Category Archives: Home Buying

How to Save Money When Building a House

Building your dream home is an adventure filled with excitement and anticipation. But as anyone who has gone through the process can tell you, it can also be a journey fraught with unexpected expenses and budget overruns. The good news? With some strategic planning and informed decisions, you can significantly cut costs without compromising on your vision. Here are essential tips for saving money while creating the house plans for the home you’ve always wanted.

Start with a Solid Plan

Choose Your Plot Wisely: The location of your home affects not just its future value but also the cost of construction. Opt for a plot that doesn’t require extensive groundwork, which can skyrocket expenses. Research the area for potential growth to ensure a good investment.

Design Efficiently: Big doesn’t always mean better. Focus on house plans that maximize space in a smart way. Open floor plans and multi-functional rooms can reduce square footage while still providing the feeling of spaciousness. Remember, a more compact house saves on materials and energy costs.

Budget Smartly

Set a Realistic Budget: Before diving into the building process, determine how much you can afford to spend and stick to it. Ensure your budget includes a buffer of at least 10-15% for unforeseen expenses, which are almost guaranteed to arise.

Get Multiple Quotes: Never settle on the first contractor or supplier you meet. Requesting bids from multiple sources can provide leverage for negotiation and help you find the best deal without sacrificing quality.

Save on Materials

Choose Cost-Effective Materials: Innovation in construction materials means you can choose options that are both economical and durable. For example, engineered wood products can be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional hardwood.

Buy in Bulk: For items you’re sure to need in large quantities (like bricks, cement, or paint), buying in bulk can lead to significant savings. Work closely with your contractor to estimate needs accurately to avoid excess.

DIY What You Can

Take on DIY Projects: While some tasks require professional expertise, others, like painting, installing fixtures, or landscaping, can be done on your own. Not only does this save money, but it also adds a personal touch to your home.

Work with the Right People

Hire a Good General Contractor: A skilled and trustworthy contractor like Monster House Plans is worth its weight in gold. They can manage the project efficiently, avoid costly errors, and offer valuable advice on saving money without cutting corners.

Consider Package Deals: Some companies offer design-build services, which can be more cost-effective than hiring separate entities for design and construction. This approach also simplifies communication and project management.

Be Energy-Efficient

Invest in Energy Efficiency: Although it might seem like an added expense, investing in energy-efficient windows, insulation, and appliances will save you money in the long run through lower utility bills. Renewable energy sources, like solar panels, can also offer long-term savings and tax incentives.

Stay Flexible

Be Willing to Compromise: It’s important to know where you can afford to make compromises and where you shouldn’t. For example, opting for a less expensive countertop material can free up your budget for features that offer more value to you, such as energy-efficient appliances or high-quality windows.


Building a house is a significant investment, and it’s natural to seek ways to minimize costs without compromising on your dream. By planning carefully, choosing the right materials and partners, and being willing to put in some sweat equity, you can make significant savings. Remember, the goal is to build a home that meets your needs, reflects your style, and stays within your budget. With these tips, you’re well on your way to making that goal a reality. Check out how we determine the cost of your desired home build here.

Getting the most house for your money is not as impossible as it sounds.

A limited construction budget is a design constraint that can truly enhance the result and, in many cases, can make for a more enjoyable and creative process. Instead of looking at a tight budget as a sacrifice, see it as a fundamental condition of building. You get to choose your priorities and discard the elements that don’t make the cut.

Data from the National Association of Home Builders tells us that the average price of constructing a single-family residence is roughly $289,415 — or $103 per square foot. However, the “average” figure doesn’t tell us much because home building and affordability vary vastly across the United States. This is why building a house as cheaply as possible requires a lot of research, ingenuity, planning, and careful project management throughout all phases.

Can you do it? Absolutely. Will you have fun? Most definitely. But does it call for a serious commitment of time, money, and resources? Without a doubt.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a House Right Now?

When you’re trying to understand the difference between buying a pre-built new home and a custom home, you should know that there’s a range that the “average” figure simply doesn’t reflect.

Factors like location (both state and city/town), lot size, materials used, land and zoning permits, waterfront construction, proximity from schools, amenities, and cultural centers will also affect your total cost to build a new home. Think of new home custom construction costs as lying on a spectrum of low, average, and high.

