Searching for a house plan that meets your lifestyle and needs may seem overwhelming, but knowing what to look for from the start can help you be successful.
When choosing your home design, it’s important to pick one that not only meets your individual needs, but also considers your building lot, natural landscape, and whether it will be marketable to future buyers if you plan to sell the house at some point.
It is also important to understand that the total square footage of your new home refers to the finished portion of your house plan. Finished living areas are generally described as covered with sheetrock and wallpaper or paint. A “heated area” is also a good indicator of finished space.
Garages, porches, and attics are considered unfinished and are not calculated in the total square footage of your home plan. Lifestyle and family needs differ depending on individual cycles, stages, and future plans for the home they want to design. For example, features that newlywed couples look for in a home plan are vastly different from the characteristics that a retired couple might find important.
Before choosing a house design, we suggest that you ask yourself a number of questions, including:
- Do you have or want to start a family? How many children? Is there adequate room in your plan for expansion as your family grows?
- Will you need guest rooms for overnight visitors? What about additional living space to possibly care for grandchildren or elderly parents in the future?
- How do you plan to entertain? Do you want a formal dining room and traditional living room for formal entertaining, an open-concept layout for large casual gatherings, or do you prefer smaller, relaxed family get-togethers?
Think about the time you currently spend in certain rooms in your home, and why. For example, some families like to make the kitchen the centre of daily family gatherings and would require an eat-in kitchen with lots of space, while others prefer a den or family room with room for large sofas and a fireplace.
Another important consideration is how much privacy you want and need from other occupants and neighbours. If privacy is important to you, consider a design with an L- or U-shaped design. These types of house plans can provide you with more privacy when building on an urban or suburban lot. Most new homeowners prefer home plans with more privacy in the master bedroom and personal living spaces, but others might need privacy in a home office space. Check your home plan for the placement of windows to see if they will provide adequate privacy from your neighbour’s windows and yards.
Match Your Floor Plan and Your Options
Whether you have your heart set on a specific feature or multiple features, you need to make sure that the lot and floor plan you choose can accommodate your priorities. Don’t assume you can do what you want with the interior of your home regardless of the floor plan. For instance, you may have seen an oversized island in a model home kitchen and assume you can expand the island in your new home to be as large as you want. However, your builder may not be able to move walls or increase your square footage enough to make an oversized island work in your space.
Take advantage of the expertise of your builder’s sales professional (and, where offered, their design consultants) to confirm whether a floor plan can accommodate the options you want. If not, discuss with the sales consultants if modifications can be made and whether it makes sense to consider other floor plans so that you get what you want. Your sales consultants can also talk to you about popular options and ask you questions about your lifestyle to help you narrow your choices, advised Kira Sterling, chief marketing officer at Toll Brothers, a leading luxury home builder in many markets nationally.
“Take your time so you don’t feel like you’re just settling for something,” says Dierksen, an Epcon Communities homebuyer. “I took two years to look around so I really knew what was available in terms of models and options. You can’t always get everything you want on your wish list, especially if you have to stick to your budget, but you’ll be happier if you know you’ve thoroughly looked around to find the best match for you.”
In addition to consulting the sales and design centre staff, you should visit a model or spec home (or both, if available) for the specific home that you intend to build. Many builders also offer digital floor plans and virtual tours in their offices or on their websites that can help you make the match between your ideas and the available layouts.
“We build two or three models in every community, but we try to build every model within driving distance of each community so that buyers can walk through every one of our models,” KB Home’s Tom Silk says. “We also have a digital presentation for every model that buyers can look at in the sales office. I think buyers should look at as many models as possible to develop a list of their priorities and preferred features.”
15 Things to Look for When Choosing a Lot for a New Home
15 Things to Look for When Choosing a Lot for a New HomeChoosing a lot for a custom home is a crucial piece of the home-building process. Many factors affect the design and features of the home, and can also impact your quality of life in the home. Your Denver Metro Area custom home builder can help you identify potential problems as well as advantages associated with a particular property.
Here are the main things to look for when choosing a lot:
1. the Slope of the Lot
Slope affects whether water drains off the property sufficiently, which is ideal, or if it collects, which likely will cause problems with footings and foundations, walkways and driveways, wells and septic tanks, and landscaping. Standing water also attracts insects. Choose a lot that has natural drainage of rain and runoff from neighbouring properties.
The slope can affect the home’s design, determining if slab construction is possible or if the lot is best suited for a walkout basement.
2. the Shape of the Lot
Two lots with the same square footage may not both be buildable despite having the same area. A long narrow lot will not be as useful as one that is square. The shape of the lot impacts where the home is situated and the size of the front, side and rear yards. Homes on cul-de-sacs (pie-shaped lots) may have setback requirements (the distance the home is from the street) that allow for side yards but also mandate longer driveways.
3. the Direction the Front of the House Will Face
North-facing homes will have snow on the driveway long after it falls because the house will block the sun. South-facing homes have greater opportunity for passive solar, which can melt the snow and make your home warmer all year long. Here in the Denver Metro Area, 300 days of sunshine a year can lower your heating costs when your house is properly situated. Of course, you have to address how that sunshine will increase your air conditioning costs in summer, as well. The direction your house faces will also impact the benefits of adding solar panels.
