Compact house plans for leftover, often small, lots can be a goo
[Editor's Note: Leftover lots in existing neighborhoods are often compact but can be good investments for building a new home on spec if you find a plan that suits the particular constraints of the site. Some designs to get you thinking might include 2 bedroom 2 bath Craftsman Plan 479-10, at the top of this post, which is 28 feet square and fits a corner location; and 4 bedroom 2.5 bath 
Modern Plan 497-19, which is 43 feet wide and 74 feet deep, with a great room and separate living room on the ground floor and could work in a mid-block location. So what does building on spec in such a situation entail? Designer Monika Strunk interviewed one of's customers to find out.]

Dean Gino had owned a few businesses and managed individual projects, but in 2012 found he had time to spare. His wife suggested embarking on a housing project. Dean had never built anything before so he decided to give it a shot. He thought it would give him great entertainment, education, and experience. He

decided to build a spec house (for sale) in Santa Paula, California because land there at the time was extremely cheap. His infill lot cost $40,000.
 He purchased Plan 48-516, shown here, which is 28 feet wide.

The aim was to build the home cheaply and quickly and sell it at a profit.

He settled on 4 bedroom 2.5 bath Plan 48-516 because it seemed to fit the lot. The pitch of the roof -- which was originally designed for snow loads -- was unnecessary for this area so he asked the architect to change it to a shallower pitch. To make the process move along as fast and inexpensively as possible Dean acted as his own contractor. He hired all the subs. "It is ideal to be your own contractor because most contractors are not on the same motivation line as you are. It's costing you money to have them sitting around." The architectural, engineering, and permitting process took about four months. Construction took about three and a half months.

Construction Cost 
NOT including soft costs: $169,000 for 1550 Sq ft + 400 Sq ft garage, or about $87/ sq. ft. Land and soft costs ran about: $100,000. Architectural design and survey: $12,000; plan from [CAD file -- computer aided design]: $1377; architect charge to make changes: $5500.

"If I were to make any major changes, I would get rid of the fireplace. It just ended up being a huge hassle with everything that goes into building a gas fireplace -- the gas lines, etc." Dean's key recommendation: "Never hire anyone on time and materials. Always do the job on a flat rate bid. Never ever give anyone a job unless there is a penalty for being late on the job. Your money is on the line but the workers don't see it that way." For his project, every sub had a flat rate deal. They were given timelines to finish their portion of the project. If the job took 2 days longer than estimated, the worker paid the daily penalty fee. This kept the job moving in the right direction. It kept subs from wasting time on the job.

To keep costs down on his kitchen he ordered cabinets and had them fully assembled prior to shipment. He says it costs more to hire someone to assemble the cabinets than to buy them already put together. Instead of buying a slab of granite, he purchased granite squares for $4/$5 per square foot. The kitchen counter ended up being roughly $200 in addition to the cost of labor to lay the tiles.

Inevitably you'll spend time re-doing /changing certain aspects of the home to meet state standards. Or you might need to make changes to suit the site -- all of which is more incentive to reduce the time required to develop a final plan. Dean concludes: "Making small changes to an already-designed home is a time/money saver!"

To browse more floor plans for narrow lots click here.