In some states, the range between these three discrete points can vary vastly. In California, for example, the cheapest average cost of a custom home starts at $152,000, but it can go all the way to about $1.5 million. In Pennsylvania, however, the variance between the two ends is much more stable, starting at $345,000 and going up to approximately $450,000.

Major Home Construction Costs Before You Begin

The idea goes that building a custom home from scratch is usually more expensive — but that doesn’t always have to be the case. There are plenty of factors or “levers” you can modify without compromising quality, safety, or livability. However, a few fundamentals are non-negotiable.

1) Plot or Parcel of Land

The plot or parcel of land you buy to build your home on will vary in cost based on location and permits involved. Despite the variation, the average cost of a plot of land is $3,040 per acre. The lot itself might need some work before its construction-worthy, so you may have to factor this cost in as well.

2) Excavation and Foundation Work

Excavating and digging the foundation presents a significant cost, and it’s doubly complicated if you buy a sloped lot, a hillside property, or an in-fill property. It involves excavating, pouring, and backfilling your foundation. However, these types of properties are also priced to sell quickly.

If you’re ready to get a bargain, there’s an easy workaround. Choose a floor plan designed for a sloping lot and then work with an architect to modify the plan based on the land you’re working with. Keep in mind that you may need retaining walls and additional landscaping for flood prevention. Prepare to shell out anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000.

3) Mechanical and Plumbing

Another area of home construction you simply cannot skimp on is major systems installations. These include wiring and electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. If you know you want to improve on sustainability and energy efficiency, this might also involve learning how to set up and install solar panels. A good electrical and plumbing team will run you $30,000 to $50,000 for an entire home build project.

Five Ways to Build a House As Cheaply As Possible

Now that you know the rough numbers around the “must-haves” are, you can shave valuable dollars off your budget using the following seven tips to build a house as cheaply as possible.

1) Be Your Own Contractor

If you know you want to build a house from a custom floor plan, you’ll need to commit to the upfront research required to be your own contractor. The good news is that there’s no dearth of information or resources available out there. Take your time and learn in phases, based on where you are in the building process. For example, during the starting phases your own general contractor, consider the following:

  • Getting permits
  • Installing insulation
  • General site clean-up
  • Sourcing and purchasing all materials
  • Scheduling inspections
  • Shingling the roof

You can then offload any tasks you’re not too fond of or well-versed with to local subcontractors. These should be specialists like carpenters, foundation specialists, concrete specialists, plumbers, and electricians.

2) Choose Floor Plans Strategically

If you kept costs low by purchasing a smaller lot, now is your chance to choose a floor plan strategically. Smaller lots are cheaper, so they’re a great way to save some money. However, if you know you want a large front and backyard, choose a home with multiple stories rather than a bungalow or a one-leveled floor plan.

You can also save money by centralizing your plumbing. For this, find a floor plan that has the kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms in close proximity to each other. These are the rooms that usually take the most wiring and plumbing installations.

3) Phase the Finishes

You don’t need to finish everything at once. Instead, plan to finish your basement two to three years after you officially move in. You can also roll your upgraders and interiors out in phases, based on a rolling budget.

4) Allocate 10 Percent of your Budget to the Pros

Consult with an architect and landscape architect because they’ll be able to guide you and help avoid costly (and dangerous) building errors. You may also need to allocate to architects, designers, or builders and land surveyors. If you opt to include these experts, each of their going rates will factor into the cost of your home. Fees for each professional will depend on the rate within your area. A few example rates are as follows:

  • Architects: $60 – $125/hour
  • Engineers: $100 – $150/hour
  • Surveyors: $300 – $700/hour
  • Designers: Five to 15 percent of your construction costs

5) Get Smart About Your Materials
There is a lot to be said about starting at salvage yards and recycled lumber yards. Not only are the costs for materials lower, but you can also find related high-quality construction materials with your salvaged wood. You can also find home kits at many reclaimed lumber yards. These kits come with useful pieces like wood flooring, brick, and more that you can use to get your project started.

