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What Makes a House Plan Affordable?

by Rachel Lyon, Editorial Director for The House Designers®

The decision to build your own home comes with a hefty price tag and might cause some anxiety, but building rather than buying an existing house actually gives you the power to make budget-friendly choices. Our Affordable House Plan Collection is a great place to start—and you may be wondering what makes these designs more affordable than others on the site. A lot more than meets the eye, it turns out! Here’s a quick breakdown of affordable house plans, and how you can bring your dream home into reality without going over budget.

THD-6336 Floor Plan

The Pecan Meadow (THD-6336) is a popular budget-friendly house plan choice. It delivers 2,000 square feet, 3 bedrooms in a split arrangement, 2.1 baths, and an open floor plan in a neat footprint that costs less to build than more complex shapes.

Affordable Cost of Construction

A number of particulars go into designing house plans. To the average consumer, square footage may seem like the biggest factor in the cost to build, but it isn’t necessarily. A complex structure can make a smaller design more expensive than you think, and a larger yet simple one may yield the more attractive price tag. Look at the shape of the foundation and the roof to get a rough idea of how one home compares to another; the more basic outline with the fewest changes in pitch will be the better affordable choice, all other things being equal.

Also consider what goes into the house, and how it’s laid out. Plumbing isn’t cheap, and grouping as much of it together as possible saves on installation. For example, having the master bath and a hall bath back-to-back across a shared wall will consolidate the pipes and water lines. Think about how many bathrooms you really need if you want to save—having a full hall bath for the kids and guests to share is more economical than opting for a Jack-and-Jill bath and a powder room. You’ll find all sorts of layouts in our affordable house plans to address different wants and needs, though, so having your own list will ensure you choose a design suitable for your budget.

THD-3405 Exterior

The Silver Lining ICF Farmhouse (THD-3405) specifies insulated concrete forms (ICFs) for framing the exterior walls. This results in a very efficient home that’ll be less expensive to heat and cool through the seasons.

Affordable Cost to Own

What good is a house that’s inexpensive up front, but that you’ll pay extra for afterward? Don’t forget to take energy efficiency into account when you shop for your house plan! Affordable homes address efficiency in a variety of ways, so look at their particulars. Most typical homes use 2x4 framing, but that’s not the only option. Some offer 2x6 framing standard, and that extra couple of inches in the exterior walls provides more room for insulation. Insulated concrete form (ICF) or concrete block framing also offer tighter building envelopes and increased efficiency. Finally, ENERGY STAR house plans give you instructions for how to build each house to save 20-30% on energy costs in your area. Check out the details on each house plan to see what comes standard, and then look at the optional add-ons to see if any energy-saving upgrades are available.

Your builder can also help by orienting the house to facilitate passive solar heat gain in the winter while blocking harsh sun from heating the interior in the summer. Some house plans come designed with this in mind, but many others adapt perfectly well. To learn more about this, see Orienting a Home for Maximum Efficiency. Be sure to bring it up with your builder early on so you can purchase a lot and a house plan that work well together!

THD-7289 Kitchen

Your product choices can make or break your budget! The kitchen, like this one in Craftsman 345 (THD-7289), is the single most expensive area to finish. Shop for flooring, cabinets, countertops, and appliances with intention so you aren’t surprised at the final bill.

Affordable Finishing Products

Finishing a home affordably comes down to you and the choices you make. Even with a super affordable house plan, your budget can be blown by selecting expensive products—this could be why existing homes you’ve seen cost so much! But you don’t want to skimp on what’s important, so be realistic about the price of quality finishes and what you actually need. Ask for professional recommendations if you need help finding a balance that works. Our Product Ideas section is full of interior and exterior inspiration and makes a great starting point.

You must account for everything from roofing, to windows and doors, to flooring, to appliances, to fixtures, to decorative elements long before it comes time to install them. Factor efficiency into the equation to determine overall cost—you may have to pay more for exterior products with higher R-values, electronics that use less electricity, and plumbing fixtures that reduce water usage, but they’ll save in utility costs in the long term. Prioritizing durability should also minimize maintenance for years down the road. Manufacturers make products to cover all price points with a wide range of performance characteristics, so take the time to explore the possibilities and become comfortable with each choice.

If you’re thinking about building your own affordable home, The House Designers can help! Our collection is extensive, and our experienced house plan specialists are ready to take your wish list and find designs that fit your needs. Just because you’re building on a budget doesn’t mean you won’t have an amazing home at the end of the journey!