The Blog

Buying New House Plans Online: Pros and Cons

Rich and Sara Smith* were finally about to take the plunge and choose a house plan for their new dream home. They browsed through hundreds of stock house plans online until they narrowed down what they wanted. 

Yes, the plan would need some tweaking to change the basement to a walkout basement and move the kitchen to the opposite side of the house, but no big deal, right? 

The Smiths purchased their favorite online house design, delighted that it was a sixth of the cost of some of the custom-house plan costs they had heard about from their sister-in-law.

When the Smiths presented their plans to their builder, they were shocked to discover that the plans had to be redrawn by an engineer or local home designer to get the plans to match all the state and local building codes and regulations and to accommodate the changes they wanted to make. 

By the time they added a few customizations to the design and had the plans redrawn, Rich and Sara realized that they would have been better off choosing a custom home design rather than buying house plans online. Then they could have had exactly what they wanted for a very similar price. Maybe even less. Why hadn’t anyone told them? This was beyond frustrating.

Every aspect of building a new house has its pros and cons. The decision about whether to buy stock house plans or custom house plans is an important one as it has some potential pitfalls—depending on your priorities for your future dream home.

Online stock house plans

The pros of buying stock home plans online

  • The initial cost of new house plans online is generally significantly cheaper than custom plans.
  • Looking through lots of stock plans can help you find features you would like to include in your custom house building plans.
  • You can save time because it is much faster to choose pre-drawn plans than to start from scratch.
  • The design has already been built successfully before and shouldn’t have any unexpected issues for the builder.


The cons of buying stock plans online

  • Pre-fab plans may not work based on the layout of your specific property: septic/sewer placement, water/well, where the house will sit.
  • Code enforcements may not allow the house to sit where you are thinking it will, or it may not even fit on the lot with proper spacing.
  • You will likely have to have the plan redrawn by a professional designer or engineer to have a site plan for your building permit.
  • 99% of the time, you can’t change the stock house plans. To customize your plans to your specifications can end up costing as much or more than doing custom plans to start with.
  • Your home won’t be completely unique and personalized.


Stock home plans may be a good fit for you if you are looking for something simple and not very customized, you don’t have a desire for something unique, you understand that you may pay a lot more than the original design to redraw the plans, or you have a huge time crunch.

The pros of choosing a custom house plan designer

  • Get a unique custom house plan specifically tailored to your preferences and needs.
  • You can easily address any special needs or concerns in the design (a larger garage, universal design principles, a larger-than-normal dining room, a specialized home office, etc…).
  • Work with a designer you trust who will listen to your concerns and help you find the best plan for you.
  • Make sure the house plan design fits the lot and its peculiarities. (Some “difficult” lots require custom plans.)
  • Your home will never be a cookie-cutter home.
  • You don’t have to cut corners anywhere.
  • You have free reign with interior design, exterior design, and choosing the quality materials you love most.


The cons of choosing a custom home plan

  • This route can be a little more expensive than buying new house plans online, but not always.
  • The design process takes a bit longer.
  • You will have more decisions to make.
  • Custom plans sometimes run into issues during construction for custom built homes because they have never been built before if you didn’t involve a contractor in the design process (which is why we have a general contractor on our design team).

If you are a very discerning individual with specific tastes, preferences, and needs we would recommend the custom home design process over buying a generic house plan. The custom route puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you the most possible control and influence over the home design. 

In the end, this is how to get exactly what you want, tailored to your specifications, without any compromises or snags.

Custom home designer meeting with clients over new house plans

Are you considering new house floor plans for a luxury home in the Columbia, SC area?

At Phase One, we can provide you with the luxury house plans of your dreams. Why worry with buying cookie-cutter new house plans online when you can have a custom home design tailored specifically for you?

Then take these plans to the contractor of your choice to get started building. Or we can handle the entire construction process for you, too, as a design-build firm.

If you’d like a smooth custom home design process with specialized attention to detail and plenty of pampering for you along the way… 


Please contact us today.



What Is Design-Build Construction?

How Your Home’s Layout Impacts Your Day-to-Day

What Are the 7 Elements of Interior Design?

Designing Your Forever Home? How to Plan for Now and Then

Designers and Contractors:How to Coordinate and Win


*These are fictional names and a fictional, but realistic, scenario.

February 18, 2021