As you carve out your budget for a custom home, the first place to start is with a plan. Using Monster House Plans’ wide database of floor plans, you can narrow down your search based on features of a home, home style, additional inclusions, foundation type, and so much more. As part of your pre-building research, you can use Monster House Plans to gain detailed insight into cost and materials.

Opt for our signature 3D Intelligent House Plan and work with expert architects and designers to create custom additions for your home. You can design your dream home on a lot that works for you using floor plans from Monster House Plans. Browse our extensive selection today!

In the past year alone, “how to build a house” was the second-most popular home improvement-related search on Google. It’s safe to say that more than ever, Americans are hooked on the idea of designing their own homes.

There’s just something so satisfying about having a place to truly call your own. After all, you get to have a say on all of the critical parts. You can choose the perfect location, the right floor plan, customized design elements, and enjoy the home for years to come.

If you’re one of the many Americans looking to design from scratch, then you’re not alone. But before you get started, there are a few things you have to consider before you attempt to build your own home.

1. Find the Perfect House Plan

When you picture your perfect home, what do you see?

According to most homebuyers, open concept living is at the top of the list, closely followed by timeless designs like hardwood flooring and plenty of storage. Whatever it is you envision, there’s a floor plan out there with your name on it.

With thousands of floor plans available online, it’s easy to find the one that is just right for you. Best of all, you can customize your search by important features like bedrooms, bathrooms, basements, or even wine cellars! Most companies also offer custom floor planning, where an architect will speak with you about some of your must-have features.

2. It’s All About Location, Location, Location

You might have heard the saying “location, location, location” a few times before. Coined by real estate tycoon Lord Harold Samuel in 1926, the famous expression holds true that homes can be higher in value solely based on its location — a staggering 91 percent of people said location is the most important factor when buying a home!

The right location often includes important features like safe neighborhoods, friendly neighbors, and good schools. Beyond that, though, are some of the other most-wanted factors in an ideal neighborhood:

  1. Low home value to income ratio
  2. Good public school ratings
  3. Fair median monthly housing cost
  4. Reasonable cost of living grade
  5. Residents with a college education

And sometimes if you’re lucky, you’ll find the right piece of land in the perfect neighborhood. At this point, you should consult with a professional who can survey the land. They will be able to tell you whether it is accessible to the city, if it is leveled, the right size for your floor plan and if it’s without any zoning restrictions.

3. The Direction Your Home Will Face

The property you choose will also impact the direction of your home.

The direction a house faces might not be the first thing that comes to anybody’s mind — but it should be high on your list. The direction in which your home faces will directly impact how much sunlight you get, and therefore your heating and cooling costs. Homes that were oriented to face the sun had a 10 to 20 percent increase in savings on heating costs.

But the question is: which way is best? If you’re unsure which direction to face the home, then it might help to know more about where you can expect the sun and shade. The United States is in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that the sun offers the most light in the south, and is shadier in the north.

Since the sun shines year-round on the south, many builders recommend orienting the home this way so that the main rooms can get enough natural light. The south side of the house is also where patios and pools should be constructed. Bedrooms are generally on the northern or western end of a home where there is more shade.

4. Choose a Simple and Timeless Design

Remember that at one point, your grandmother’s ivy wallpaper and popcorn ceiling was popular! But as styles evolve, it’s crucial to pick the right elements without getting dated too quickly.

Even those with an eye for interior design might feel overwhelmed when choosing how to style their home. After all, there are so many trends and ideas to try out — and they’re everchanging. But the key to the right design is to choose something timeless or easy to update as the years go on.

“Interior design is like a three-dimensional game of chess: You have to think about space both vertically and horizontally,” says interior designer John Saladino. “You have to break down these rooms and create spaces with a human scale.”

With that said, it’s important to take advantage of each inch of space in your new home. Be sure to optimize space by adding plenty of closets, built-in cabinetry, and a basement or garage.

5. Always Consider the Cost

The million-dollar question is: How much does it cost to build your own home? Unfortunately, there is no set number on how much it costs to develop and design your own home.

But there are general estimations that offer a good starting point. For example, the average house size is about 2,400 square feet. With the average price per square foot at $100, you can expect to pay $240,000 including labor and material costs. This does not include builder profit and overhead if you are planning to hire a professional builder.

