How to Choose a House Plan

Cheyenne's House Rendering (1)

So you decided to build a house? That decision alone is huge, yet it is the first of many, many, many choices that come with building a home. One of the first big choices after that, is what house you actually want to build. Choosing a house plan can easily become overwhelming with the multitude of plans available. Today, we are discussing how Cheyenne and Kyle chose their house plan and giving some tips for choosing the right house plan for you and your family.

How Cheyenne and Kyle Chose their House Plan

Our situation was a little different than most, as we were not even planning to build our first house. Monica and Paul purchased a large plot of land in 2016 that would become HartLand, and we (Cheyenne and Kyle), planned to purchase their family home. When it grew closer to the move and after much consideration, we decided the Hart home was just not for us anymore. Monica and Paul graciously agreed to subdivide HartLand and turn it into a family property. At that time the fun really began.

A Forever Home at HartLand

Since we are building a house on family land, we are making decisions knowing that we are building our “forever home”. At 23 and 25 years old, knowing we have to get it right the first time is daunting. By that I mean I find it daunting, because right from the start, my husband, Kyle, was thrilled to know he only has to move one more time. I, on the other hand, was so nervous to think that I had to make choices that I essentially have to live with forever.

Cue: Monica to the rescue! Having built 6 homes previously and with an incredible eye for design, she talked to me about how choosing classic and timeless finishes can ensure that our home will look just as good in 2051 as it will in 2021. 

Our challenge was to find a house plan that would be timeless, have enough room for us when we have children down the road, not be so big that it will be overwhelming, and of course fit into our budget.

First Choices, Second Choices and High Quotes

We found quite a few plans that we really liked.  After narrowing them down, choosing and purchasing one that we really liked, and then having a designer tweak a few things, we discovered we were way over budget. It turned out that the roof system was very complex and expensive to build, so it was back to the drawing board.  The second time around, and with much more understanding, we settled on our plan, which incidentally, was one of our very favorite plans from the beginning. It seemed to fall right back into our laps, and we knew that was “the one”.  We are finally on our way to building our forever home! 

Where to Start: Steps to Follow When Choosing a House Plan

1. Determine Your Budget

Where to start when choosing a house plan- Infographic

This was a pretty big one for us. Determining your budget really eliminates a lot of house plans right away. Some of the initial plans I was looking at were in the four and five thousand square foot range. I admit, I did not really realize how large, or how far out of budget a house that large would be.  It is imperative to have a solid budget and a good understanding of how much house your money will buy to avoid arguments and disappointment.

2. Make a List of Wants and Needs

Identifying wants vs. needs is critical when it comes to custom home construction. Building a truly custom home means that you can essentially choose anything you want.  Make a list of wants and needs, and realize that compromise is part of the process.  Having enough bedrooms for your future children = a need. A very cool grand staircase and cathedral ceiling foyer = more of a want.

3. Think About Your Design Style

What is your favorite style? What is your significant other’s style? If they are the same, congratulations! You will avoid many disagreements as well as eliminate many house plans from your search.

Kyle and I did not immediately agree on style.  Kyle knew he wanted a farmhouse.  I, on the other hand, needed a little convincing. I know what you are thinking…Gasp! Cheyenne, do you realize you are partners in a farmhouse-style home decor blog?  Yes. Yes.  I do know. The problem was not that I did not like farmhouse style. The problem was that I like so many different styles, that the thought of settling on just one to live in forever was scary!  I looked at french-country styles, cottage style, victorian styles, and even (and this one was a huge NO for Kyle) mediterranean styles. What can I say? I can appreciate all the house styles. The question boils down to this: what can you live with? What do you want to come home to each day? What style will fit your land/setting? What will you never get tired of?  What will feel the most like home? For us, that ultimately meant building a classic farmhouse. 

4. Decide How Much Space you Actually Need

What will work for us now and long into the future?  Building our forever home means that the plan needs to suit us now, and when we have a family of our own.

The size of a home greatly determines the way you feel in it!  If the house is too big, you may spend most of your time cleaning, or you may not be able to furnish it with the furniture and accessories you want or do it within your desired timeline. If the house is too small, it can feel crowded and suffocating. The trick is finding a house that has enough space so you have room to breathe, but not so much that you are drowning. We decided to consider homes in the 2,600-3,200 square foot range.

5. Think About Your Lifestyle 

Do you like to entertain? Do you need a home office? Do you like to cook? Is a large family room necessary? Do you enjoy sitting outside on the porch? How much closet space do you need? These are all important considerations when choosing a house plan. You want your home to fit your lifestyle, and ensuring that you have adequate space is key.  We want an open floor plan, porches, a moderate amount of closet space, and plenty of recreation space. 

6. Have a Five-Year Plan.  And a Ten Year Plan.  And a Twenty.

Are you planning to live in this house for a long time? If so, what does that look like? Do you have young children? Maybe they are grown, and it’s just you and your spouse, or maybe it’s just you! If you are planning to live in your newly constructed home for a long time, it is important to consider how your home will serve you years down the road.

Where to Search for House Plans

Okay, now that those crucial questions have been answered, it’s time to start searching through plans! The main sites that we used were Pinterest, Architectural Designs, America’s Best House Plans, and Southern Living House Plans

Pinterest is always our go-to website for initial idea generation. You can get a good sense of what style options are available, and luckily, many architectural design companies post their house plans on Pinterest. I found so many stunning homes that anyone would be happy to build. Don’t get sucked into that Pinterest-perfect world though!  It is important to remember that NO ONE’s house looks like a photo shoot every day!  Keep your budget and your needs and wants your first priorities. Sites like Architectural Designs and America’s Best House Plans have helpful filters that allow you to modify your searches to ensure that homes fit your criteria.

Narrowing the House Plan Search

Finding your top few choices is not all that difficult, but actually pulling the trigger and settling on “the one” definitely is!  I laugh as I type this, because even after we chose a plan, we ended up having to go back and choose again because of the roof/budget issue.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Just move on and enjoy the journey!

When considering your top choices, make a spreadsheet of each, and list all the specs and important details. This was a huge help when Kyle and I were narrowing our choices. We listed each house, along with the square footage, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, size of the kitchen, living room, master bedroom, master closets, flex space and more. We made notes of interesting features or characteristics that we liked about each house so we could compare. I wanted a lot of windows and spacious porches for example, so we noted those things in the spreadsheet for each house. When looking at house plans in this manner, you can objectively see what works.

Don’t Forget That you can Modify the House Plan

“Everything is perfect except this one thing”. If minor portions of the plan are impeding your decision, don’t forget that you can always have an architect make modifications. When using a custom builder, you really have the flexibility to make a house plan yours by making those important changes. 

You Have to Make it Fun!

It is so easy to become overwhelmed when choosing a plan, and again when beginning the building process. Finding ways to make big decisions fun is crucial to maintaining your sanity and making good decisions. Kyle and I named our favorite houses to help us remember certain features.  We found ourselves talking about them like they were people, as crazy as that sounds. Either way, we had fun discussing “Todd’s” big back porch, rather than trying to keep a bunch of house plan numbers straight in your mind. 

Cheyenne and Kyle on their land

Choose What Feels Like Home 

At the end of the day a house is where you sleep at night, and home is the way you feel when you are with the people you love.  Keep in mind, as stressful as choosing a house plan can be, it is well worth it when you walk through those doors at the end of the build and you’re HOME. We are very grateful that we too, get to call HartLand home, and we look forward to having you join us on our journey.

From the HartLand with love,

Cheyenne, Brittany, and Monica

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