4. Zoning, Building, and Development Plans for the Area and Surrounding Lots
It is not always evident when looking at an undeveloped area what it will be like once homes, businesses and traffic move in. Consider what is around the lot currently and what potentially will be there. How busy is the street likely to be in a few years? Do you know what will be built around you that might impact your view, your privacy or your solitude? What are the zoning restrictions for setbacks, how high you can build, and what pets you can have? Are all the lots around you zoned for residential, or is there a potential for businesses to be closer than you’d like?
5. the Proximity to Streetlights, Electrical Towers, and Other Objects That Might Impede Your View
Be sure to consider the view from the second and third stories, if applicable, as well as from ground level.
6. the Proximity to Schools, Shopping, Work, and Recreation
Personal preference typically dictates how close you want to be to amenities, work or school, or even friends and family. Does the location of the lot meet your needs? Proximity to schools, shopping, work and recreation can be a factor for resale. Being too close means more noise and traffic. Being too far means less convenience.
7. Traffic Patterns Around and Near the Lot
Will your lot border a busy street? What are the traffic patterns? Is the small street that exists now going to grow to a four-lane thoroughfare? Busy streets are noisy and tend to be less attractive to home buyers.
8. Neighborhood Characteristics
Make sure the home you have in mind is in line with the value of the other homes in the neighbourhood and that you are not overbuilding. (You don’t want to have the most expensive home in the area.) Check to see if the homes in surrounding areas are well kept or run down. Are the lawns well maintained? Is the neighbourhood desirable?
9. Amenities Available
Does the lot have easy access to:
- Underground utilities
- Municipally supplied water
- Sewer and gas
- Cable TV and high speed internet
Find out what typical property taxes are in the area.
Does the lot have a view that you will be able to take advantage of with your building design?
Easements grant rights to others to access your property for specific purposes. Some, such as utility easements, are common. Be sure you know what, if any, easements will impact how your property can be used and who can legally access it.
Trees can be an asset, but there are costs associated with them. Trees within the building footprint will have to be removed, which adds to the construction cost. Trees can also block views, increase fire risk, and require ongoing maintenance.
14. Soil Type
Some soils are subject to expansion and movement, which can compromise the structural integrity of your home. Have the soil tested by a knowledgeable soils engineer.
In addition to zoning regulations, some areas have restrictive covenants that determine what your home can look like and what activities can take place on your property. Local building codes and restrictions can also impact the type of home you build.
How to Choose Fixtures and Finishes for Your New Home Remotely
For one reason or another, sometimes buyers purchasing new homes may need to skip an in-person session in their builder’s design centre. That may seem daunting, but many new home purchasers make their choices for optional features without a hands-on experience because they buy homes long-distance. Thankfully, with the help of professional photos, interactive tools and design centre experts, it’s possible to feel confident in your choices without physically entering the design centre.
Information Gathering Phase
Before you’re ready to make decisions about paint colours and flooring options, you’ll need to take the time to establish your budget and understand your builder’s process. Most buyers wrap optional choices into their mortgage but remember that the amount you can spend above the base price of your home is limited by the maximum amount you can borrow and the appraised value of the completed home. For example, if you qualify for a $300,000 loan and the base price of the home you’re buying is $250,000, in theory, you’ll have $50,000 to spend on options. However, $50,000 in options on a $250,000 home may not equal $50,000 in appraised value. It’s important to be careful with your optional choices so they are in line with neighbourhood values.
Be sure to discuss this with your lender and your builder because in some cases, you may be required to pay for upgrades and options in cash rather than through your financing. Your builder may not want to take on the risk of completing a home with too many upgrades just in case your loan falls through.
Paying in cash for upgrades may be desirable since you can avoid interest charges. Just make sure you have a robust emergency savings account and a move-in budget for your new home.
One more possibility for paying for some upgrades is an incentive from your builder. Be sure to ask if there are any options that may be included, such as if you work with the builder’s lender and title company.
A final step before you jump into design centre choices is to decide on structural upgrades such as extra windows, a finished lower level, a room extension or an exterior upgrade. Those choices typically must be made well before you make interior finish choices and could consume a large part of your options budget.
While you’ll want to explore your personal design aesthetic, you’ll need to find out from your builder how much personalising you can do. For many builders, you’ll have a choice between a few packages for your kitchen, bathroom, lighting and flooring. Others will offer you a broader range of upgrade options that may be categorised as a level one, two or three at different price points. You may even be working with a builder who offers dozens of ways to personalise every feature in your home.
Depending on how your builder presents these options, making choices can be easier or more challenging. You can use tech tools such as an interactive website, virtual reality, photos and a video chat with a design centre professional to work through your choices.
Gather Your Ideas
While you may already have strong opinions about home design, looking at sites such as Houzz and Pinterest — along with design magazines — can help you pinpoint your own style. Bookmarking pages, emailing links or printing photos can help you keep track of what you like so you don’t get overwhelmed once you begin to work with a design professional. Remember, you may not necessarily be able to choose every feature in your new home, and your builder may offer you a finite set of options rather than every product on your wish list.
Before you schedule a virtual appointment with your design centre, spend time on your builder’s site to look at the details in the photos of homes to identify the elements you prefer. If the site has virtual reality or interactive software to try out various looks, experiment with those ahead of your meeting so you have a feel for how it works and what you like.
Most new home buyers have a vision of their completed home. An important part of the process of new construction is to match your budget with that vision and determine your priorities. You’ll need to decide what upgrades are the most important to you and prioritise those that are simpler to do during construction rather than to change later. For example, items that have a big impact such as the flooring and the kitchen cabinets can be more costly to upgrade in the future compared to paint colours and drawer pulls.