To get a true estimation, you’ll have to do some homework by researching local contractors. The good news is with Monster House Plan’s cost-to-build tool, you can easily get an estimate of how much your favorite floor plan will cost to build in your specific area within +/- 10%.

However, be sure to put aside enough money in case something unexpected happens. So, try to avoid spending every last penny on your dream home and set aside at least 10 percent of your budget as an emergency contingency.


When it comes to building and designing your own home, you’re sure to run into some trial and error scenarios. But as long as you carefully consider the five important rules before you build your home, you’ll be on the right path.

But for most, the fun part is finding the perfect floor plan — and with thousands of floor plans available, it’s never been easier to find your perfect home. Monster House Plans has a plethora of exterior and interior floor plans in dozens of design styles, ranging from contemporary to cottage, and everything in between.

What are you waiting for? Find your perfect house plan today!

Almost every home you see has a garage attached, usually tacked on to the front of the house. And as our cars get bigger, so too does the standard size of a garage. Spaces for three cars is not uncommon, and use of extra space for seasonal storage. Who could do without such space when building their dram home? A home seems almost bereft without the addition of a garage. Where else are we to park our cars, tuck away yard tools, and set up wood shop work benches? Providing an informal entrance to the home, often via a mud room or utility room, the garage is a frequently used, necessary part of many homes. But garages can be unsightly, awkward, or simply in the way of a carefully designed dream home exterior. Despite its many functions, the garage is arguably the least attractive part of your home’s exterior.

Solutions abound for this particular problem. Garages can be tucked around the side of the home, be situated at the rear, or be built as part of the lower level of the house, completely removing the necessity of a separate garage. Yet other house plans hide the garage in plain site, including such design features as bay windows, small covered porches, and cottage-style landscaping features.

There are many house plans that offer solutions such as these. Clever garage designs abound in the library, and by selecting both the style of home you are looking for and the rear-entry garage selection you will access a tailored search filter with hundreds of house plans with out-of-sight garages. Remember also, that any house plan design can be customized to your specifications with the help of licensed architects.

Whether your dream home is lined with a Southern style wrap-around porch, a New England row of columns, or the handcrafted touches of a Craftsman home, a discreet garage enhances the curb appeal of any house.

There is perhaps no season that makes many of us nostalgic for early American architecture like autumn. As leaves begin to turn bright colors and fall in piles in the front yard, kids dress up and parole neighborhood streets for Hallowe’en, and preparations are made for the upcoming holidays, images of colonial homes fill our heads. Those wide front porches decorated with carved pumpkins and hardy mums in pots; lights going up along roof lines; chimneys filling the air with wood smoke….these sensory moments are part of what makes this season so special and culturally historical.

A nostalgic American landscape makes for the ultimate autumn landscape

A nostalgic American landscape makes for the ultimate autumn landscape and puts us in mind of the approaching holidays.

When we enter the season of hosting for the holidays, there are some styles of homes that are designed for this time of year. And it’s those nostalgic American home styles that do it the very best: Colonial, Plantation style, and Country homes are among the most perennially popular. Especially as the season turns cold, those homes that offer multiple fireplaces, large gathering rooms, and guest accommodations are especially sought after. And for large families, no holiday would be able to come together without some sort of play room or bonus space on the lower floors to which the children can be sent while meal preparations are under way.

As adults grow their families and develop traditions, it’s only natural to consider how your family gathers together. In the midst of holiday craziness and unpredictable weather, how to spend time with your loved ones? These are some of the most important considerations when searching for a house plan for your dream home. Are you building far from other family members, where you might need to host overnight guests from time to time? Do you prepare large meals and require ample storage and counter space to work your masterpieces? Is quiet time around the fireplace the best part of your night? As you search through our curated collections of house plans, keep in mind the spaces in which you want to see your most beloved traditions to take place. Whether your hang lights, or decorate with autumn colored leaves, this holiday season is shaping up to be a wonderful time for all to get together and revel in the joy of a life well lived.

There is something innately American about a July 4th backyard gathering. Whether hosted at one home, or shared between neighbors for a block party atmosphere, the outside party to celebrate our country’s independence is a widespread tradition for many families. As we get closer to this year’s celebratory weekend, here are a few must-have’s to make your gathering the best yet.

