Most would not see this as an investment opportunity but more of a way for an architect to earn supplemental income. Yet the fact that the house plan must be designed by an architect does not preclude a non-architect from buying ownership and copyrights of a house plan. Online house plans are not cheap. The majority of them sell for over $1000 per set. Ownership of a popular house plan could easily yield a five figure income online. For many people, the large price tag of one plan would be much more appealing than getting involved with selling a low dollar, low margin product online that requires a tremendous volume of sales. You have to sell a lot of iPhone chargers or Pez dispensers at your website or through Amazon or eBay in order to yield the profit of selling just one house plan.
Some Architects Go Bananas Over Online House Plans
There is a great Reddit thread where an architect asks other architects about how to go about supplementing his income by selling plans online, and other architects act like he is a complete sell-out who is selling his soul to the dark-side. They compare it to a doctor putting a prescription form online for anyone to click and prescribe themselves painkillers, etc. Others act like designing a house is comparable to complex surgery and this act is a total dereliction of duty as an architect. They are mortified that the customer’s location is not considered when selling the plans (climate, the lay of the land, etc.) Several people chime in with more reasonable responses. They understand that technology is changing architecture and that never ever suburban tract house needs a custom-designed A.M. Pelli caliber house plan.
A Popular House Plan is Very Valuable
A popular house plan could be re-sold an unlimited number of times at sites like HomePlans.com, ePlans, BuilderHousePlans.com, HousePlans.com, etc. Or you could setup a basic Shopify or Woocommerce website and sell them directly yourself (keep in mind that getting traction in the search engines when compared to these mega-sites will be difficult). Either way, while some sell for $300 or less, the vast majority sell for much higher numbers. Even giving up a large 30-50% commission to the Home Plan website, it is not difficult to envision selling 20-30 plans per yer and generating $10,000 or more of profit.
Most House Plan Sites Allow for Customization
There are still opportunities for an architect to make money through customization of plans. For a non-architect that owned the rights to a house plan, this could result in potentially additional income by referring all customization requests to a licensed architect. If it becomes apparent that everyone is requesting similar changes such as converting a loft into a bedroom or adding a bathroom, it might make sense to have an architect draft a change while maintaining your rights to the plan, then list the new plan in the online marketplace.
Pictures Sell Plans
You don’t have to build a house with the plan to get great imagery that will help sell it. Graphic designers can take a building plan and turn it into a realistic image. Many house plan online sellers are doing themselves a disservice by skimping on renderings and pictures of houses built with the plan. They have pictures of a grass service that looks like it either came from the game Minecraft or from a 1970’s Brady Bunch episode. Shadows and vivid images of different surfaces, the sky, people, outdoor furniture, etc. are effective in grabbing someone’s attention better than older water color and almost stick-figure renderings of people. Finding a graphic designer is easy with sites like Upwork and Fiverr; prices are often $250 or less for a rendering.