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Plans & Design | Custom Home Building Cost Guide

Plans & Design for Building a Custom Home

All right. So today we’re going to cover the plans and design for building a custom home. We’re going to start by talking about what the steps are, and then we’re going to go into the actual cost of what it takes to get the plans and design done, so you can submit your plans to the city or the county and get the process started on building your home.

The first step…”Preliminary design”

So typically the first step is we will meet with you, and we will talk to you about what your needs are, what size home you want, what level of finishes you want in the home. We will also look at your land and decide what’s the best positioning for the home on the lot. We’re also going to look at what it’s going to cost to actually improve the lot. This will allow us to know how much money we have left over in the budget to actually build the home. So once we have met with you and we understand those parts of it, then we are going to establish a price point for the building of your home. We will take that price point and include it in a design agreement. Once the design agreement is in place, we will then begin the preliminary design and start drawing floor plans and elevations.

Once the floor plan and elevations are done we will look at the pricing and make sure that what we have designed is going to meet the budgeted price point we were shooting for in the design agreement. Once we have gotten some bids, and compared pricing using unit costing from other projects, and we are confident that the home can be built for the budgeted price point we will take the next step and move into a “Final Design” phase.

The second step…”Final Design”

During the final design, we’re going to get the structural engineering completed, complete all the structural drafting, complete the truss calculations and the Title 24 energy calculations. We’re going to put that whole package together so it is ready to submit to the city or county building departments. 

During that final design phase, we may also possibly bring in an interior designer at that point if needed to get the exact selection details figured out so we can get our pricing closer when we complete the final bidding on the project during that phase.” 

So that’s the process from design agreement all the way through to where we actually submit the plans to the city or county building departments. 

Cost for the Plans and Design Phase

There is a deposit that is due at the start of the “Preliminary Design” phase and there is also a deposit that’s due at the beginning of the “Final Design” phase. Both deposit amounts are included in the design agreement.

Now, what does this all cost to do? Typically you’re going to spend somewhere between 4% to 6% of the actual build costs to get the plans and design completed. So for example, if you have a $500,000 build cost budget, the plans and design would cost somewhere between $20,000 to $30,000 to get that package put together. Now, if the build costs were $1,000,000, then we’d be looking somewhere between $40,000 to $60,000 to get the plans and design package put together.

Why do the Plans & Design Costs Vary?

There are a couple of reasons those numbers will vary, and I’m going to give you a couple examples here. The first reason is that a  draftsman is less money than if you had an architect draw the plans. Another reason is, if you have a structure that has more porches, more garages, it’s a more complex structure, it has deck areas, or it is on a subfloor, those add to the structural engineering costs. Structural engineering costs are based on the square footage of the structure. The structure would include anything under the roof including living area, garage area, covered porches and decks. The structural engineer will charge by the square foot for all of these areas.

What Does Structural Engineering Cost for a Home?

The structural engineering for a home costs roughly somewhere between $1.25 to $1.75 a square foot, depending on the type of structure that you have.

Costs to Hire a Draftsman Versus an Architect

To hire a draftsman to draw your plans it will cost about $2.50 sq. ft. If you hire an architect, it will cost anywhere from $4.00 To $6.00, or even more to have them draw the plans.

Examples of Plans & Design Fees for Two Different Size Homes

So now I want to jump in real quick and I want to give you two examples of two different types and sizes of structures to give you an idea of how these fees break down and how you get to that 4% to 6% cost.

First Example….2226 sq. ft. Custom Home

Our first example is going to be a 2,226 square foot home with a 576 square foot attached garage. The plans and design fees break down like this, $13,000 for the contractor value engineering, design, budgeting, and selection. This covers your design build contractor working with the draftsman or your architect, the structural engineer and your Title 24 provider to get the plans & design package put together to go into the city planning department or county planning department. The $13,000 covers all the general contractors time working with them as well as the actual bidding process through the entire preliminary & final design phases.

To have a draftsman draw the plans will be $5,565. That’s based on $2.50 sq. ft. Sometimes there could be an additional fee for floor plan design depending on the actual home. The costs for that can range anywhere from $500 to $2,000. It just really depends on how many revisions are needed to come up with a final floor plan drawing. 

The Structural engineering cost for this project was $3,302. This is based on a price per square foot for the under roof area for that structure. Additionally the Title 24 energy calculations are $250. We have also included an allowance of $2,500 for interior design, and this is used on every project. Interior design can range from $2,500 to $20,000, it just depends on how much help you need, how nice the home is and what level of finish you’re putting in it. The total costs for the plans and design for this home is $24,617.

Second Example...4,400 sq. ft. Custom Home

Example number two, is a 4,400 square foot home with an 1,144 square foot garage. The contractor value engineering, design, budgeting selections is$16,500. It is a larger home, so it’s going to take more work. Plans drawn by the architect will cost $17,600. This is based on a $4 per square foot fee by the architect to draw the plans. Structural engineering will cost $6,259. Please remember there’s covered porches on this home too. So the 4,400 square foot livable area and 1,144 square foot garage is not conclusive of everything that’s under the roof. So that structural engineering number varies a bit. The structural engineering for a typical slab-on-grade home would be about $1.25 a square foot, roughly.

The Title 24 energy calculation fee to calculate the energy calcs will run $600. It is a bigger house, so it costs a little bit more to get that done. Then you will have a $10,000 interior design package on this home. It’s larger so you will have more design work to do. $10,000 is just a realistic allowance to put in for interior design. Could be more, could be less, but this is just a ballpark to give you an idea of the costs. The total on this plan and design package is $50,959.

Second Example...4,400 sq. ft. Custom Home

Example number two, is a 4,400 square foot home with an 1,144 square foot garage. The contractor value engineering, design, budgeting selections is$16,500. It is a larger home, so it’s going to take more work. Plans drawn by the architect will cost $17,600. This is based on a $4 per square foot fee by the architect to draw the plans. Structural engineering will cost $6,259. Please remember there’s covered porches on this home too. So the 4,400 square foot livable area and 1,144 square foot garage is not conclusive of everything that’s under the roof. So that structural engineering number varies a bit. The structural engineering for a typical slab-on-grade home would be about $1.25 a square foot, roughly.

The Title 24 energy calculation fee to calculate the energy calcs will run $600. It is a bigger house, so it costs a little bit more to get that done. Then you will have a $10,000 interior design package on this home. It’s larger so you will have more design work to do. $10,000 is just a realistic allowance to put in for interior design. Could be more, could be less, but this is just a ballpark to give you an idea of the costs. The total on this plan and design package is $50,959.

The Best Way to Hit Your Budget

So that covers plans and design for a custom home. Now there are a number of ways to do it, but we have found that this has worked the best. It’s a great way to hit the budget that you are needing to hit by going through and starting with a design agreement where we work with you, your draftsman and your engineer, to get all of that put together, to establish and hit the budget that you’re wanting to hit for your home.

Resources for Building a Custom Home

If you want more information on building a custom home, the costs to build a custom home, or how to buy land, or even popular custom floor plans, you can get that here on the resources page of our website. We also have a very comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section that goes into a ton of detail on all the questions that we get on building custom homes. So I hope that helps. Thank you for your time, and have a great rest of your day.

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