Home & Design

Selecting a Custom Home Plan

Custom builders discuss the pros and cons of different house-plan sources

Adrian Edwards Custom Homes offers homeowners a portfolio of
previously completed projects to use as a jumping off point when
designing their own custom homes, such as this Georgian home.

There are several different paths to take when deciding on the final design of your new custom home. You can hire an architect to draw up custom plans based on your own ideas and your family’s living patterns. You can hire a design/build firm to create your plans much the same way an architect would. (Of course, the architect or design/build firm has more than one way to go as well; they can start from scratch and draw up your new home’s design as a one-of-a-kind creation, or they can use an already existing plan as a jumping off point.) Another option is purchasing ready-made plans through a house plans magazine or Internet site. And finally, you can simply choose a builder’s existing plan from a portfolio of available designs.

Custom builder members of the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association’s Custom Builder Council have the ability to work with almost any set of plans, so long as they are appropriate for your site and budget limitations. Many, like Quaker Custom Homes, Adrian Edwards Custom Homes and others, have ready-made plans available for buyers to choose from, if they so desire. Quaker offers a stable of plans that have been value-engineered based on prices already in place from its trade partners. Starting with one of its existing plans, Quaker can expand, shrink, pull, add or completely rebuild a design to suit a buyer’s lifestyle. The firm also offers a design team that will design and build your one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

The Adrian Edwards Custom Homes library of designs features a wide variety of architectural styles, including Georgian, Federal, French Country, English Tudor, Southeast Coastal, Arts and Crafts and Contemporary.  Founder and president Adrian Edwards reports that many of his clients find an inspirational starting point this way, and then work with his staff to modify and customize the plan. Buyers can also bring Edwards their architect’s plans, or work with his company’s architect and design professionals to create brand new home plans that coordinate their design goals with their intended budget.

To avoid wasting time and money chasing and creating plans that won’t work with your home site or your budget, Custom Builder Council members urge you to work closely with your chosen builder right from the start, and not to get too attached to any house plans until your builder has had a chance to review them.

Wayne Foley of Foley Construction Corporation says the home design process should not start until an overall budget review has been agreed upon between the owner and the design team. Before the first pencil meets paper, the designer and owner must come to a general agreement as to what the overall size of the home should be, the general specifications and what the overall budget is for the structure and finishing items. National statistics indicate that if this policy is not followed then the money and time put into the design process probably will not end up in a home being built.

To avoid wasting time and money chasing and creating plans that won’t work with your home site or your budget, Custom Builder Council members urge you to work closely with your chosen builder right from the start, and not to get too attached to any house plans until your builder has had a chance to review them.

At Mike Garcia Homes, the design process starts when a buyer initially meets with the firm’s home designer to determine the specific parameters of their new home. A nominal design fee and agreement are required to start. This fee is credited back to the contract price of the home. The designer will make suggestions on how to incorporate materials and methods, which will make the house “one-of-a-kind.” Garcia says his designer is also a valuable source of information on construction materials, current building trends, floor plan ideas and what to expect in the construction of the new home. Finally, and most importantly, Garcia’s designer will work with the buyer to create detailed specifications that will go hand-in-hand with the building plans to create the finished product.

Those detailed specifications are a crucial element to matching any home plans with an overall budget. Sugar Oak Corporation offers a two-step process that includes preliminary pricing of schematic design drawings to further ensure that the proposed design corresponds to the project’s budget. President Tom Donaldson feels this is a very important step to educate the client prior to authorizing the architect to proceed to design development or working drawings. Once the working drawings are complete, Sugar Oak will provide final budgeting that can be used to complete the contract between client and builder. At Mike Garcia Homes, once the company has designed your home, a staff estimator will put together all construction costs and allowances within a matter of a few days by using a computerized digitizer system and estimating software. The detailed estimate ensures you are receiving a fair price for the home you wish to build. It eliminates guesswork and surprises later on.

Sugar Oak Corporation, which built this custom contemporary home,
offers preliminary pricing of schematic drawings to make sure a project
is within budget at an early stage.

When it comes to settling on a home plan, Wayne Foley offers one more word of caution. He advises buyers to be sure that they are dealing with a reputable design team so that the very strict house plan copyright laws are not violated in the design process. If a copyright is violated, Foley says, the penalties can be severe for the designer, the homeowner, and the builder.

This bungalow-style, one-of-a-kind custom home built by Adrian
Edwards Custom Homes was inspired in part by the American Arts
and Crafts design movement of the early 20th century.

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