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3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Designing and Building Your Own Home in the USA

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Buying a house is frequently listed as one of the top 3 most stressful things we do in life, so it stands to reason that designing and building our own home has to be an even more stressful experience.  In Europe, engaging an architect to design and project manage your build is the most common approach, even at the more affordable end of the scale. However, in America, many consumers undertake a design build project without an architect, which probably explains the multitude of house plan websites on the internet. Some of these websites boast of having upwards of 40,000 plans for sale, but there is little to help consumers/novice builders, to make sound decisions.

At Opoplan, house design is our passion and because we believe that good design changes lives, we have made our automated custom house design system available free of charge to help consumers avoid the top 3 common pre-construction design mistakes.

Mistake 1 – putting the house design before the lot

Once you have decided to build your own home, it is very easy to get carried away with the excitement of designing your new house.  When you know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you want and you have already decided on an open plan space with a big kitchen island or the layout of your great room, and all those other details that will make your new home truly yours, it feels like bringing your design to life should be easy.

However, unless you have the budget to source a lot big enough for the dream home you have designed, you need to pause the design planning and take practical steps to find your ideal lot before you spend money on your floor plan. In most areas, particularly if you want to stay in the same school district or are moving to be closer to family or because of a change of job, sourcing your lot first is the sensible approach. Are vacant lots plentiful in your chosen area or will you need to look at a teardown? How big is an average lot in that area and what is the average size house on that street? And does that all tie in with the design plan you have in your mind?

LotCheck from Opoplan is our way to help you at this stage in the process. Drop the address for your chosen lot into LotCheck and our virtual architect system will map the plot and give you instant feedback on what size house will fit. So, if the LotCheck says a three bed, four bath house will fit – but you want a four bed, five bath house as a minimum requirement, you know this is either not the right lot for you or you will have to compromise on the size house you build. If you know the specific setbacks for your lot, these can be entered – but don’t worry if this doesn’t make sense, as we have approximate figures pre-entered for you.

Ultimately, the important thing to remember is that LotCheck will check the lot and tell you what size house will fit – or not.

Mistake 2 – mis-reading an architect drawing

This is a really common problem and is one of the biggest causes of expensive change orders on a build and is also the main contributing factor in legal disputes between builders and their clients.  Let’s face it, most of us who build our own home, or are dreaming about building for ourselves, are not architects – so we can’t be expected to fully understand the detailed architect drawings for our new home. However, a builder needs professional, detailed drawings to give you a quote for the materials and construction, not to mention the permit application.

As an architect-led business, we recognize the danger and the negative impact this type of misunderstanding can have on a design-build project, particularly when it comes to a tight budget. This is why your Opoplan custom house plan is first presented in a 3D format where you walk around inside your house, exploring every room at eye level. The full architect design set is only downloaded when you are sure you have made all the changes you want and are ready to proceed with permitting and construction. Automated changes to an Opoplan custom house plan are available with a basic subscription and monthly payments can be offset against the cost of your final plan. Your Opoplan dashboard is an easy place to safely store everything to do with the pre-construction design of your new home.

Starting construction of your new home with an Opoplan custom house plan, designed by our automated virtual architect system in response to your brief, is the closest you’ll get to working with a human architect, but without the delays or costs.

Mistake 3 – buying a plan for a house that you can’t afford to build

This has to be the most upsetting thing that can happen to anyone embarking on a project to design and build their own home. Having spent hours and hours designing and planning your perfect new home only to discover that you don’t have enough money to build it, is a situation that most of us want to avoid.

It’s not possible for Opoplan to provide a guide price for the cost of building each custom house plan created by the system – but we’re working on it. In the meantime, choosing an Opoplan custom house plan that is designed for your specific lot is a good starting point. If you can afford the lot, you are more likely to be able to afford to build on it. We also have a builder information pack that helps your chosen builder to produce a quote more quickly.

These three problems were identified during Opoplan market research with members of the National Association of Homebuilders in America.  Our research with custom builders gave us the insights that prompted us to make our service available free of charge, up to the point where people want to make changes. For some Opoplan customers, using an automated virtual architect gives them the basic plan they subsequently take to an architect, builder or building designer for even more customization.

Opoplan is not the same as working with a human architect, but it really is the next best option for avoiding costly pre-construction mistakes.

Only Opoplan has the technology.

The Opoplan suite of technology products has been created to improve the pre-build design and planning process for professionals and consumers, in the single family homes market.

Meet LotTech™

Manage new enquiries quickly and decisively with LotTech™ from Opoplan – the smart lot analysis tool for Builders, Real Estate Brokers and House Designers.

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