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What is a House Plan License?

Posted by Dan Sater II on

What is a House Plan License?

A house plan license is a very interesting thing. Many times people don’t understand what it means to buy a house plan. When building your new home it is very important to understand exactly what a license agreement is.

Buying a house plan is not like buying a computer or a washing machine. You are not actually purchasing a tangible thing. Unlike a toaster, you are not buying a physical product but a design idea.

A house plan is just written instructions on how to construct a design idea. Because it is not a physical product it has different rules regarding what you can and can’t do. Some people are surprised to find out you do have rules and responsibilities after you purchase your plan.

This article is going to try and simplify and give a general outline of the ins-and-outs of house plan licenses. For the specific legal description we suggest you visit our Terms & Conditions page.

The License Agreement:

When you buy a house plan you must agree to the terms & conditions of the license agreement. Basically this means you understand you can only use this plan to build one house located at the address specified in the agreement.

You can make changes to the plan. If the location or local building codes require changes you are free to make those as needed. But that doesn’t change the ownership of the plan's copyright. Just because you made changes doesn’t make it your plan.

You can not sell the plan to another person. You can’t give it away. And you can’t use it to build more than one house. There are instances where a customer has built one of our designs and then wanted to build a second one.

We have had clients that liked our plans so much they wanted to take the house with them when they moved. This meant they wanted to build their house a second time in another state. This was possible because they contacted us and they payed a re-use fee. This gave them legal permission to build the house a second time.

If your house was damaged or destroyed and it needed to be rebuilt at the same address, you would be within your right to build with that same plan a second time.

Why is a License Needed?

A quality house plan takes upwards of 160 to 200 hours to design and create. Every house plan usually has at least 80 hours of CAD (computer aided design) work just to create the working drawings. Some larger more complex designs can have much more CAD time invested.

The house plan license protects the residential designer as well as the customer.

The residential designer needs to sell a house plan many times over in order to receive a profit from his work. Not many people have the resources to pay for the design and development of a house plan from scratch. If a residential designer’s work and efforts were passed around and built without reimbursement, he would not be able to make a living at it.

A customer needs assurance that the house plan they purchased is a genuine quality product. Building a house is the most expensive investment most people will ever make in their lives. Making sure the plans this investment are based upon are coming from a reputable and trusted source is vitally important.

A House Plan License is not that unusual!

A house plan license is not that different from leasing a car. In both cases you are getting legal permission to use the creation of another for your own use. In both cases you pay far less than what it would cost to create one from scratch. And both are only profitable through volume.

In fact a house plan is a far better investment than a car lease. At the end of a car lease you have to give back the car or pay more to buy it. A house plan license has just one payment and the end product will actually appreciate in value!

If you have any questions about the house plan license please give us a call or send us an email. We would be more than happy to help in any way we can.

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1 comment


  • Thank you very much on the topic “License Agreement” Very educative.

    Zaharia on

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