home plans


Anyone have experience with selling homeplans?

I am seriously considering joining the darkside. I'm realizing that in my small residential practice, at least 90% of what I do is send emails, put out fires with client/contractor relationships, draft up interiors at the direction of clients' interior designers.
What I truly love is that initial burst of creativity- coming up with a floorplan, projecting it up into 3 dimensions, developing a building section and detailing, revisiting the plan to try to make the exterior proportions beautiful....

Developing home plans would let me focus on the part of architecture that I love. And I really like the business model. Rather than being an hourly worker, if I come up with something appealing, I can sell it multiple times. I'm pretty confident that I can do better than most of the schlock designs out there as well.

Anyone have any success or disappointments attempting this? Any nightmare stories about getting sued or having a developer buying only one set and building a bunch of them? Or something less dramatic like spending months developing plans and then not selling any?

thank you in advance for any responses.

Jan 27, 11 11:49 pm
le bossman

personally i'm sort of curious about this type of work and what it would require. i wonder if it is actually possible to sell a set of "plans" that is not actually a permit-ready set of construction documents and make money on it. i could design a home, conceptually, and sell it for about $500 and make money on it, but to create a permit-ready set in most municipalities would be tough to do for less than a few thousand bucks.

Jan 28, 11 9:36 am

I 've considered this, I would start with something simple project wise to test the waters. Some built project that the kinks were worked out of. Investing alot time in a spec is just too much time as a ground up task. So if it exists and was successful, that makes a great model. The plethora of home plans that exists makes me feel like it's a tough racket. But, if I have a design siting in a drawer that could be marketed without alot of hassle, then I am up for it. I like Hometta and Freegreen as possile market places.

Nightmares and disappoinments are part of doing business. Copyrights are powerful if you are able see how your product is being used. Otherwise, you have to expect thier either going to honor the agreement or not. An online marketplace might provide some insight.

Builders might be inclined to build more than the licensed amount. Maybe, theres a way to keep track. Again, working with a online retailer might provide insight. Liability issues I would assume or also information the retailer might give instructions how to deal with.

Jan 28, 11 9:49 am

In my research so far, not a single home plan seller, even the huge companies that offer 10,000+ plans, offers stamped plans. And all have a disclaimer about the home not necessary being designed to meet local codes and that the buyer is responsible for making an informed decision.

Drawing sets typically include:
4 elevations
a building section
sometimes electrical
sometimes framing
sometimes a few interior details

And the price is typically around $1500. There is usually one price for prints and then higher prices for pdfs or a CAD file.
Larger "luxury" home drawing sets which include a few more detail drawings seem to sell for as much as $5k or even more.

The more I research, the easier it seems like it would be to get into this game. Maybe this is a way that architects can expand the profession. Actually it has been happening forever, it just seems to be looked down upon and put in a separate category by architects with more prestigious training. And probably for good reason because most of the plans out there are BAD. And they are all generally very similar to each other. I feel like there must be a niche for the more discerning client who is looking for something that stands out from the standard developer fare, whether that means more modern or less schlocky traditional, etc.

Jan 28, 11 9:54 am

they're not as optimistic over at areforum

Jan 28, 11 11:53 am

haha... you caught me.
well, it's nice to get both positive and negative feedback. what I'd really like though is to hear from someone who has done it

Jan 28, 11 11:57 am
Jan 28, 11 12:15 pm

if you want to sell home plans, I would try to team up with a developer and actually develop, design, and build the homes. This obviously takes more $$$/risk than only selling plans, but the potential profit is also much greater

Jan 28, 11 2:02 pm
vado retro

bruce are you from the guilded age?

Jan 28, 11 3:14 pm

this has been done and proven as a business model so many times.

res 4 architecture probably being one of the most copied.

If everything is a calculation, is it architecture?

Res 4 is just space management with a certain aesthetic. You might just as easy make the aesthetic gabled and call it a day. Probably sell more units that way.

If you're not for us, you're against us.

The true enemy of the architect is not the GC, it's the developer.

Jan 28, 11 4:41 pm


so from your above comment 'if everything is a calculation, is it architecture' are you implying that something can only be considered 'architecture' if it isnt calculated and well designed?

Jan 28, 11 5:27 pm

also, 9 out of 10 architects work for developers (clients). Your mentality is the reason we are so fucked as a profession these days

Jan 28, 11 5:29 pm
le bossman

i think the economy is the reason we are so fucked

Jan 28, 11 5:49 pm

Wow, its a very different conversation on this forum without Rick jumping in to ruin it...

