Floor plans help you envision the look and feel of your ideal home. Maybe you want a master suite walk-in closet with lofty ceilings for lots of shelf space. Or maybe you’re looking for a spacious patio that you can personalize for outdoor entertainment. A good floor plan will allow you to better understand if a home or townhome has the potential to meet your wants and needs. Knowing a floor plan is an important tool in the home buying process, it’s important to learn not only how to read them, but what to keep in mind when evaluating various floor plans. Luckily, we’ve got all the tools to help you when choosing a floor plan.
What is a floor plan? The dictionary defines a floor plan as a “scale diagram of the arrangement of rooms in one story of a building”. A floor plan will show you an aerial view of the layout of a home, broken out by different floors. You’ll typically see the rooms, doors, closets, and general flow of a house. The floor plan will show how rooms are laid out and how you will be able to move from room to room. Floor plans are often predetermined by the builder when you’re buying a new home, but sometimes you can personalize a floor plan based on your lifestyle. And if you're leaning towards building a new home, check out our building process guide to learn more about how you can work with Shea to personalize your floor plan.
Why Use a Floor Plan?
Although it may be tempting to want to leave all the floor plan decisions to the builder, architect, or even your interior designer, you’ll want to be clear about what the plan is and understand how it will affect you. You’re the only one who can truly advocate for your own wants and needs. Take advantage of this opportunity to make your home your own! Floor plans can help you decide on available home options, such as whether you want to get the bay window, if the extended patio will be worth it, or if you want to go with the optional door from the master bedroom to the master bath.
Floor plans become even more invaluable when you’re shopping for a home online. Whether you’re moving from another state, or prefer to search for homes online, floor plans allow you to understand the dimensions of the home so you can envision the home for yourself. Along with floor plans, online home searches should also take advantage of home gallery images, videos and guided virtual homes tours (a virtual walk- through the home while chatting with a real-estate representative) to better visualize the floor plan and bring it to life.
How to Read a Floor Plan
A floor plan can tell you a lot about the home, if you know how to read it properly. For example, it can allow you to:
See ratios of space, the proportions of a house, and decide how your furniture might fit (note: not all floor plans are to scale and should be used as a guide, not an absolute).
Understand if the home’s layout works with your lifestyle and how you may use the space.
Gauge the flow of the house and how you might move about inside it.
Get a feeling for the building’s style.
However, floor plans are not always easy to decode. Luckily, we’ve created this visual guide to help you better understand what you’re seeing. Here is how to read a floor plan:
Orient yourself if you are looking at a one- or two-story home. The floor plan will indicate which floor you are viewing if the house is multi-story.
Understand the symbols presented in the floor plan. Typically, floor plans will show you symbols for walls, stairs, doors, and windows. Some floor plans will showcase renderings for where appliances may fit, like a washer and dryer or dishwasher.
Read the dimensions. Each room will typically show a square footage or length of each wall. This helps to understand how large the house is, and what proportions of the home are taken up by various room.
How to Choose a Floor Plan: 9 Tips to Consider
1.) Prioritize What’s Most Important To You
Everyone has probably envisioned what their ideal home would look like. Granite countertops, a wrap-around front porch, and maybe a pool for relaxing on sweltering summer days. While it’s great to have a vision, homebuyers can easily get lost attempting to track down a floor plan that matches their dream home expectations.
It’s important when shopping for a home to level those expectations. Stay focused on what really matters when you’re settled in your home. To do this, create a list of home features that are an absolute must-haves and ones that are a nice-to-have, so that you can prioritize what’s most important for your future home. For example, if you know you’ll need an at-home office or maybe a two-car garage for storing cars and lawn equipment, you’ll want to look at floor plans that offer flex spaces and garages that are the right size your family.
Make sure to download our want vs need checklist to decide on the must haves and help choose the floor plan that’s right for you.
