Before you actually build your home, you may want to undertake another kind of construction project. But for this job, you won’t need a hard hat, hammer and nails, you’ll need paper, a pencil, and a ruler.

Building your home on paper, before you begin shopping for your new home, will help you understand the things you want in your new home, how your new home will be organized, and what you can and can’t get! One of the best ways to increase your confidence and ensure you get the very best home you can is to build it on paper before you build it on the ground! Each time you visit a model home or talk with a builder that you think may make your “shortlist,” look at a few of their home plans that you think may work for you and your family.

You may not be able to actually see all these plans completed because most builders only have a few completed homes in a neighborhood for you to view. The most popular plan in a neighborhood will be the model home. The plan for the model home is the most popular because salespeople often find it the easiest to sell because shoppers can easily envision how the finished plan will look. Selling another plan using only the paper floor plan is a little more difficult for the salesperson to do, and for the shopper to imagine. However, while the model home will undoubtedly be very beautiful, it may not be the perfect plan for your family. If you like the builder and think they may have a plan that fits your needs, make sure to tell the onsite salesperson what you’re looking for and ask them to suggest a floor plan or two. When they do, ask them if they have a finished home available in one of those plans. You’re probably not ready to buy just yet, but walking through a home that represents one of the plans that could meet your needs will help you with your decision. Bring home a few home plans that you think may fill your needs. Most builders also make their floor plans available to home shoppers on their websites, so, if you fail to bring them home from the model home, you can print the ones that appealed to you from your home computer.

When you get home, lay all your plans out in front of you, evaluate the ones you like the best and then select the one you’d like to work on first. Get your ruler (most plans are pretty close to scale, so you an estimate how your furniture or accessories will fit into them), pencil, and notepad and start to “build.” If you can, make a few copies of these all these plans before they start marking on them. This “construction project” can get pretty messy!

Start by looking at the outside of the house. Do you want a covered patio, outdoor kitchen, or front porch? If you do, look at the dimensions of the plan, get our your ruler, and start drawing. If a third bay in a two-car garage is available and you’d like one, add it on! Once you’ve modified the outside to meet your needs or wants, it’s time to move to the inside of the home. First, are there any modifications you need to make to the interior of the home? Do you need an office? An extra wall, a finished basement or attic, or a home management center? If you do, then make the appropriate modifications. Then, look at the floors and mark the areas where you’d like wood floors, carpet, or tile. When you’re done with the floors, go to countertops and make your selections for those. Which countertops will be granite, tile, marble, or other material. Once you’ve made the flooring and countertop decisions, you can move to fixtures, wiring requirements, and faucets. Keep in mind that all your selections can change in different rooms or areas of the home. You may not want that expensive granite that you have in the kitchen in the upstairs jack and jill bath for the children. You may feel that hardwood floors are appropriate in the entryway, but not really necessary in the game room. The same is true for expensive faucets and fixtures. Be careful with your selections to maximize your spending!

 

Now, you’re ready for furniture! Start placing (drawing) the furniture you have (or will get) in the rooms where you think they’ll be placed. As I mentioned earlier, most of these plans aren’t drawn exactly to scale, but they’ll give you a good idea of the size of each room, and you can get the dimensions of your kitchen table and couch with your ruler. Though you probably already have a pretty good idea of which child will have which room, this will be where you’d make those decisions if you haven’t already.

One word of caution: Keep in mind that there could be substantial costs associated with most floor plan modifications. If your renovations are extensive, the builder may have another plan that already includes them. For instance, extending the garage just a few feet to accommodate that monster truck you own will not only involve a bigger foundation, more cement, additional support, but also a modified roof pitch, more lumber, more attic insulation, extended wiring, additional drywall, and paint. Little things can mean a lot when it comes to home plan modifications.

You should go through this “building your home on paper” exercise with all the floor plans that you bring home from all the model homes and communities that you’ve visited that you think may work. As you build your home on paper, certain plans will rise above the others. These will be the floor plans with which you’ll continue your search. Discard any plans that you do not feel will meet your criteria and only move on with the ones that fit If the builder has speculative homes that represent the floor plans you’ve chosen, re-visit that community and walk through those homes, taking pictures with your phone.

Building your home on paper will help you be well prepared to discuss plans with the builder as you move closer to your buying decision- and it’s fun!