If you want to save money on your custom home plans, hiring a local draftsman may be a great option. It was for us.
If you have ever considered building a house, you’ve very likely spent lots of time scouting for your perfect house plan online.
But, here’s the big secret: Your perfect house plan probably doesn’t exist online.
Oh yes, you’ve pinned tons of beautiful homes. You’ve seen things you love and things you hate. But most likely, there’s not a single home you’ve found that’s exactly perfect as it was designed.
Why? Because it wasn’t designed for you.
When we were planning our new home, I spent hours and days online looking for the best house plan. I searched through thousands of house plan sites and pinned plenty of plans that had elements we wanted. But none of them were anywhere close to being perfect.
And here’s something you may not know about those online house plans – you can spend thousands of dollars purchasing a house plan online, only to spend thousands more to adjust it to your specifications. And even after all that, there could be parts of the house plan that don’t meet code in your community.
This isn’t hypothetical. It happens.
So you could spend thousands of dollars, only to find out you have to make MORE changes to legally build the home in your area. Ouch.
Instead of going this route, we changed course. We hired a local draftsman/home designer to design our home exactly the way we wanted. And we saved thousands of dollars in the process.
Why did we hire a draftsman?
A draftsman provides working technical drawings for many projects – including new construction homes. In our case, we hired a draftsman who also specializes in new home design and construction. He works with local builders and has over 20 years of experience. All the check boxes for a good choice.
You may have thought you’d have to hire an architect for your custom home design. This can be a stellar option if you have the budget and a firm/person who will do it. In our area, the majority of architects specialize in commercial design. And those who did take on residential design were far (FAR) outside our budget.
The draftsman we used was recommended by a friend who had already used his services. We immediately hit it off.
Then we also had long conversations about what we did and didn’t want in the home. I brought photos and magazine clippings. He asked all the right questions – even those we didn’t know we needed think about.
And then, we went through a few short rounds of edits before we came out with a home plan we loved – and was designed just for us.
Where to find a draftsman?
The biggest challenge is finding someone in your area who takes on this kind of work. It seems that many in this field do it as a one-man show, which keeps overhead low but also means they can be a little known secret. A few tips:
- Search online for drafting services in your community.
- Ask for recommendations for draftsmen from your builder, friends, or even local trades groups like the area Home Builder’s Association. You may also find great recommendations by asking local lumberyard owners. Many work closely with draftsmen.
- Visit your local Home & Garden Show to scout potential options.
Once you find a few folks who do this type of work, it’s time to interview. Most will be happy to meet with you to discuss the potential scope of your project.
You’ll also want to ask about the person’s experience, professional training, and request other references. We asked him to show us other homes he had designed, which gave us an idea of the scope of his experience.
Note: Not all draftsman are created equal. If you don’t have a personal recommendation for the person, you’ll want to get several recommendations. You want to be 100 percent sure that you can trust this person with something as important as your home. Spend the time doing your homework.
When we felt comfortable moving forward, we also received a quote for the custom plans. In the end, we spent less than $800 for the whole process, and the plans were exactly what we needed. We didn’t build anything large or complex, which made hiring a draftsman a great option. If you are concerned about the site you are building or are building something more complex, you may wish to go with an architect instead.
But in our case, we couldn’t be happier with the choice. Having the best plans made the process of building and planning much easier. When we went to order trusses, purchase windows and doors, or get a quote for building materials, we knew the plans were sound. And he was able to ensure that everything was designed the way we wanted to build.
Perks of working local
There were also other perks with working with a local draftsman.
- He understood local building codes, which ensured the designs were within regulations. (Check to be sure the person you are working with is familiar with local building codes.)
- He had relationships with many building professionals in the community. This meant he could give us a variety of recommendations for lumberyards, contractors and more. It was nice to feel like we had a little help when we were building our own home.
But the biggest perk was just feeling like we were talking to a real person. We never felt like we were misunderstood and the plans truly felt like us when we finalized them. It was such a gift to start the building process with plans we really loved – and for much less than the average plans cost online.
What do you think? Would you ever skip the online plans and hire a local draftsman?
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