Curb Appeal

July 4th

July 4th curb appeal welcomes friends to the party.

Traditional décor like bunting, pinwheels, barn stars, and red, white, and blue lights make for a classical welcoming porch that invites neighbors and friends into your July 4th party space. Hanging metal lanterns are very popular this year. Allow the front door to be the focal point, especially if you’ve already chosen a bold color for this feature, and build your decorations out from there. Adding additional splashes of color with potted arrangements on either side of the door or on the far sides of wide front steps brings a celebratory atmosphere all the way to the street and expands the gathering space into the yard.


Grilling patio

Grilling patios make for effortless entertaining.

Grilling Patio

The best outdoor parties provide multiple spaces for people to gather and move about with ease, and there is no better way to facilitate the natural flow of party goers than having a grilling porch. This is one of the most commonly sought after features of house plans today. Often covered, a grilling porch provides a safe space for a BBQ and a contingency plan in case of rain on your July 4th party day. A designated space for cooking and eating makes hosting an effortless endeavor, and with built in prep space you’ll spend less time running in and out of the house and more time enjoying the time your guests.

July 4th firework safety

July 4th firework safety

Safety Plan

Before the July 4th afternoon gets into full swing, make sure you have planned for the safety of your family and guests before anything might occur. If you live in an area where fireworks are permitted, check with your local fire department for recommended safety protocols. Teach small children at your party about firework safety and let your guests know where to find fire extinguishers or garden hoses. Also remember that explosive sounds can frighten animals into running away, so make sure to keep a close eye on your four legged family members and put them in a quiet spot in the house if they are a flight risk during fireworks shows.


Memorial Day weekend is often seen as the opening of the summer season. Bar-be-ques are brought out and dusted off, last year’s grime is scraped away from the grill.  Many families will be either hosting or attending some kind of backyard gathering in the next few days, and sharing an outside meal with friends and family. Take a look at our house plans to get started on creating a space perfect for the holiday!

As anyone with a grill knows, finding a proper place for outdoor cooking can be something of a challenge. With this in mind, house plans with built-in grilling porches are soaring in popularity. They are stunning additions to the outside space of your home, designed with both aesthetics and function in mind. Often located at the back of the house, grilling porches are usually connected to the kitchen, making cooking a cinch and movement between food preparation areas as easy as can be. Unique features can be added as well, like windows that open onto counter space for pass-through simplicity, dutch doors between kitchen and grilling porch, and either fully enclosed or partially open porches under full cover from the elements.

From a safety standpoint, a built in grilling porch is also a safe and efficient way to enable cooking outdoors. With a house plan that includes a grilling porch the standards set forth by the International Code Council governing fire safety in cooking appliances are met to the highest degree. For many people, the benefit of having a professional designer ensure the utmost in safety for outside cooking practices offers enormous peace of mind.

Between the aesthetic benefits and the built-in safety considerations, a grilling porch is a must-have for anyone who enjoys cooking out in the open air. Whether hosting large gatherings or simply moving family dinners out of the dining room on a pleasant evening, having someplace designed especially to accommodate a fresh air meal is an affordable luxury and an enviable feature on any dream home project.

Save Money with Solar Panels

Building a home can be an expensive endeavor, and most people preparing to embark on this project are on the lookout for ways to save money- both in the construction phase and in the future years of living in your dream house. The decision to go with alternative energy sources is one that is best made early-on as you browse for floor plans, as the house plan you choose to build from will impact your options for alternative energy sources.

Solar panels have been on the commercial market now since the 1950’s and recent developments in technology have greatly improved the efficiency and storage capacity of solar panels. Versions of this technology are available in hundreds of smaller products, in everything from landscaping lighting options to solar cell phone and tablet chargers. But solar panels on the roof of your new home can save you hundreds of dollars each year in utilities and reduce your dependence on traditional sources of electricity.

Forbes magazine estimates that installing solar panels of your roof can reduce your family’s carbon footprint by as much as 35,180 pounds of carbon dioxide each year, doing the work of 88 trees. For those interested in green structures and efficient houses, this is an impressive statistic. And with so many people interested in this option, there are now several ways to go about it.

