Joining Curbed today for the first of four "open threads" is a preeminent expert in floor plan design, Just Flooplans' Benjamin Clauss. He's here to answer your questions, not just ours. But we've gotten the ball rolling for y'all. Here's how the thread works: pose any and all relevant real estate questions to Ben in the comment section between now and Monday morning, and he'll have answers for you—also posted below—come Monday afternoon. If it turns out we've covered this corner of the real estate industry as thoroughly as needed, so be it. But we suspect not. OK then, don't be shy...
Curbed: Why aren't floor plans more prevalent in professional real estate listings here in Chicago, like they are in, say, New York City?
BC: Good question, I would say New York had a head start, back in 1997 floor plans were already prevalent in larger metropolitan areas where the density and types of properties were conducive to this type of marketing. This in turn created a consumer demand and agents knew they had to have floor plans to effectively market their listings.
Secondly, there were no other companies in this area providing floor plans to the residential market at that time. Most of the floor plans out there were the original plans from the construction or modified blueprints. Now the demand is determined by marketing budgets and with the surge in residential sales we are seeing an increase in the amount of appointments.
Curbed: How does one make a high-quality floor plan, and what differentiates the good and bad?
BC: It starts with a clean accurate rendering of the property, either from hand drawing on-site or blueprints. I prefer to work on-site and create the drawing from scratch, this way we are able to capture every detail and professionally recreate all aspects of the home. The biggest difference is experience; with over 26,000,000 square feet drawn Just Floorplans.com has learned to measure the properties in the most efficient manner possible.
A good floor plan will accurately depict every angle and shape of the property without taking shortcuts. I have seen way too many plans that leave off important details or misinterpret the overall look of the property. We take great pride in making sure the floor plans we create are accurate in every aspect.
Finally, the floor plan must be easy to read. An overly complicated floor plan with every single item labeled can actually clutter the area and make the home seem smaller. A good floor plan will have all the necessary data but should make the home feel inviting and spacious.
Curbed: Is there much demand for your services involving simpler, plainer, lower-end properties, or just the fancier ones?
BC: I would say the demand is set by the caliber of the listing agent. A professional agent will consistently utilize our services for all types of properties regardless of the complexity or asking price. This is a formula followed by many of the top agents in the Chicagoland area who believe in having all of the tools at their disposal. I feel that a properly created floor plan can make the simpler homes present more like a larger or complicated home.
Curbed: Can you explain the value of a floor plan to a prospective buyer just starting to browse the market?
The value of a floor plan to a potential buyer is threefold. The first is having a tangible depiction of the home to review and make your initial decision. There is only so much information you can interpret from the listing sheet. Items to consider are the actual room sizes and proximity to each other and whether there is enough room to meet your current and future needs.
Secondly, a floor plan makes it easier to visualize yourself in the property and see if it is a good fit before you visit the home.
Lastly, there's space planning. An accurate plan will allow you to layout the home even before the purchase provided the drawing is done to scale and measured correctly. This provides extra reassurance that your furniture will fit and that you will be happy in your new surroundings.
Curbed: Can you name some new trends in home layouts? What types of rooms and/or configurations are growing in popularity?
BC: I would say in the past couple of years the trend of moving the laundry out of the basement and into the living levels. Another trend that has been around for a while is the open floor plan concept and the combination of multiple rooms. The latest development is to have an actual mud/storage room on the main level; with active lifestyles we are seeing people want a dedicated room to store sporting equipment that is easily accessible.
Curbed: What's the most labor-intensive plan you can remember doing and may we see it?
BC: A few come to mind; a 600,000 sf warehouse presented its own set of challenges, but most recently a project we completed on the North Shore presented a couple issues. Here's a taste of two heftier projects: