How Much Should A Tiny House Plan Cost?


Image credit houseplans.com

Dan Gregory, editor of Houseplans.com, writes that Lester Walker, author of American Shelter and a Little House of My Own, now has his plans for sale on the site. It is a lovely little 250 square foot design, from a talented and well known architect. A set of plans costs $ 2500.

Image credit Tiny House Blog

Meanwhile, on the Tiny House Blog, I learn that you can buy Walt Barrett's Micro Home plans, 33 pages long with detailed drawings by Chuck White, for $19.95. They are not pretty but they get the job done.

At Freegreen, one gets lovely and complete plans, including axonometrics and heat loss calculations for exactly what most people are willing to pay for design: Nothing.

That's quite a spread.

It is an issue we have discussed before, in How Much Should Design Cost?, which included interviews with David Wax of Freegreen and Greg Lavardera, who sells stock plans of his own design. I asked Dan Gregory of Houseplans.com for his opinion about this and he wrote back:

The value is in the reputation and expertise of the exclusive architect. Our plans range from about $300 for small non-exclusive (i.e. anonymous) plans to around $6,000 for exclusive plans by the architect and Not So Big House author Sarah Susanka. Exclusive architect Gregory La Vardera's plans are all ca. $4,500 and range from 1,066 sq. ft. to 2,386 sq. ft....

The design fee on a tiny cabin custom-designed by a well known architect would still be considerable because her or his design fees are not based on house size but on design time, expertise, and reputation. As I'm sure you know, some architects do not charge a percentage of the cost of construction and instead charge a varying fee -- often putting the schematic design phase (which is usually so open-ended) on an hourly basis, and putting the working drawings on a fixed fee because the amount of time required to execute the latter is more knowable. Nevertheless, the time and expertise rule is the key.

Interestingly, Houseplans.com charges the same price for Lester Walker's 250 square foot house as they do for his 2,449 square foot plans, noting that it's not the quantity, it is the quality. Dan concludes:

If one were to hire a nationally known architect like Lester Walker to do a small cabin it would cost much more than $2,500.

I am an architect, and believe that architects should be properly compensated for their work. I personally think Lester Walker's plan is pretty good value. But I wonder if it isn't a bit out of tune with it's market.

More on Stock Plans
How Much Should Design Cost?
Click Your Way to Greg Lavardera's Modern Stock Plans
Hometta Delivers Good Designs For Smaller Homes Off the Rack
Free Green Turns House Design Business On Its Head

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Tags: Architects | Less Is More