Use search functions very carefully when narrowing your choices of house plans

On “stock” plan sites, which typically offer anywhere from thousands to tens of thousands of house plans, it’s essential to use their Search Functions to narrow your choices. But on our site please use these tools carefully. You’re about to make a huge decision, and the last thing you want to do is build a new house when plans for an even better house are available but never seen.

I’ll give you some examples. Let’s say you plan to build a house that’s between 2,000 and 2,500sf. If you enter these numbers into a computer search, a house that is 1,999sf, or 2,501sf, will not be displayed! This is also true when setting the number of bedrooms you need. Let’s say you want to build a 3-bedroom home. If you enter this number, the computer search will display only those homes that specify 3 bedrooms in the plans. But there are plenty of 2-bedroom plans that include an office or study or den that would be a perfect bedroom by simply adding a closet, or just changing the name.

Regrettably, it is nearly impossible to take advantage of this advice on large “stock” plan sites because of the sheer numbers involved. As I mentioned in an earlier post, a search for homes between 2,000 and 2,250sf can bring up 5,000 different homes to look at on the largest sites, so the focus has to be on narrowing your search. On a boutique site like ours (, however, with a total inventory of around 350 homes in our portfolio, the best approach is to use the search functions as little as possible. That way you’ll be sure not to miss the perfect house that suits your needs.

To help with this, we have fudged the results of a search on our site a little bit to help our visitors. If you enter 2,000 to 2,500sf, the results range from 1,901 to 2,599sf. That extra 99sf of padding in both directions insures that you won’t miss a house that was quite close. We also enable visitors to enter two choices under Number of Bedrooms, so that they won’t miss a home that might have worked perfectly.

Things like this can also affect your search results when setting maximum widths and depths. In most cases, being off by a foot or so in either direction can often be successfully appealed, especially if it isn’t the entire side that’s past the limit, but rather just a portion of it.

Another search function on large stock plan sites is to narrow your options by architectural style. In theory, this should not present a problem, but it does, because so many homes are misidentified. Narrowing your search to Craftsman style homes on the largest site brings up just under 4,000 homes! But more importantly, only a modest percentage are true Craftsman designs. In most cases, they are generic homes that appear elsewhere in the site, but a tiny wood detail at a gable end has been added.

It’s kind of a Catch-22 on these sites – if you don’t narrow your search you’ll grow old and feeble before seeing all the homes they offer; but the narrowing process eliminates homes that might have been perfect with a small modification.

One more thing on this subject: Folks looking for the ideal plans rarely use their imagination when looking at floor plans. They narrow the search on large sites out of necessity, but they often pass on floor plans that don’t immediately suit their needs. I can’t count the number of times I’ve helped potential customers determine that a house they like in most ways could be made perfect with a few modifications.

We tend to believe that what we see is all that’s possible. We do this with the exterior appearance all the time, not considering what the house would look like clad in something different. Adding or replacing shingle siding can have a huge impact on a home’s appearance. The same ff  brick, or any other exterior material. And the same thing applies to interiors as well.

Now you don’t want to try to push a round peg through a square hole, but engaging your imagination can be quite helpful, and can also be fun.

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We highly recommend that you click on two boxes – the number of bedrooms you know you need, and one less bedroom. For example, if you need 4 bedrooms, click on the boxes next to 4 and next to 3. Otherwise you will not see homes where existing rooms on the lower, main, or upper levels might work perfectly well as a bedroom instead of as an office, study, etc.