Cost of Home Plans


My wife and I are considering building our own house and we realize that one of the things we need to do is get a house plan. One of the problems we are finding is that that all the home plan web sites have houses that are close to what we want but not exactly what we want. (Also most of the web sites seem to have a lot of the same designs)

We thought a custom design might be better, so we contacted a local architect. He told us that “THE FEE FOR DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS FOR A HOUSE IS ABOUT FIVE PERCENT OF HOUSE CONSTRUCTION HARD COSTS”. Is this a normal fee? (If I am correct, the hard costs are all the costs involved in the actual building of the house? i.e. materials & labor?)

If the hard costs are $200,000 – $250,000 then that means his plans would be $10,000 – $12,500??? That sounds like an awful lot of money for plans.

Thank you for your time in this matter.



Creating an entirely new set of custom home plans requires a considerable amount of time and expertise. Design fees vary considerably based on these factors:

1. The size, complexity and level of fit and finish of the project: These are the same factors that affect the construction cost which explains why some fees are quoted as a percentage of the construction cost.

2. The extent of design services you need: Do you already have a plan in mind, or do you need a unique plan created to suit a special program or a difficult property? Are you a builder looking for a simple set of plans to meet code, or do you need carefully detailed plans which can be competitively bid? Are you going to manage the bidding and process yourself, or do you need assistance finding a builder and making sure he builds your project in accordance with the plans.

3. The level of experience and accreditation of the designer: Some states require all house plans to be drawn by a licensed architect or an engineer, but most don’t. Are you requesting fee proposals from an architect, a professional building designer, a builder, or even just a student who can use a CAD program?

Given these factors, I’ve seen fees by reputable designers quoted anywhere between 2% and 15% of the construction cost, so I’d say the 5% number you got is pretty reasonable. However, you are correct that this is “an awful lot of money for plans”.

A good alternative to buying a brand new set of plans for a house that’s never been built is to look around at houses that have been built. Look for a design you like that’s appropriate for your project and locate the designer. He or she may be willing to sell you a custom modified set of plans for a fraction of the cost for a new design.

It’s important to remember that most home designs are copyrighted even if it doesn’t say so on the plans. You must purchase copies of copyrighted designs from the original designer. Hiring someone else to copy a design, even if it’s not an exact copy, is a violation of copyright laws.

Stock house plans are the least expensive way to purchase professionally prepared plans, but it can be frustrating to find exactly the plans you need. Many but not all stock plan designers will customize their plans although the cost of modifications can drive up the cost of the plans significantly.

That’s why I started, an interactive home plan website where you can customize the designs on-line. Right now, our site has a great selection of Colonial and Cape designs, but we’re working to add new series of plans. Even if we don’t have the design you’re looking for, our site may give you some useful ideas.

Good luck with your project,
David Moore, AIA
Original Home Plans

“Dear Readers,
Do you have a question for David?
Click here to “Ask the Architect“.
PS. Read my “Architect Fees” for additional information

Comments are closed.