10 Things to Consider Before Buying House Plans Online

Is buying house plans online a good idea or not?

If you are thinking about hiring an architect to design your dream house, you may want to consider doing it yourself; In our days, and with the help of technology, it is now possible to create professional-looking architectural drawings without going to architecture school!

Several online tools can help you create architectural drawings of your own house plans by yourself. With a little time and effort, you can be able to create a drawing that is just as good as the one created by professionals.

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Buying Your House Plans Online, Photo Made for Pinterest

Is Buying House Plans Online A Better Option Than Hiring An Architect? 

But are those architectural drawings really like professionals? Are those drawings conformal to safety norms and standards at least?

When it comes to house plan drawings there are now more options than ever before. With the advent of technology and AI, you can now have your drawings done online and more quickly than expected. There are several advantages to this, including the fact that you can get them done faster and cheaper.

If you’re thinking about having your house plans drawn up online, here are 10 things to consider when buying house plans online, in addition to a few things you should know.

Well, as an Architect I would say:

Same as everything in life, it has its advantages and disadvantages. So, for a final decision we need to see and consider the Pros-and-Cons, and then get a clearer vision of the matter.

Not so complicated in fact, but still not so easy and simple... Furthermore, as I am an architect, I wouldn’t be unhappy to sell my architectural drawings over the Internet, which isn’t our point of discussion, anyway. But would it be as good for the buyer or the future homeowner too?

So, let’s see then…

If I have to search "Google" for the word "House Plans Drawings", I will surely get tons of hits in less than one second, even if the results weren’t one hundred percent match my criteria. This is a reflection of the huge number of websites and online software that are involved in this kind of industry or business if you want to be more precise, in addition to its reputation and popularity within the community everywhere around the globe.

So then, why people are getting more and more interested in designing their own house, than simply hiring an architect and avoiding this whole pain in the brain?

The first direct reason for that is, without doubt, the open resources that make the Internet a big source of knowledge.

I will avoid getting involved in the discussion of this matter, due to its sensitivity; In fact, anyone thinks that he is capable of doing anything just by watching a video here or reading a how-to guide there. Even if it is not his initial domain of specialization, but just a hobby, which is good to certain limits and might be harmful in others, depending on several factors and considerations.

The other good reason is finding a way to save money no matter if, in the long term, it does not.

And here’s from where the first statement derives:

1. Is it worth it to buy house plans online rather than hire an architect?

It is quite easy to find the right answer to this question; This is similar to asking if a ready-to-wear suit will fit you better than a tailored one. You will surely prioritize the tailored, simply because it was customized only according to your measurements and your own body, no one else.

And that’s exactly the point!...

In my opinion, hiring an architect will manage better architectural drawings and plans for your house that will match precisely your needs instead of purchasing a pre-designed plan in which you have to remove all the unnecessary rooms and spaces that weren’t initially created exactly for you.

An architect's job is not just to draw plans and outside of houses, but to communicate with their client to create from scratch a small kingdom in which the future homeowner can live and grow with his family and fit their needs.
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Be aware of those deceptive big offers!

Often clients do not have a clear vision of what they want and it is the mission of an architect to interpret their foggy requests and transform them into a crystal clear image! In other terms, it is his job to convert their dreams and ideas into reality.

Once more, it is a hundred times better to start from scratch than to waste your time in modifying a certain plan that wasn’t initially designed for you, nor the lot that you intend to implant your dreams’ home inside. So, here we doubled the loss in time and cost and scored the first disadvantage.

2. Is buying your online architectural drawings still cheaper than hiring an architect?

The primary answer is yes. But let us have a closer look; The price of a set of plans purchased online may vary according to different factors and parameters that interfere together to make the final amount invoiced. So, the cost is not flat and ranges within a wide scale of variables.

Here are some of these factors that we must consider while calculating an estimated price.
  • Not every house plan has the same price, it varies according to the architectural style the area needed, and the total number of rooms.
  • Not every architect has the same evaluation of his work; some are more costly than others according to the effort put into designing their plans, the style adopted, the drafting work, etc …
  • Besides, different websites present different types of plan sets (discussed later).

For instance, it is useful to mention that you would be paying about US$1,000 for 1,800 square feet of home plans (about 167.22 square meters) if you purchased them online. Hiring an architect would cost much more.

