How Do I Choose the Right House Plan? – Q & A with Christian Gladu

We made a list of some of the most frequently asked questions as the Bungalow Company and sat down with founder, Christian Gladu for the answers.

I want to build a Bungalow Company style home, but how do I choose a house plan?

People come to us at all different phases of the process.  The initial phase is to:

1. Figure loan amount

2. Find which financial institution you’re going to borrow from

3. Find the right piece of land and then we can go into the building process.

First big step, ask yourself: “Okay, I can afford x number of dollars per year so my loan amount will be $xxx,xxx,” and then find out what percentage of that or how much of that is going to be in your piece of land.  At that point, we’ll estimate the cost in construction process (fyi: we do not only go by ‘cost per square foot’).

Ask builders around you what new homes are being built for (example: $100 to $150 or $150 to $250 per square foot).  From their answer you’ll have an idea of what size house you are looking for and the percentage you feel comfortable borrowing that can be spent on land.

There are many areas throughout the country that say, “Land should be a 1/3, 1/2 or a 1/4 of your overall cost.”  Due to building cost being area specific, we will need to check in your area for accurate numbers.

Next step: once you found a lot you’re interested in, understand what will make the lot buildable. I always encourage customers to purchase lots with the least amount of unknowns (i.e. are there sewer and water systems in place etc.?) The fewer the unknowns, the more efficient the building process will be.

It’s easier to talk about construction cost and set up infrastructure if all contingencies are put in place.

Examples: it can cost $50,000 to prepare a lot if it has poor soil, a steep lot could cost $100,000 in foundation easily and/or up to $5,000 to hook up to the city sewer. As well, you’ll have to factor in the modifications to the plan in order to fit the specific lot.

Once that is figured out, the next step is to understand what the setbacks are like height restrictions etc.  Once the lot is established and you have secured all pertinent information (this is where the Bungalow Company can work to help you), we can prepare a proposal for you to take to your lot and look at a series of plans that would work best for your specific needs.

If you’ve contracted with a builder, once you’ve found a couple of plans that would work for you, you can purchase an estimation set. With the estimation set, the builder should be able to get you within 10% of what the house should cost. (If you don’t have a builder, click here for our free guide to hiring one.)

Once you feel like you’re comfortable with the budget, then we can step into doing the actual tweaks and modifications to the plan.

If there are a lot of tweaks and modifications, we will discuss them with the builder before they estimate it. We may be able to do some sketches or simply discuss over the phone any needed changes so that we can get you an accurate cost.

There are a lot of places you can buy house plans, what sets Bungalow Company apart from the other companies?

One of the unique things about the Bungalow Company is that we are the original designers and architects of all of our plans. Most of the plans out there are nice but are created by many different designers and architects.

We neither sell nor modify plans from other companies. We have spent years perfecting our plans and they’re exclusively sold within our company.  We’re one of the few plan companies that designs and exclusively sells their own work.

The thing that’s nice about homes that we exclusively design is that our designers have a lot of embedded knowledge about the homes. People do buy our plans on occasion and modify their own work; however, there is a lot of value working with the original designers.  It’s kind of like buying a painting and expecting someone else to finish it.

What is the value in having you make the changes in design compared to me purchasing the CAD drawings and having your competitor do so?

If the changes are small and insignificant like interior changes, buying the CAD plans may be a good idea that could save time for everyone involved.

However, when you really get to reshaping the house and moving major exterior components, I’ve noticed over the years that it’s tough to maintain the authenticity of the design when putting somebody else’s hands on it. As previously stated, it’s kind of like finishing somebody else’s painting.

So I’ve Answered the Basics, Now How Do I Choose the Right House Plan?

Now that we’ve considered some of the essential elements of the building site: lot dimensions, slope, orientation of the structure and type and position of the garage, how do you choose a house plan? Here is where we consider the context of your lot and your lifestyle preferences.

Does your lot have a view? If so, where would you like to be to enjoy that view? Do you entertain outdoors often? If so, would you like to easily transition between the kitchen and the backyard? Is it important for you to have the ability to open up the living areas to the yard? Where will the access points be for the front yard, backyard and side yard?

If your lot has nice views to the backyard, you might think, “I want to create a way to come and go to the backyard, let the dog in and out,” – control points to bring people in and out of the house and be able to open up the backyard in nice weather between the kitchen, dining room and living rooms.

Often a side living home is nice on a corner lot. If you live within the urban fabric and are fortunate to find a corner lot you have some great options. Positioning the home to the side yard area can create more privacy and expansive views, as often the closest neighbor on that side is 60 or more feet away. Additionally, this gives us the ability to make good use of sunlight as there are no buildings or vegetation to block the light.

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