1. What are the first steps one should take when starting a new construction project? Should I contact my bank, a general contractor, etc.?

Acquiring a complete and detailed set of house plans is recognizably the first and most important step one should take in order to coordinate banking and building trade services. These documents enable Bank Loan Officers and Builders to provide accurate pricing and scheduling information. By taking the time to develop a thoughtful set of plans, significant efficiencies can be realized and conflicts avoided during the construction process.

For clients that are unfamiliar with estimating the cost of construction, consider enlisting the services of an experienced Builder (consultant) to participate in the design phase. Their expertise with cost estimating, construction advice and best practices can be integrated into your design and long term planning efforts. Be mindful that consulting can be a time consuming process for any builder.  Consideration should be made for compensation, if not hired as the contracted Builder.

2. What are my options for acquiring a set of house plans that will enable me to acquire a building permit?

There are three primary resources for house plans, as follows:

  • House Plans by Design LLC is a Residential Design Planning (RDP) Service.  Virginia law authorizes RDPs to design single- and two-family homes, townhouses and multi-family dwellings, not exceeding three stories (VA Law § 54.1-402). See Question #5 for pricing.
  • Architectural Firms – Licensed by the State of Virginia to which the principles and methods of architecture are applied, such as consultation, investigation, evaluation, planning and design, and includes the responsible administration of construction contracts, in connection with any private or public buildings, structures or projects, or the related equipment or accessories. (VA Law § 54.1-400). HomeAdvisor members report that the average cost to hire an architect is $5,296, or typically between $2,016 and $8,576. However, most architectural firms report charging 5% to 20% of the project cost, which comes out to far more. For the average 2,700 square foot home with an average build cost of $300,000, expect to spend anywhere from $15,000 to $60,000. Less commonly, they charge $125 to $250 per hour and a few pros charge $2 to $10 per square foot.
  • e-Plans. See Question #3.

3. Should I purchase e-Plans from the internet?

A generic set of e-Plans, purchased on the internet, is a temptation that should be thoughtfully considered. Pricing is low, reflecting generic designs that are mass produced and not quickly or inexpensively customized. Consult your local Building Official before investing in a set of e-Plans as they often require a local Architect or Professional Engineer (PE) to review and stamp the plans to ensure compliance with state and local building codes.

As an example, a client shared their experience that they purchased a set of e-Plans for a 3,000 ft2 home for $2,039 in pdf format which required modifications costing an additional $850.  In addition, they were required to have the plans stamped by a PE for an additional $1,200. Total cost was $4,089 and a 6 week delay beginning construction.

4. What drives cost for design services?

Less than 20 years ago, house plans were routinely developed and submitted by homeowners and builders with the expectation of receiving a building permit. Times have changed. City Building Officials and Plan Reviewers are technical experts have a responsibility to ensure your home is designed and built to exacting standards, many of which are imposed by the insurance industry in order to mitigate the effects due to high winds and flooding. Building Officials ensure local building codes are implemented; engineered lumber requirements are accurately depicted in drawings; wall bracing requirements and supporting calculations are documented; and the foundation, walls and roof are properly designed. Therefore, the cost of a design has proportionally increased based on the level of effort required for the designer to incorporate these new and ever increasing requirements into a workable set of house plans.

5. How much does a set of house plans by House Plans by Design cost and what do I get for my money?

The price of a custom design drawing package by House Plans by Design typically ranges between $1,500 and $4,500, depending on size and complexity of the project.  Examples of some typical projects range in size from a new porch, a detached garage, a room or house renovation, and a 6,000+ square feet custom home. Because most projects fit into basic level-of-effort categories, House Plans by Design can rapidly generate a formal estimate, once the scope of work is accurately conveyed. This type fee structure is overwhelmingly preferred by clients, as opposed to an “hourly rate” implemented by most architects and design firms. By minimizing overhead and maintaining a laser focus on business stability, House Plans by Design is able to offer a price match guarantee for comparable design services. Any fee negotiations would obviously need to be handled on a case-by-case basis during the contracting phase.


Design packages typically include a 3-D computer model depicting interior and exterior details, as well as construction drawings depicting Floor, Exterior Elevations, Roof, Foundation, Basement, Joist, Structural Beams/Columns, Braced Wall Panels and Sectional Details. Geographic design criteria, square footage, exterior door and window schedules, residential construction codes, and spec sheets for engineered lumber and braced wall panels are also included. For remodels and additions, rendition drawings of the existing structure are provided to the extent necessary to facilitate drawing development and approval of your plans.  All plans are developed in accordance with the International Residential Code (IRC), Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) and local City/County codes.

6. How long does it take to get a set of house plans?

Most design packages can be completed in 4-6 weeks. This is an incredibly fast process, realizing the level of detail required to conceptualize and structurally design a remodel or new construction home, including interactions with the client and material suppliers. The process for developing a design package follows:

  1. Proposal & Contract agreement
  2. Concept Design & Functional Layout
  3. Floor Plans development and agreement
  4. Exterior Plans development and agreement
  5. 3D Model agreement
  6. Structural Design – Floor, wall and roof framing; design/evaluation for engineered lumber (Beams, I-Joist, trusses, etc.); foundation design; and Wall/Wind Bracing design.
  7. Generate Plans
  8. Quality Assurance check
  9. Homeowner acceptance of completed design package.


The design process includes development of a 3D model which can be viewed on a personal computer or smart phone. The model enables the client to fully conceptualize the interior and exterior of their design.

7. Does House Plans by Design work exclusively with a particular Builder or Interior designer?

No, although there are some I would recommend. These professions are normally attained once the structure has been designed, in order that they may accurately finalize materials selections, generate cost estimates, schedules and convey expectations. Interior designers may be consulted separately to help guide the homeowner and builder with materials selections. See question #1 above regarding the benefits of enlisting the services of a Builder as a consultant.

8. Are you limited to a specific state or region?

House Plans by Design LLC is authorized to provide design services in all cities and counties within the state of Virginia. Design services can also be performed in other states but may require a Professional Engineer (PE) to stamp the plans in the State in which the plans are required to be reviewed and approved.

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