So, if you need a direct answer, it will be a YES for saving your money but a NO for your time still, and we’ll see why.

3. Is there hidden costs after buying a set of drawing plans online?

Mostly, the common cost is when the owner decides on a few small changes to the architectural drawings that they have already purchased. So, many “Do-It-Yourselfers” lovers will think that they are capable of managing it without any help, but later they discover that they are in over their heads, and it is the right time to hire an architect to make the changes for them.

Meanwhile, they will find themselves turning and turning inside a full circle with no way out just like a hamster rolling the wheel in his cage! Their terrible mistake, not taking into consideration that altering any part of a building, however small it is, also means altering the foundation and framing plans and possibly the whole exterior look of the house… and it is the less to say!

Besides, there might be other possible technical changes that are required before making the house ready to be "buildable" on the site. This condition will be next in our discussion.

4. Taking into account the site nature on which you plan to build your house.

Which can require a lot of preparation before starting your construction depending on either the plan layout purchased or the nature of the property.

For instance, is it flat? Sloped? How much is the natural soil gradient? Is there limited access to the site? Is there a view? etc… All of these and other constraints must be studied one by one to avoid future potential harm in the construction.

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Consider the site nature on which you plan to build your house.

Also, are there existing obstacles such as trees, rocks, other buildings, or water? Surely, most of the developed sites have been established in flat areas and simple natural platforms with pre-established roadways and driveway entry points.

But what if you are one of the unlucky to have obtained a less "developed" site? Then, those previously described things are for you to consider on your own. And because the majority of the house plans you find online are designed for flat and simple sites, with a few trees, no water, and no natural soil gradient at all, optional view. Luckily, few house plans websites will offer plans that are designed for specific types of land fields, such as "seaside" plans, "golf course" plans, or "farmhouses” plans.

5. What other restrictions should you consider? (Important)

If you have never dealt before with your local "Planning and Building Department" (the name might differ across countries but still has the same tasks to fulfill) then you might not realize that you are in fact, not free to build whatever you see fit on the piece of land which you paid for and now own!

What does that mean?

Most of the property lots have several types of limitations over the amount of development allowed on them depending on the areas they are located within. Therefore, it is common you see close districts and zoning with different regulations.

The first and principal consideration is the setback requirements; this is how far from the property border your home must be and from all sides surrounding the property. Eventually, those can also be different from each other.

Besides, many building rules control how high the house can be at the setback line. Normally, this height limit gets higher as you get farther away from the property borders for your neighboring visual concerns and other regulations. This leads us to the next common restriction: the overall height limit. This is usually used by the PBD to ensure that both you and your neighbors will retain good views of the landscape beyond.

The Planning Department will also often restrict the amount of square footage allowed to be built on any lot. This is usually based on the size of the lot; the bigger your lot is the more building you're allowed to put within.

Therefore and for your pure benefit, take this important advice for your interest and from a professional: Before buying a plan, get in touch with your local Planning and Building Department and find out what kind of restrictions might be hovering over your land and keep your mind clear!

  • Note: In some other countries, the restriction may come from planning decrees in favor of crossing a road through part of your land. In such a case, you have the obligation to setback from it a certain distance according to the particulars that came along with every decree. You can have a detailed list concerning your property for those particulars from the PBD also.

6. Don't be foolish, be smart!

Most Websites will make the promotion that they are selling Construction Document Sets, which include everything you need to build your new home. But this is nearly true. Why?

Considering what you've already learned in the above sections, it should be clear to see why this is unlikely to be correct. The chances for your home to fit perfectly into the site are almost none, and the most common problem is that the site is not perfectly flat. Even a slight grade will mean that the earth will have to be set around to create a "pad" or a "platform” for the new building to be funded properly.

Furthermore, since the house plans online companies have no idea what the condition of your site is, they will probably provide a suggestion that will not fit correctly for the driveway, for example.

  • Technically, the driveway is the inner road that will connect your garage to the main road outside your land.

All of these problems and others usually mean that an architect or engineer will be required to step in and supplement the set of documents with additional plans of their own, which means additional cost to expect.

7. How to benefit the most from your house plans online?

With your new plans, which you did already buy online, we are assuming that you are happy with your choice, otherwise, you wouldn't have bought it. Right? This plan provides you with a starting point to design your new home.

