Stock Plans: The Good, The Bad and The Impossible, Part 2

As a residential architect specializing in custom homes, I of course want to design for you from scratch. However, plenty of people use stock plans to generate ideas and spark their imaginations. In Part 1, I told you why I don’t like stock plans:

  1. It isn’t truly custom.
  2. The square footage numbers are NEVER accurate and that impacts your budget
  3. Structure and building practices are local.
  4. Code issues are also local.
  5. Styles are specific to certain regions of the country.

Stock plans aren’t all terrible. There are some excellent ideas and layouts in stock plans. However, you will have to spend A LOT of time combing through the crap (one site boasts over 27,000 plans). You also have to work around a copyright issue. If you buy a plan, you can’t change it unless you buy a license to do so.

Miami Beach Architect Steve Mouzon helped me understand why people lean on stock plans. Steve concluded – and he’s right – that the housing crash and resulting recession that started in 2008 changed architecture as a profession.

One of the lasting impacts is people being “more frugal…when they do spend money, frugal people are more likely to buy products than services…More likely to buy a stock house plan than commission a custom design.”

So there we have the two real world sides of the problem. People want to buy stock house plans, but they are terrible. How do we, as architects, serve this new breed of client? How can you, as clients, get what you need out of stock plans?

  1. Spend your time on the web sites. Keep it reasonable, it is very important at this step NOT to fall in love with a plan. It will change, probably dramatically. I recommend choosing something with a floor plan that supports the way you live. It is easier to modify the outside look to get what you want.

  2. Take the published snippets of these plans to every aunt, cousin and friend of a friend who’s opinion you value. Take notes, keep pictures, create a “what I really want” binder. At this point you might be back to the web site to find something that is closer to what you really want.

  3. Buy a reproducible set of the plans which includes a license to modify the plans. Let me be very clear. Every set of plans, no matter where you get them, has a copyright. I enforce my copyright and I protect others’. There is no legal way around it.

  4. Hire a local architect to modify, quantify and make it buildable! (See how I worked myself back in there?)

You are not guaranteed that this process will save you any money over the traditional route of hiring an architect from the beginning. However, if you follow these steps you will not be overwhelmed. You will have what you want defined in your own mind as well as a tangible guide to give your architect. The process will be fun. And you will end up with the house of your dreams.

By the way, this is a project that I completed using this exact process and the clients LOVE their home!

Learn more about the custom home building process in my new book: Dream, Inspire, Design: What a Residential Architect Wants to Tell You about the Custom Home Process.

- Sheri

As Founder and Principal Architect of Springhouse Architects, Sheri’s mission is to lead Clients through the building process with the Clients in control and Springhouse as their guide, advocate and ally.  With over twenty years experience in Residential Architecture, Sheri brings knowledge and confidence to your custom home project.

Lisa Saldivar