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Custom vs Production Home Construction - Building a comparison

custom vs production homesWho wouldn’t prefer a custom home built for their individual needs and lifestyle? More expensive? Yes, but well worth the investment. Below, we explain why.

Production Homes

Buyer Overview:
• Home and lot are selected as a package - usually there are a choice of lots
• Homes are part of a tract or larger community of similar new home construction
• Build process is automated with limited interaction from the home buyer
• Select house plans are established by individual builders
• House plans are generally a reflection of regional building trends
• Select materials and design options from a standardized menu
• No flexibility of how the home is situated on the building lot
• Good choice for first and second time buyers, down sizers, and those desiring a hands-off experience.
• Price range - $150,000 - $500,000

With this type of construction decisions are made easy for the buyer. Everything is visually covered in the builder’s sales literature with limited opportunities for upgrades. From roof shingles, to flooring, to cabinet styles, each of the plans has been built multiple times before so there is minimal input needed from an architect, lot configuration is preset, and finished construction happens much more rapidly than a custom built home.

Production home buyers generally can see what their home will look like before they build. Most times the builder’s surrounding homes are similar with minor architectural variances. The interiors are similar from home to home too. Production home builder’s business model typically relies on the construction of many homes being built simultaneously in one tract or community. This makes touring their work an easy task.

Production homes main drawback is a tendency of duplicity, neighborhoods are grid-like, architectural styles don’t vary much, lots are smaller and standardized, there is wide use of builder-grade materials, and most of all - there is usually resistance by the builder to step outside of the sales literature specifications for their homes. Opportunities to enhance a production home beyond builder-grade are available but are harder to accommodate beyond what is called semi-custom.

Production homes are built to a wide range of quality standards. For first time buyers, down sizers, or budget-conscious buyers production homes are a solid choice.

Custom Homes

Buyer Overview:
• Unique and personalized partnership between the architect, designers, builder and client throughout the process
• Begin with a blank-slate and develop from personal desires and vision and the builder’s expertise in interpreting them
• Home can be built on land that you own, acquire, or on select land opportunities that the builder offers
• Complete freedom on a building location - not reliant on lot selection in a specific tract or development
• In-depth land elevation study to determine best construction and surrounding property orientation
• Option to work with a separate architect, or commission a plan to be drawn by the builder’s architect
• Buyer can play a central role in the plan/build process, or rely to any degree on the builder to guide them through the process
• Extensive materials selection and building processes available rather than selecting from a defined menu of choices
• Longer build cycle due to meticulous construction requirements, greater detail in materials installation and greater square footage
• Completed product makes a unique and lasting statement for each custom home buyer
• Price - $500,000 - $2,000,000+

The word “custom” conjures thoughts of a one-of-a-kind residence placed on a hand-selected lot, personalized architecture, interior and landscape design, meticulous craftsmanship, custom millwork, luxury appliances, ornately coved or beam ceilings, and the list goes on... The defining characteristics of each custom built home is an intricate puzzle that comes together as a unique statement for the buyer. That said, building a custom home requires solid input from the buyer. They play a central role in its successful completion.

Custom home builders do not rely on the volume construction of an entire street or community like production builders must do. Instead they typically build in low volume, maintaining the quality of individual projects and offering a much higher level of personalized customer care. Custom builders also have more versatility in the styles of homes they built to satisfy the many home buyer tastes. You should be able to see this easily in their home portfolio. Quality custom builders will partner with a respected architect, as well as noted interior and landscape designers to prepare fluid concepts and formalized plans to the buyer. There is much pre-planning that goes on when building custom. Because of the unique nature of each new project you will find that custom builders are prepared to spend quality planning time with each buyer to nail the vision down prior to construction. They will go back to the architect and designers as needed until the buyer states, “That’s it! That is exactly what we were thinking.”

Numerous custom builders may work side-by-side in new communities providing a more unique texture of quality architectural styles to the streetscape. Additionally, custom builders have the flexibility to build on stand-alone lots in a community of the buyer's choice. A growing trend with select custom builders is teardown construction. These are older homes that are in disrepair, found in established quality communities. They are removed for new construction to blend the best of established neighborhood living and today’s latest home comforts. Production home builders generally cannot accommodate this trend as they require either much less expensive single lots or much larger plots of land for the tract development of numerous homes at one site.

If “Green” construction or energy efficiency is of interest, a custom builder is uniquely more qualified than a production builder because of the requirements to properly implement what is needed to be compliant with government regulations and for longterm functionality. Study the topic. It is a rapidly changing one. Study each builder’s capabilities. Ask questions and compare their expertise and certifications for your peace-of-mind when building green.

Looks can be deceiving
Initially, it may look as if custom homes are simply built with more expensive materials, with a more substantial team, and on higher priced lots than production homes. This is all true, but looks are deceiving. Typically the builder-grade materials used in most production homes have a shorter lifespan than that of higher quality custom home materials. Over the life of a production home the owners will spend more on-average to maintain and remodel due to growing or unforeseen needs. Additionally, statistics show that you are more likely to maintain a residence considerably longer in a custom “forever home”, as opposed to a production home that serves as a stepping stone to a future residence. Add in the costs associated with new mortgages and the fees associated with moving, and the lower cost of a production home starts to push ever-closer over time to that of some custom home construction.

In summary
It is important for each home buyer to consider and understand the differences between production and custom before purchasing a home. If you are a first time buyer, if you are looking for a home that can achieve limited upgrades beyond those set by the builder, if you aren’t as concerned with quality as with lower price, a production home may be the best option for you.

If you are looking for a hand-in-glove fit that matches your dream exactly, if you desire limitless possibilities, if you can initially accommodate a higher price point for longterm value and appreciation, then a custom built home and all that a custom builder can bring to the table is the option that you should consider today.