Would I Purchase My Home Design Online?

By John Garrett, April 22, 2008 | In Home Design |

To say the internet has transformed our day to day lives might be the understatement of the century. Not since old Gutenburg has mans written communication taken such a dramatic leap. Now, by nature we are skeptical beings, especially with technology. However, we are just as adaptable and once we become comfortable with that new gadget we stop questioning and start using… in record numbers.

From day one shopping has been at the forefront of the internet. For me, uncrate.com is an absolute must visit! I’m a guy and I like guy things. My wife on the other hand personally keeps Gap (and Baby Gap) in business. Oh the joy of internet shopping! Sit in your PJ’s at home or relax with a cup of joe at your nearest cafe and shop to your hearts delight.

And if you don’t like your next online purchase, return it! Heck, you can even return it at the physical store if you want to skip out on shipping charges. Sure beats the hours spent at a mall playing, “Yes dear, your butt looks good in that.”

But is this the way to make the kind of purchases we call investments?

I have professionally been apart of the buying experience for over a decade and I am absolutely stunned at some of the things purchased on the internet. Maybe I am a finicky buyer, but when tens of thousands of dollars are on the line, I feel point and click could be a mistake. I am not talking about the kind of purchases that are luxury items like a Rolex or a jet. I am talking about the everyday purchases we, the average American make. The car note we take on or the mortgage payment we commit to.

With some investments, guidance from an expert is just to valuable to skip. I believe this to be true with the design of your home. I wanted to take a few minutes and share some thoughts and I am going to base these thoughts on the average 3/2 home. Obviously where the house is located changes the price based on property values, so lets take a number that I see in my own community of $300K for a three bedroom, two bath home.

There are really three markets buying home designs online; the homeowner, the builder and the developer. And for these three purchasing markets there are MILLIONS of sites offering plans. Cottage house plans, Mediterranean house plans, Old World house plans, Tudor house plans, Country French house plans and Luxury house plans. The list goes on and on and on. Go ahead, google it. Search for house plans and there are about 23,400,000 results! This without even introducing renovation designs.

Its like shopping for cologne. Ever been on that fun little excursion? After five minutes all of them smell the same and you walk out with a headache. Looking at thousands of plans online can have the same result. But the internet does create one thing that can “look” like an advantage to the consumer and that is price competition. You can purchase your next home design for around $600.00! That is 0.02% of the cost of the home.

This may “look” like a good thing, but does this not seem wrong to anyone else in the room? Of all the elements that go into creating the $300K cost of a home, only one fifth of one percent is being spent on the DESIGN of the home! I mean, the idea of a “luxury” house plan for seven hundred bucks is just silly! The only time $700.00 and luxury should be in the same sentence is when referring to flatware.

A vast majority of websites on the internet that sell house plans are tossing up either sub par designs or outdated homes at a very economical price. But is this the place you really want a bargain? Is this the facet of the home building process that you should skimp on? With issues like resale value, wasted space, curb appeal, cost from design mistakes and flow of the home on the line, its just the wrong place to go the cheapest route possible.

So the question we are all thinking is, “who do I chose?” I can’t tell you who to chose, but it is my experience that the best answers come from the best questions. So let me share some questions you should be asking yourself and your designer while in the process of picking your home design. Keep in mind that there are three markets and with brevity in mind, I am going to focus on the individual home owner looking to build a custom home.

Ask Yourself:

  • Do I want to purchase just construction documents?
  • Do I need advice on livability and flow of the home?
  • Do I care about the resale value of the home?
  • Do I want eye catching curb appeal?
  • Am I comfortable enough with my experience to go it alone?
  • Do I know what my likes and dislikes are well enough to see them on a floor plan?
  • Do I want the home tailored to my lifestyle?
  • Am I willing to invest the time and resources to get help with the design of my home?

Ask Your Designer:

  • How are you going to help me get exactly what I want?
  • How available are you to me?
  • Are all of your plans actually built or were they designed to sit on a website?
  • What separates you from everyone else on the internet?
  • Why is this the price point of your plans? (In other words, why are you so cheap and why are you so expensive?)
  • How many employees do you have and what roles do they play in my design?

All of these questions, both to you and to the designer, will give you the information you need to make a good decision. At the end of the day, whether you decided to “point and click” or have liaison through the process, you made the choice intentionally. When it comes to purchasing, having open eyes in the decision process is all we really want.

Happy Hunting!

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