Many companies will lease solar panels and include installation in the overall cost of the agreement. The benefit of this arrangement is mostly financial, as the company who leases the equipment stores the electricity and sells it back to the consumer, often at a lower rate than the electrical company.

For some, installing permanent solar panels will be the best option. There is an initial cost investment in the materials and the skilled labor required to install them, but you can expect to begin recouping that investment right away. Electricity can be harnessed to power lights, heat, hot water heaters, swimming pools and hot tubs, and any other electricity-based appliance. Solar panels are also estimated to increase the resale value of your home by as much as 20%, so for many home builders it is a worthy venture.

Too often the dream of building a custom home is catered to those with a growing family. Spaces for children and/or aging parents and in-laws dominate ads and idea boards, and the vision of home owners is guided to a bigger-is-better mentality.

But the dream of building a custom home is suited for everyone, no matter the size of your family, the lot you purchase, or the location you choose. Smaller homes make sense in areas with dense populations and high property taxes. For the working professional, or the retiring couple, or the investor interested in long term returns, building a small house can be approachable, efficient, and lucrative.

Modern small houses are marvels of clever creativity. There are a million ways, it seems, to maximize space and visually expand it so you can have the best of both worlds: a collection of rooms magnified for airiness and light, yet without the burden of superfluous space. Function drives the vehicle of decision-making but not at the expense of aesthetics. For many, then, sometimes the preferred solution is to limit available space to only that which is required. This forces a thoughtful discretion when purchasing items for the home, and urges a careful vision when designing the space.

By considering building your dream home in subtle proportions, possibilities are opened up that are difficult to manifest with larger homes, like the option of building on lots in urban spaces, already perked, and zoned for residential construction A larger home requires a larger lot and, with today’s exponentially growing populations, this will often relegate your property purchasing options to the periphery of a large city. And while the suburbs are wonderful areas for families, there are many who would build their dream home much closer to the epicenter of activity.

As you sift through house plans and imagine the home you will someday build, try to remember that there is room in this process for every vision. Whether you seek to build a large home or a smaller one, you will find unique floor plans and advice from architects for dream homes of every size.

How to Choose the Best Siding for Your Dream Home

When planning to build your dream home, there are many decisions to be made. Options for house siding are many, and each has its share of benefits and drawbacks.


Wood is the classic siding choice, and has many applications. Clapboards (horizontal siding), shingles, and board-and-batten are all popular choices and have been used for hundreds of years. Wood siding requires some regular maintenance depending on the way you use it, but it is quite durable and aesthetically pleasing.

Synthetic options exist as an alternative to the cost of using wood siding. Cement fiber, seamless steel, and engineered wood are some oft-used choices, and they boast longer lifespans with less maintenance.


A mixture of cement, water, and inert materials like lime or sand make up the material known as stucco. It is painted on the side of a building and can be tinted any color you wish, negating the need to paint your walls in the future. It is very inexpensive and long-lasting and can easily be applied by the savvy DIY-er.


Few siding options gave that classic old-fashioned look like brick does. Known for its durability and strength, many old buildings sided with brick are still standing and in good working order today. Brick is heavy and can be expensive, and installation labor will add to the cost of the materials. Synthetic brick veneers are available at a lesser cost and are thought to maintain well over the years, but the material has not been on the market long enough to test this claim.


Vinyl siding is an inexpensive, durable, and low-maintenance option often used in houses. Made of PVC plastic and tinted throughout, scratches and nicks are difficult to spot, but vinyl will eventually fade and possibly crack as the years go by. It is lightweight and easy to install and requires very little prep work beforehand.


Siding the full exterior of your home with stone is impractical and prohibitively expensive, but for hundreds of years houses were built entirely out of this durable material. Home owners today will often use stone as an accent and even this truncated application can be costly to purchase and install. Synthetic options are on the market that can bring the cost down but aesthetically there is some debate about whether or not the look of synthetic stone is close enough to the real thing to be a good alternative.

Whichever option you choose for your dream home, spend some time researching your options. You’ll want to consider the cost of materials, installation, labor and prep work required, and overall longevity of your chosen material as factors in your decision.