A readers recent question about providing floor plans made me realize that I've never done a post on the subject of floor plans.
First of all floor plans are one of those services like flyers. Some real estate photographers don't want to do fool around with doing graphics work. On the other hand if you don't mind doing graphics, and want to diversify, it's a service that has a natural association with photography because it's all part of real estate marketing.
My philosophy on floor plans has always been that if the home owner has a set of blueprints for their home, I'll do a floor plan, but for older homes, where there are no blueprints, my interest falls towards zero very rapidly.
What I've always done to create floor plans is to have my local Kinkos scan the blueprints and reduce them. I then put them into a Photoshop layer and create a 50% opacity layer over the blueprint layer. Then you can effectively trace the blueprint with the line size of your choice. After tracing, increase the opacity of the tracing layer back to 100%. You can use this technique with Adobe Illustrator but to me, Illustrator has a steep learning curve. The finished floor plan can be used as part of the flyer and or virtual tour. I find that home owners of homes that are 5 to 10 years old usually have a roll of blueprints tucked away some place.
I'm sure there are some that will find my method of creating floor plans with Photoshop as kind of wacky. But when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail! My major motivation is my familiarity with Photoshop. There are a number of other ways to create floor plans that may be faster and give better looking results (note: I've not used any of these, but they have been suggested by members of the PFRE flickr discussion group):
If you really get deep into doing floor plans from scratch you may want to get a laser range finder to simplify measuring. This will making the measuring process go faster.
A word of warning:
Another reason I have never gotten into doing floor plans for homes without blueprints is that lot dimensions and room dimensions are a natural source of law suits in the real estate business. Buyers tend take the marketing materials as the absolute truth and will get worked up of the actual home is even slightly different. It's important to put a notice on floor plans or lot diagrams that they are for illustration and marketing purposes only. Make sure the agent is taking the responsibility. Our company lawyer has always discouraged agents from pointing out lot lines or supplying room dimensions because it opens up opportunities for misunderstandings and law suits. Even if you have blueprints you have to be careful that the home was actually built like the blueprints specify. Frequently, there will be differences. Make sure you do your due diligence in your area and understand and protect yourself from any legal risk you are undertaking when you supply floor plans. I never supply room dimensions explicitly and put a disclaimer on the plan that buyers should room verify dimensions.