2.) Make Sure It Works Within Your Budget
The dreaded “b” word. While financing your home is something you’ll need to think about, you don’t have to narrow it down to the exact dollar amount at this point. You do want to make sure you’re reviewing floor plans within your financial reach. At Shea, we have our own mortgage team that can help you understand how much home you can afford. While it might be fun to imagine yourself in a large home, thinking through a home with a floor plan that serves all your necessities for living is the first step. Especially for first-time homebuyers, don’t be discouraged if you feel overwhelmed in understanding which floor plans you can afford. Our Shea Mortgage loan offices will work with you to find the best avenue for your financial situation.
3.) Find Out If It’s The Right Size
This seems simple, but it’s important to figure out how much space you really need. The adage “bigger is better,” doesn’t always apply to your ideal floor plan. Size is important for making sure both your family – and your belongings – fit comfortably.
Think about your current home and your needs. If you know the square footage of your current home, it can be good to look at the floor plan (see floor plan key above to understand how to read floor plan dimensions) to understand the relative size of the room dimensions so you can ensure that there’s enough space for all your needs. As a homebuyer, it’s important to do research and talk with a representative to discuss to the true size of home.
Size can also affect the overall feeling of togetherness – can you hear your daughter calling you from her room – or is it simply too far away? There’s no right answer, so make sure to take so time to think about what’s right for you.
4.) Single Story vs. Multiple Story Home
Choosing between a single story or multiple story home relies heavily on personal choice, budgets, and location. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of home. On the other hand, multiple story homes might mean that the bedroom on the bottom floor is subject to hearing loud footsteps or TV blaring if there is a bedroom directly above it. Not one home choice is better than the other, but when examining floor plan, it’s important to analyze how you want your home to laid out and whether one story or multiple stories is best for your home needs. Also, consider if the floor plan is a condo/townhome or a single detached family home. When thinking through a townhome vs single detached family home, each has benefits for living.
5.) Make Sure It Fits With Your Lifestyle
People use their homes differently, so there’s usually no one-size-fits-all solution. The important thing to consider is how you use your home. Consider entertaining needs and kitchen needs. Do you want to have an island? Do you need a lot of counter space? Is a walk-in pantry a must-have? You may want to think about how you will make sure Fido feels at home when moving to a new place. Give them time to adjust and ensure that your home can always be pet-proofed to keep them safe.
You’ll also want to think about the size of space, relation to each other, and flow of the rooms. How close are bedrooms to the kitchen and what is the flow between rooms? Consider things such as noise and privacy. Some people like open layouts, and some prefer for each room to have its own unique feel. Consider ceiling height, walls, and the angles. You may want to consider window placement and how this affects your views out, who can see in – and what they can see, in addition to how the natural light flows in.
6.) How Much Outdoor Space Do You Need?
Backyards are great for hosting summer BBQs, giving your kids a safe area to play, and letting your dog run free without having to take them to a park. Depending on your lifestyle and family size, you might need a lot of outdoor space to accommodate your kids/pets. However, a lot of patio or yard space also means a lot more upkeep. Mowing the lawn, sprucing the flowers, sweeping the patio, and keeping the pool clean are just some of the year-round chores that will require consistent servicing. Before you decide on a floor plan, make sure you consider if the work is worth the reward when it comes to how much outdoor space you want at your home.
Floor plans are also great for visualizing how you would want to decorate the interior of your home – from bedroom furniture to final additions. However, with so many design styles, it can hard to decipher which interior style best matches the tone/aesthetic that you want in your home. To help you decide, take our interior design quiz to find out which style is right for you.
Depending on how long you plan to live in your new home, you may want to consider whether the floor plan you choose will be able to adapt to your needs in the next five to ten years. Consider changes such as the kids leaving the house, your family getting bigger (whether it’s starting your family or expanding the family with the in-laws or grandchildren), and whether you’ll really want to climb stairs every day to go to bed. An office can transform into a guestroom and your flooring can easily transition from hardwood to kid friendly, but some decisions you will have to make when choosing your floor plan.
Knowing how to read your floor plan can help you avoid fewer desirable designs, layouts, and features. Look out for things you may want to avoid like tight hallways, angular walls, or an overly complicated layout.
On our website, you can ‘favorite’ floor plans to save them and view at a later time. Check out our top 5 most ‘favorited’ floor plans in 2020!