the designs, find one you like and buy it. Easy Peasy.

This might be where the pros and cons of online plans hit you. These plans are inexpensive because they are generic. Inexpensive is great, generic less so. After all, you are making a big investment, and you need your new home to fit how you live. You may have found something close to what you want, but it’s probably not an exact fit for everything you want. This is usually where we get the call to modify the plans. Easy, right?

Unfortunately, modifying existing plans isn’t as easy as you might think. Or I should say modifying plans to create a great end product isn’t easy. If you want to just make a couple of quick changes, your builder or a draftsperson can usually accommodate you, and probably at a better cost than hiring an architect. It’s definitely more economical than our office, where we would have to reinput all the plans into our 3D modeling software, which is more intensive than drawing a few extra lines. Before you head down this route, you should know that plan modification like this usually ends with poor spatial flow and awkward spaces.

From an architect’s perspective, online plans are almost always a bad idea. First, they don’t take the site into consideration. Your piece of property might have a spectacular view or a natural feature that your home can really respond to or showcase. We also spend a great deal of time finding out exactly what you want and how you live to ensure the spaces flow well. In the end, an architect will take all the things you want in your home, consider the nature of the property and lay them out in a spatially pleasing way that something generic can’t.

So to answer the question, can you customize online home plans the simple answer is yes. It is certainly within our capabilities, but the better question is should we? I keep thinking of this as someone buying a cheeseburger at McDonald’s, then bringing it to a chef and asking them to make it a gourmet burger. They can do it, but you’re better off letting them just make you a gourmet burger. At the end of the day, your best bet is deciding what you really want before you buy.  

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