During the housing boom, builders exuberantly cranked out plan after plan in an effort to bring in new customers and cater to every whim. But what many builders find themselves grappling with now are overwhelming collections of plans that are impossible to manage--and many of which cater to buyer profiles that either no longer exist or include features that are overpriced for today's economy.

Does this sound like you? If so, the architects at BSB Design offer these tips on how to refresh and streamline your offerings in a process they call “plan rationalization.” 
1. Drop the duplicates.
Rationalizing your plans means doing exactly that: Determine which ones deserve to stay and which ones don't. The first step is to go through the plans as a whole, looking for duplications and oversupply. When times were flush, we thought nothing of creating a plan to include a new specific feature to make a sale. Builders don't have that luxury today. Each plan needs to be different and able to stand on its merits. Go through the collection, looking at comparative sales performance. Keep the best sellers over time, focusing on the market segments in which you want to be doing business next year.  
2. Identify the market profiles you want to pursue.
Many builders are finding that their plan collections focus on buyers who aren't looking at houses right now and ignore the consumer categories that are purchasing homes today. Now is the time to realign your product offerings with what the market wants.  
3. Identify the gaps in the collection.
After eliminating the duplicates and the non-performers, it will be easier to see the floor plans that you wish you had. Whether by price point or square footage range, you will want a smooth progressive ladder of plans to offer across your entire target market. 
4. Fill in with new plans that meet the new market needs.
Switching target markets will most likely mean more gaps in your product mix. New markets will require plans with the latest hot features--something recycled plans don't have. Bite the bullet and design new product specifically for today's buyers and price points. 
5. Retool existing plans with the big picture in mind.
Even successful plans can be improved. Every plan in your collection should be as efficient as possible to build, make the most of less circulation space, have improved living spaces, and be full of the latest hot-button plan amenities. Think of this as a makeover to ensure your plan is the best it can be. 
6. Freshen the elevation.
In many cases the plan is fine--it's the outdated look that is pushing consumers away. Buyers want distinctive elevation styles that capture their imagination with detail, style, and color, especially in lower price points. Few buyers want anything that is out of date, and elevation styles from three years ago are just that. 
7. Design for consistency across the entire collection.
Keep your brand in mind as you assemble your "new" collection. Design consistency will allow you to swap out plan offerings across a wider range of sizes and price points without losing your company identity. Create a unique product position, and protect it with consistent design from top to bottom. 
8. Be smarter about material usage.
One builder client counted more than 98 different windows in their designs back in 2005. Retooling for 2010 brought that number to 21. Do we really think our designs were better because we used more window types back then? Of course not. 
9. Embrace smaller plan counts.
Carrying fewer plans has many benefits. A smaller portfolio is easier to manage for quality control, easier to target for cost accuracy, and will likely leave you better aligned with the right consumer market. 
10. Regain your product leverage.
Smaller portfolios that can be repeated allow better efficiencies of scale and purchasing. A smaller collection will streamline the supply chain, which impacts your costs. When suppliers know what plans are being offered and what materials they need, their inventories can be better aligned with your needs, improving speed and efficiency.

BSB Design is an architecture and planning firm offering design and estimating services for light commercial, institutional, retirement, hospitality, and mixed projects.