To expand on my earlier point on the other forum-- You mentioned:
"In my research so far, not a single home plan seller, even the huge companies that offer 10,000+ plans, offers stamped plans. And all have a disclaimer about the home not necessary being designed to meet local codes and that the buyer is responsible for making an informed decision."

So do you have a gameplan to differentiate yourself from the other companies mentioned? Note: You better not stamp/sign/seal the drawings and make them sign a liability waiver since you are not designing with a site in mind or any local conditions, you are also not able to check construction.

Jan 28, 11 6:26 pm

''If everything is a calculation, is it architecture?''

Architecture is truly both and. It's not mere calculations and it's not mere intuition. It's both, with a dash of wisdom.

Gordon is dead,but so is Guadi.

Jan 28, 11 6:49 pm

I would not try to differentiate myself by stamping all drawings. I only have a new york stamp so it was a great relief to learn that even the major players aren't willing/able to stamp drawings. It means that an individual can try to compete and not be limited to selling plans only in his home state.
As for differentiating myself, I find that so many of the house plans are the same- identical plans, just with different ornament on the street facade. I would try to go a little more upscale and focus on design quality throughout. As far as offering more to the drawing set, I would provide exterior details rather than just a 1/4" section and probably some interior details as well. And probably a free consultation regarding site planning.

Jan 28, 11 7:22 pm
olaf design ninja

I worked for a guy who made an add in popular science for his house plans back before the internet and sold something like 800 sets...
Find a crowd you think that would like your plans and run an add and see what happens.

Jan 28, 11 7:39 pm

Bruce- we are selling through Look for our house under the 'exclusive architects' section.

We don't stamp anything and have tons of the usual disclaimers. We're not trying to be all things to all people with the designs, so what you see is what you get. We're providing a lot of finish details, basic tried and true structural details, and lots of interior elevations. We don't sell the cad files under any circumstances. And, to be honest, we put a little higher price on them than most of the others to really see if the people buying are serious.

We're not really trying to get to the developers (with these) - end buyers primarily.

Now, some of my friends in the more traditional market sell plans through Southern Living's home plan site - probably a better place for that genre of home plan. Still, at most, they're only selling 5-6 a year, even in the good times. It's still, for most developers and/or builders, not only the first cost of the plans, but what they percieve their market as. Most of them, even for a traditional genre, can't tell crap from genius, so unless you can stoke some demand via your 'name' (being the SL poster child and having people want your signature), it probably boils down to figuring out how to develop a good rep within the builder community - what would make your plans more appealing to them? Are you doing the houses so they have less waste/less labor? Is all the material spelled out and readily available? Is the framing dimensioned vs. interior finishes (they hate the latter)? In other words, if your sets make their life easier, are a reasonable price and people buy them quicker, you'll do just fine...

Jan 29, 11 9:34 am

That's very helpful info thanks!

It looks like Southern Living plans only sell for around $1000 even from big name architects. Selling only 5-6 a year at that price is decent in the long run I guess, especially if someone else is handling the distribution. pricing is a little more appealing- at least from an architect's prospective! This is kind of personal so feel free to ignore me or send me a personal message..... do you mind if I ask you what their commission is? And if you experienced a drop off in sales with the housing bust? And how many plans you might sell on a good vs bad year?

I assume you don't sell the CAD file because you want to protect your intellectual property?

Thanks also for your advice to make the plans builder friendly. So far, I had only thought about making the presentation end-user friendly.

Jan 29, 11 10:36 am

i have been designing small to large homes for ten years, for both individual families and developers. i have found that the single family residential projects often turn into money sucking pits that offer no real profitably. Working with developers creating four to five plans, each with multiple elevations offers an opportunity for more creativity and profitability. This is due to the lack of personal ties to toilet locations, door swings and other minuscule "design" ideas that single clients like to dwell about as the construction drawings are being completed.

Doing larger, multi home projects offer the ability to not only design the single home, but to also design the "neighborhood" it resides in. The winding roads of mcmansions gave way to the deterioration of the neighborhood. By creating a community of similar styled homes based on true American styles and not eclectic Italianate crap, and laying the homes out in an organized pattern a more cohesive sense of community is created.

so, i am basically saying that when it comes to residential projects, i have found single family projects in a family by family pace are rarely profitable. When working with a developer and having a fee structure outlining a fee for initial design and a fee per built home the project is not only profitable but more rewarding design wise.

Jan 29, 11 12:17 pm

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