From this point ahead, here are several tips to consider when it comes to plans:

  • First, remember that this is your home, and you should make every try to make it everything you want and need; Any changes you intend to make in the future will cost more than double the amount of money than its original price, due to many constraints.

  • Second, look for plans that already have the same number and type of rooms that you want, no more no less. Resizing a room or adding shelving or other features is much easier than adding or removing an entire room(s).

  • Third, select a home that is already designed in the style that you desire. If you like the Tuscan style, then don’t buy anything else than this style; Trying to transform a Craftsman Homestyle into another style will only result in a messy-mixed design.

Not sure which style to adopt in your new home?
➤ Read more about the most popular home styles in my previous article: 10 Most Popular Residential Architectural Styles in the US and have plenty of ideas to choose from!

8. Make the drawing plans work for you, not the opposite.

So, if you intend to make changes to the plans that you've purchased, then you are going to hire someone to make these changes for you. Agree? Trust me, this will take away the nightmare that usually accompanies trying to do it yourself. That being the case, having a full set of construction documents in your hands isn't going to be much help, as most of the sheets are going to be outdated and therefore useless.

On the other hand, if you searched from the start for online house plan websites, you might find some of these that offer what is called "Conceptual Design Sets". These "Sets” only contain floor plans and elevations for the house, because the rest is to be completed by the owner and his hired professional of choice. And that is exactly what you want actually, and the idea itself makes sense; why pay for stuff you don't even need?

If you were to hire an architect from scratch, he would be working with you to create the floor plan and the outside of the house first, and wouldn't be using the construction and execution documents awaiting your approval on the floor plan first, which is the proper process ever.

In this manner, you are saving a lot of money!

9. Did you think right?

Since you are going through the trouble of purchasing online plans and having a home built for you, we can assume then that you're not exactly happy with those pre-made homes popping up everywhere on the corners of the town! Isn’t that true?

With that in mind, stare a little closer at the house you’re looking at online, it sure does look a lot like one of those unknown and improper style homes, doesn't it? After you see this, you will probably be able to see that most of the plans offered online are pretty much close to those vulgar pre-fab houses.

It would probably be cheaper to just buy one of those homes, but it is worth it!

If you were to hire an architect, you wouldn't accept this, would you? So why accept it in the form of pre-plans which are architect-designed also? Go clear, this is your new home and you want to shock, fright, and be proud. The neighbors might stare but they're jealous that they didn't have the nerve to think outside the box like you did!

10. Go Green!

It is not a secret anymore if we’d say that the top trend in Architecture and Construction techniques today is Green Architecture or eco-friendly architecture. If you haven’t started yet by changing your lifestyle to Green, then your home is your chance to make a big impact on the world of the green environment.

In general, some house plans offer sustainable features or suggestions on how to convert a plan to a green home. You would be surprised at how easy it can be, and how it can save you money the right way. However, online house plans don't have green features or at least recommendations on how to add them. In the end, it is up to you and your responsibility to ask your architect to make your home green or not. Most architects will be more than happy to help.

➤ You can read about this topic here, it will introduce you to a whole new world yet unknown for the majority of communities:

- Learn what the Green Architecture includes,
- How to build a green building from the start, and what are the materials to use,
- The Pros and Cons of utilizing this process,
- And much other helpful and important information.

Another different way to design your new house is by using 40ft shipping container homes. For those who don’t know, it is the usual hardware container reserved for shipping goods and merchandise across the continents and converted into real comfortable homes.

Not to be confused with the prefab houses, the 40ft shipping container homes offer a real and contented house at a lesser cost! With a very big progressive reputation lately, this kind of construction is getting more and more trends over social media and other sources. Learn more here.

To conclude, many people dream of owning a home that they have a hand in designing, even just a little if it is possible. This is not bad, but today, with the advantage of online house plans, this dream can become finally a reality. Therefore, having your house plans bought online is not always a disadvantage, at least if it is well managed from the beginning until the end, and all its later stages, and can be a big money saver too!


When working with an architect to design your future home, you are taking advantage of their knowledge, experience, and talent to make your home more than just a dream come true. Most people who wish to have their home built have a basic idea of what they want – the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, how many living areas, wide terraces or balconies, fireplaces, etc, etc...

There are always many details hiding behind the design of a house that many people cannot afford, or at least without the help of an architect. As I always mention, it is his main role to understand those ideas and to convert them into a reality that can be touched and lived.

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